It’s a new day and I have another set of book summaries to post. This time, we’re back on my European History list with Heidi Voskuhl, and we’re leaving the realms of women and sexuality history to turn towards transatlantic relations and some more general history of “Germany” prior to the actual founding of the state.
Barclay, David E., and Elisabeth Glaser-Schmidt, eds. 1997. Transatlantic Images and Perceptions: Germany and America since 1776. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Trommler, Frank, and Elliott Shore, eds. 2001. The German-American Encounter: Conflict and Cooperation between Two Cultures, 1800–2000. New York: Berghahn Books.
Nolan, Mary. 2012. The Transatlantic Century: Europe and America, 1890–2010. New Approaches to European History 46. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hoerder, Dirk, and Jörg Nagler, eds. 1995. People in Transit: German Migrations in Comparative Perspective, 1820–1930. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
O’Donnell, Krista, Renate Bridenthal, and Nancy R. Reagin, eds. 2005. The Heimat Abroad: The Boundaries of Germanness. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Rodgers, Daniel T. 1998. Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age. Cambridge: Belknap Press.
Herzig, Rebecca M. 2005. Suffering for Science: Reason and Sacrifice in Modern America. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Europe before 1871:
Kates, Gary, ed. 1998. The French Revolution: Recent Debates and New Controversies. New York, London: Routledge.
Dwyer, Philip G., ed. 2001. Napoleon and Europe. Harlow: Longman.
Weis, Eberhard. 1990. Deutschland und Frankreich um 1800: Aufklärung, Revolution, Reform. Edited by Walter Demel and Bernd Roeck. Munich: C.H. Beck.
Brose, Eric D. 1997. German History 1789–1871: From the Holy Roman Empire to the Bismarckian Reich. New York: Berghahn Books.
Gerth, Hans H. 1976. Bürgerliche Intelligenz um 1800: Zur Soziologie des deutschen Frühliberalismus. Kritische Studien zur Geschichtswissenschaft 19. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht.
Sheehan, James J. 1978. German Liberalism in the Nineteenth Century. Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press.
Herzog, Dagmar. 1996. Intimacy and Exclusion: Religious Politics in Pre-Revolutionary Baden. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Fritzsche, Peter. 2004. Stranded in the Present: Modern Time and the Melancholy of History. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press.
Pinkard, Terry P. 2002. German Philosophy, 1760–1860: The Legacy of Idealism. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Beiser, Frederick C. 1987. The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
David Barclay and Elisabeth Glaser-Schmidt’s edited volume Transatlantic Images and Perceptions provides highlights of a 200-year encounter between “Germans” and Americans from before “Germany” existed (1776) until it was finally united again in the late 20th century. The contributions to the volume draw on a wide range of primary sources, from pamphlets and newspapers through published travel reports and educational text books to movies. Moreover, letters figure very prominently among the sources of several contributions; the significant advantage of this is that the views of marginalized groups, including farmers and metal workers, are presented—even though, of course, only the ‘privileged marginalized’ who were able to read and write.
The authors all grapple with “images,” “perceptions,” and “stereotypes” in the two-sided German-American encounter, arguing that “images of the self are projected upon the other” (p. 15). The first few chapters illustrate that personal communication with emigrants or travelers provided individuals with much more reliable information about the other country than published accounts would, because they were often politically biased. This changed around the turn of the 20th century. “[I]n an age of mass communication, mass education, and mass socialization,” the authors in subsequent chapters of the book argue, “the influence of important elite groups in both countries increased” (p. 14). In other words, whereas the American-German encounter took place between small people in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was much more mediated by politicians and the press in the 20th century. The fact that “Germany” did not exist during the earlier period described here and the question of where in “Germany” the travelers went and saw their stereotypes confirmed are not assessed in sufficient detail, which deprives the volume of an opportunity of adding cultural depth to the German half of this transatlantic encounter.
Hermann Wellenreuther’s contribution on American travelers to Germany who published accounts of their journey (“Germans Make Cows and Women Work,” ch. 2) exemplifies the “image” and “perception” issue. He explains that American travelers were subject to two different kinds of confirmation bias; first, in that the impression of Germany they had matched up with their stereotypical ideas, and, second, in that they uttered their thoughts of American superiority even though their own “freedom” and republic had not been established for long by the early 19th century. Reporting about “slow” Germans and the disgusting sight or hard-working women and kids playing in the dirt can be read as nothing more than evidence of American impatience and the longing for a justification of the rising elitism in New England, the author argues. As chapters 6 to 8 show, these stereotypes were complemented by the brutal German nationalist and soldier from 1871 onwards, leading to a sever disenchantment with the German Kultur.
The German-American Encounter, a volume edited by Frank Trommler and Elliott Shore, covers the Conflict and Cooperation between Two Cultures in three parts; first, “The German Part of American History,” second, “The American Part of German History,” and third, “The New Transatlantic Predicament.” Even though the periodization is 1800 to 2000, only the first part spans the entire 200 years. Parts II and III focus on the decades after WWII—a disappointment to me, who wants to write a transatlantic history focusing on the years 1880 to 1920. Each of the parts presents the reader with an equal variety of approaches to the relationship between Germany in the US, resulting in a broad overview of topics from emigration through economy, movies, religion, and politics to German and American studies, including assessments of “Germerican” poems (ch. 8). A coherent argument like in Barclay and Glaser-Schmidt’s volume, however, is not established in this variety of approaches.
The first three chapters highlight the ways in which German emigrants, oftentimes from working classes, have impacted or even “colonized” (ch. 1) the American geographical, cultural, and political landscapes they found themselves in. In particular after the failed revolutions of 1848, radical and hopeful Germans set out to continue their cause for freedom and equality in the US. Chapter 4, Patricia Herminghouse’s contribution “’Sisters, Arise!’ The Intersections of Nineteenth-Century German and American Feminist Movements,” provides some more detail on how this played out in first-wave feminism. The dissonance between American and German feminists around 1900 stemmed apparently in part from the fact that radical feminists had immigrated to the US and joined American women in demanding full citizen rights, while the remaining German feminists were more measured and did not ask for suffrage but for “improvement in education, marriage, and the professions as rights that they had earned on the basis of fulfilling their gender-specific duties to society” (p. 56). Even the Kindergarten, which arrived in the US in the second half of the 19th century, seems divorced from its original feminist cause (see Ann Allen’s and Lora Wildenthal’s works) and adopted as part of “[t]he substantial American investment in German intellectual ideas” and education out of admiration for the Humboldtian university (p. 83; ch. 6).
Mary Nolan provides her readers with a very accessible 12-chapter textbook history of The Transatlantic Century from the late 19th to the early 21st century. The periodization is central to Nolan’s argument that the world has not yet seen an entire Americanization of Europe despite “the American Century,” which started when the US became a dominant world power after WWI. “The long-twentieth-century approach [as opposed to a periodization 1914–1989] avoids determinism and false triumphalism,” she suggests, pointing to the ways in which American military, economic, and cultural power was challenged in the late 20th and early 21st century from within and outside of the US (p. 7); she refers to the rifts as “[t]he transatlantic market gap, God gap, and war gap” (p. 9). As Nolan remarks in her introduction, the definitions of “America” and “Europe” are not static over the course of her 120-year history, but the powers are mostly treated as coherent entities as the book proceeds, with an exception of the division between Russia and the rest of Europe/Eurasia. It is also noteworthy that Nolan mostly refers to the more globally powerful central European nations and Great Britain when she writes about “Europe,” a questionable practice if one considers the huge disparities within individual countries like Germany or Great Britain at the time. For my dissertation topic, this generalization is more problematic than her treatment of the USSR/US polarity during the Cold War, as I want to learn more about the German-American encounter in the long first half of the 20th century.
Chapter 1, “An Uncertain Balance, 1890–1914,” illustrates the ways in which “America was one player among many” (p. 42), for instance, when it comes to Europe’s economic relations, to the cultural influences they sought out and accepted, as well as the influx of culture, people, money, and goods into the US. The close exchange between these countries, however, regardless of the not-yet-dominant American role, was unprecedented, Nolan argues in accordance with Trommler and Shore’s edited volume. But whereas the relations between the US and Germany were formalized through, for example, the formal inception of German ambassadors in the US in the late 19th century, Nolan emphasizes that the rise of the American superpower were a contingent development of the war and post-war years. As she explains in chapter 2, “World War I: European Crisis and American Opportunity,” The US’s involvement in WWI left them with more political and military influence in Europe, to which the American economic prosperity contributed; they could advance their authority precisely because they did not have to carry the financial and cultural burdens of the post-war years, a consequence of the mostly informal nature of their European relations and thus their ability to opportunistically choose between isolationism and unilateralism (ch. 3).
Nolan puts much emphasis on the aforementioned “gaps” between Europe and the US. Chapter 3 details the ways in which Hollywood movies, jazz, and Fordism were successfully exported to Europe, but the idea of anti-socialist capitalism did not take roots in the “Old World.” The stigma of an unregulated economy grew enormously during and after the financial crisis following the US stock market crash in 1929 and significantly set back the American economic influence across the globe (ch. 4). J.M. Keynes’s theory of the curing power of anti-cyclic state investment, in opposition to F. von Hayek’s claim that increased saving will naturally make the crisis go away, won many European supporters during these years. But the Nazi regime ruined American-German cooperation for years, by declaring the US an economic and cultural competitor and by starting another World War (ch. 5). In this context, Nolan also explains how the always ambivalent relationship between the US and the Soviet Union got closer for these very years before it erupted into the Cold War (chs. 6–10). Nolan’s discussion of the Cold-War era focuses on the US and the Soviet Union, but also mentions the Rote Armee Fraktion, bringing together the American civil rights movements and the student protests and thus also bridging my European History and my US Science and Technology lists.
Dirk Hoerder and Joerg Nagler’s edited volume People in Transit talks about the social history of men as much as women in assessing migration within, into, and out of Germany from 1820 to 1930. The essays are organized thematically in four parts and paint a picture of Germany as a country of emigrants until the late 19th century and as a country of immigrants (foreign laborers) in the following decades, even though, the editors explain, the German government and society resist the notion of Germany as an “immigration country” (p. 16). This resistance is empirically not supported, but it is historicized in itself in chapters that explain governmental measures to contain the immigration of foreign workers (chs. 7 and 9).
The contributors put much emphasis on explaining the economic situation in immigrants’ destination countries, but they also tell us—explicitly or implicitly—the story of Germany’s economic situation at the time. It is very refreshing that the authors oftentimes write about “the Germanies,” being well aware of the huge diversity within Germany at the time. Maybe this awareness is a consequence of the chapters on internal migration (Part II). Most interesting are the chapters on women’s migration and labor, which are not only contained in Part III but permeate the entire volume. Several contributions in Parts III and IV show convincingly that women’s labor in general and their work in domestic service in specific are an important part of economic history. In the US, women in domestic service lived with much more self-determination than their European counterparts, having networks and agencies to aid them find the best available jobs, being able to negotiate better wages for themselves on a huge job market, and more generally not having to depend on dowry anymore (chs. 11–14). In some instances, the demand for female labor was even higher than for male labor, leading to an entire gender role reversal in immigrant families (ch. 17). And for those who were a little more traditional, the international marriage market offered chances to find a husband abroad amidst a shortage of potential husbands in areas with a high emigration rate; it is important to note that, more often than not, the international marriage market was closely linked to the labor market (ch. 10). The new 19th-century avenues for women to migration resonate well with Herminghouse’s observation that most of the radical feminists may have left Germany before the onset of the first feminist movement around 1900.
The Heimat Abroad, a volume edited by Krista O’Donnell et al., tells the stories of German emigration around the globe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Even though Part IV of Hoerder and Nagler’s edited volume has shown that some German emigrants returned without having achieved their goals in the destination country, the contributors to The Heimat Abroad start from the premise that the overwhelmingly successful emigration of Germans drove even more emigration and legitimized German colonial endeavors, as far as contemporary Europeans were concerned. The contributors to the volume diverge from the hitherto discussed histories of German emigration in that they trace economic elites, rather than working-class individuals searching for a better life. One of the reasons might be that the authors deliberately chose to study displaced groups in order to investigate into the question of what “Germanness” beyond Germany is and how/when/where acculturation in the destination country succeeded or not.
The volume argues that it was not (only) the German nation state that defined “Germanness,” but that the state and its policies were actively shaped by its emigres who developed and upheld a very specific vision of Germany after arriving at their destination. One exception to this German perceptiveness to the demands of Auslandsdeutsche was the Nazi regime, when an ideological version of ethnic Germanness was centrally crafted and emitted (“Blut und Boden”). The private interests from Germans inside and outside of Germany become very clear in the first of three parts in this volume, which traces the debates surrounding citizenship during the German colonial era, including the Nazi regime (chs. 1–3). Chapter 1 and its discussion of the German citizenship laws in particular speaks to an issue already mentioned in Hoerder and Nagler’s edited volume: the question of the treatment of foreign workers in Germany. Howard Sargent shows how German citizenship was more strongly anchored in ethnicity and cultural heritage by the 1914 law reform, making it easier for expatriates to retain their citizenship and harder for immigrants to gain citizenship. This turn-of-the-century anxiety pertaining to a loss of Germanness by immigration (or mixed-race marriages and offspring in the colonies; see ch. 2) is particularly interesting to me, since I find it closely related to the scientific debates about “degeneracy” surrounding femaleness and lefthandedness at the time.
Four chapters in Part II detail the “diasporic network” of Germans overseas, including Jewish communities, and exemplifies some ways in which it was beneficial to the survival of these groups to adhere to their “Germanness,” and other ways in which this insistence on German culture, education, and ties to their home country (family, travel, trade, etc.) posed obstacles to a successful life abroad. This part resonates well with Barclay and Glaser-Schmidt’s edited volume; but rather than presenting the imaginaries and perceptions of Germans of the US and the other way round, The Heimat Abroad details how the concept of Germanness was reimagined and asserted in an exchange between resident Germans and expats.
Finally, chapters 8 to 12 are overwritten “Islands of Germanness” and draw attention to the ways in which German identity was transformed and upheld in the 20th century, during and after two world wars, in particular during decades of east-west conflicts within Europe. Chapters 10 and 11 are particular interesting in their discussion of the Nazi efforts to define Germanness and the ways in which it was imposed upon diverse populations in colonial and military expansionist contexts in Southwest Africa and Eastern Europe. Nancy Reagin’s insight that Germanness heavily rested on and was reproduced by specific gender roles and the cultivation of a German domestic sphere abroad since the beginnings of German colonialism resonates well with the literature on first-wave feminism and female colonizers (see previous essay). The fact that the promotion of Germanness continued to rest strongly on role-conform women makes clear that the first feminist movement and women’s suffrage did not bring about gender equality—as we unfortunately already knew too well.
Daniel Rodgers’s monograph Atlantic Crossings tells the transatlantic history of social politics in the progressive era, broadly conceived, from the German academic critiques of laissez-fair economies (ch. 3) to WWII (ch. 11). Rodgers deliberately chose to write this story as a social and intellectual history, focusing on the origins, travel, and transformations of progressive ideas as well as on the economic realities. In the Prologue, he explains that his account is not comparative in the way that it does not look at difference but focus on the “interdependencies” of the US and Europe (mostly Britain and Germany) during the progressive era (p. 9). This approach allows him to illuminate in particular the fruitful aspects of competition between states.
Rodgers begins his account with the Paris World’s Fair in 1900. He shows that the US promoted capitalism despite the knowledge of its partly detrimental social consequences as experienced during the recession in the 1870s. This observation is in line with Nolan’s account of the fundamental American trust in laissez-faire economies. Again in accordance with Nolan, Rodgers juxtaposes the US pavilions with several European exhibitions, illustrating that social politics were more advanced in Europe and the US at the time, but that the countries did not agree on the ways in which capitalism should be contained—through “[s]tate paternalism, private paternalism, mutualism, socialism, [or] maternalism” (p. 20). Transatlantic economic relations came first, he makes clear, and they paved the way for the travel of social political ideologies as well (ch. 2).
After the three introductory chapters, the book proceeds thematically with neat but not artificially separated Europe-US pairings making up each chapter: from the de-privatization of infrastructure in cities, where social inequalities were most pronounced (ch. 4), through municipal design and civic architecture (ch. 5), public poverty relief and workers’ insurance (ch. 6), a heightened sense of crisis and “war collectivism” accompanied by war employment and housing opportunities (ch. 7), attempts to restructure atomistic rural landscapes and communities (ch. 8), to mechanization and the modernization of housing in the age of Fordism (ch. 9).
In chapter 10, Rodgers traces the New Deal and how it was perceived in Europe, arguing that the ideological roots of the New Deal lay in the progressive thought hitherto explained, and illuminating the ways in which its “striking success” was “marri[ed]” o “massive apparent incoherence” (p. 412). Neither “economic need, interest group insistence, grassroots political pressure, [n]or the exigencies of the emergency [of the global economic crisis] itself,” Rodgers argues, explain the measures and the success of the New Deal (p. 437). Instead, he explains, it was the sedimentation and institutionalization of decade-old European progressive ideas and actions that led to the Social Security Act in 1935. This chapter shows how the US, which used to lack behind Europeans in questions of social politics, succeeded in a way unparalleled in Europe in conquering the world financial crisis. Rodgers concludes this chapter with the assertion that the intellectual progressive connection between Europe and the US was closest in these years and that it would significantly loosen in the years to come. The insistence on the close interrelatedness between Europe and the US, however, is Rodgers’s potent argument against any US-American “Sonderweg,” a concept he already attacks in the Prologue (p. 2). Beyond all the lucid writing and breath-taking depth and breadth of Rodgers’s analysis, it is intriguing to see him craft an American-European connection even in debunking a narrative of American exceptionalism in the very terms German historians use when they fight about it (see the works of Hans-Ulrich Wehler versus David Blackbourn’s and Geoff Eley’s accounts).
Eric Schatzberg traces the transformation of the meaning of the term “technology” within the American social sciences during the first three decades of the 20th century in “‘Technik’ Comes to America.” He argues that engagement with and translations of the German discourse surrounding Technik in its broader cultural and social meaning have shaped the English use of the term “technology” in these contexts, where “technique,” “industrial arts,” or “applied science” seemed insufficient. Schatzberg draws on entries in dictionaries, on the debate surrounding the naming of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and, most importantly, translations of German Technik-critical accounts and commentaries upon them by US social scientists, most prominently Thorstein Veblen and Charles Beard (e.g., Marx’s work or publications from scholars of the early German historical school of economics). These sources allow him to trace the uses of the term “technology” “from a field of study to the object of study” (p. 511).
Schatzberg’s agenda is to prevent further presentist uses of 19th-century sources talking about “technology” or “technique” before either of them had been equated with or distinguished from the German Technologie and Technik. All the more puzzling is his own presentist approach to his actors and sources, when he suggests that they “did not recognize the new hybrid [“technology”] they had created” (p. 512), or that others still practiced a “conflation of technique and technology” (p. 497). The reason for why Schatzberg has such strong feelings about the use of “technology” in the sense of Technik may be his belief that a “hidden polysemy [between technique and technology] has contributed to a pernicious conflation of meanings that tends to reduce the whole of the industrial arts to invention, and intention to applied science” (p. 512). In other words, he makes early American social scientists (partly) responsible for the rise of progressivist technologically determinist thinking and the fall of Marxian technological liberating utopias. Maybe that is why he is so disappointed by “Beard … [, who] did nothing to theorize technology and failed to recognize that he was adopting a novel concept” (p. 510)—maybe he could have made life easier for historians and sociologists of technology, Schatzberg seems to implicate.
Rebecca Herzig’s monograph Suffering for Science is not an explicitly transatlantic history, but it complements the aforementioned works very well in its study of the development of a disembodied, self-sacrificial scientific ideal between the 1870s and the 1920s in the US. While the world economic crisis and mass migration characterized the Atlantic world, American scientists declared the (preferably white and male) willingly suffering individual who is solely interested in the pursuit of (preferably practically useless) truth about nature as the epitome of a worthy scientist. Herzig traces the development of this ideal in four different case studies about the sacrificial loneliness of “pure” scientists (ch. 3), the pains and injuries of polar explorers (ch. 4), the martyrdom of X-ray researchers—and only the “self-possessing” privileged researchers themselves, not their laborers or lab animals—(ch. 5), and the fictional accounts of suffering scientists (ch. 6). For these case studies, she draws from contemporary publications, including fiction, as well as on speeches, lectures, and archival collections in the US.
The first two chapters preceding the case studies present a historical and conceptual overview of the idea of voluntary suffering for a higher cause before the late 19th century (ch. 1) and an analysis of the specific environment of new institutions of modern science (ch. 2). Herzig follows the question of: “Why do we say that science demands sacrifice?” (p. x) instead of engaging the very elusive (and positivist) question of why or if it ‘really’ does. She aims at dismantling the view of science “as a timeless, inhuman force to which we are haplessly subjected” (p. x); her agenda thus resonates extremely well with Schatzberg’s qualms about the determinist notion of “technology.” In addition, her rooting of the modern concept of science’s timelessness and placelessness in a very specific time and place, whose economic stratification, mechanization, sexism, racism, hopes and obstacles we have already read about in the aforementioned texts, make Suffering for Science a fabulous complement to the stories of industrialization, migration, sex/gender, sexuality, and feminism discussed thus far. The idea that an elite circle of people appropriated suffering as a noble dead is rendered even more ironic—or despicable—in the face of the involuntary displacement and misery of many more underprivileged groups than the ones Herzig mentions. As she remarks in her epilogue, the question of self-less suffering for the pursuit of science, which has not gotten much airtime since the mid-1920s, may seem desirable again in an age of the capitalization of science; this thought resonates well with scientists’ and activists’ concerns about the military and industrial funding of science so potent in the literature on my Cold-War reading list.
The French Revolution, edited by Gary Kates, consists of eleven formerly published articles written between the 1960s and the 1990s. An introductory chapter explains recent historiographical trends surrounding scholarship on the French Revolution, including gender studies approaches as well as some contributors’ radical view of “the Terror as the essence of the Revolution and [the Revolution] … as a harbinger of Bolshevism and Fascism” (p. 10). The introduction also provides some reflections on revisionism, which frame the volume successfully as a further contribution to the topic and not an attack on previous scholarship.
The contributions share a focus on the economic and social consequences of the French Revolution, instead of only assessing it as a political transformation. Chapter 1, for instance, titled “The French Revolution in the History of the Contemporary World,” argues that the shift of political power from nobles to the bourgeoisie laid the foundations for modern capitalism. This argument exemplifies the overarching assertion of Part I that the French Revolution cannot necessarily be seen as a successful uprising of the bourgeoisie against the nobles (“Marxist” view). Many of the contributors, in particular in Parts I, III, and V, argue that the social changes brought about by the French Revolution have been overestimated in the past, as one ruling class (commons and nobles who did not perform manual labor) were overthrown by a new elite (a forming bourgeois class invested in capitalism) and that the distinctions between the noble class and the bourgeoisie were not even clearly marked before the Revolution to begin with (“revisionist” view).
The two chapters in Part IV, “Gender Studies,” reaffirm the former suspicion that the French Revolution was a male liberation movement, requiring much more feminist action in the 19th and 20th centuries before women suffrage, for example, could be attained. In chapter 9, “The Many Bodies of Marie Antoinette,” Lynn Hunt looks at Jacobin pornographic portrayals of Marie Antoinette and reactions to the trial in which many more than only political charges were held against the queen, including incest. Hunt integrates considerations of female opponents to the Old Regime who had to fight against milder but still severe stigmatization; in doing so, she convincingly exposes the masculinism and misogyny of the revolutionaries. Olwen Hufton, in “In Search of Counter-Revolutionary Women” (ch. 10), turns to Catholic peasant women. Whereas chapter 8 had argued that rural uprisings were crucial to the French Revolution, Hufton shows that Catholic females in these areas oftentimes sabotaged the Revolution on order to maintain the social and economic structure of their lives; that is, they resisted dechristianization, they tried to hold on to their men, and they did not want a new form of bourgeois capitalism to overthrow their small but crucial economic activity on local markets.
Philip Dwyer’s edited volume Napoleon and Europe analyzes “Napoleon as subject—as ‘conscious agent’—in historical context” (p. 2), according to the editor. Dwyer and the contributors to the volume refuse to depict Napoleon as a ‘great man’, but they make very clear the impact he had on Europe, telling the story from his upbringing as an officer to-be (ch. 1) to Russia’s involvement in the Napoleonic Wars (ch. 13). The volume is a great resource for the historical researcher, offering a 25-page essay on suggested further readings and furnished with six maps showing the borders of Europe from 1799 to after the Congress of Vienna. But it is also very accessible and sometimes most amusing to read. In his introduction, for instance, Dwyer displays Napoleon as “an evil necessity, the foreign-political and social equivalent of an enema; never very pleasant, it can help clean out the system” (p. 20) and argues that it was him who was most “responsible for dragging Europe kicking and screaming into the modern era” (p. ix).
The argument that “[t]he Napoleonic Empire … was not just an adjunct of the French Revolution [but] also a conflict over the future shape of Europe” (p. ix) is very well in line with the “revisionist” stance presented in Kates’s edited volume. The contributors to Napoleon and Europe furthermore agree that Napoleon was not a liberal revolutionary who was longing for a thorough democratization of the French state to the betterment of the common people; instead, Napoleon “flirted with Jacobinism” and “was an Ancien Regime noble with a nobles disdain for the people,” Dwyer argues in the introduction (p. 5). In Part I, “Napoleon and French Society,” four chapters provide insight into Napoleon’s personality, the visual images he used in order to promote a military culture in France, and the efforts the Napoleonic regime underwent in order to centrally organize and secularize France after coming to power—an endeavor that remained often unsuccessful in rural areas. Chapter 4 is particularly noteworthy in its treatment of “The Napoleonic Police State.” Michael Sibalis shows that France under Napoleon was ruled neither by feudalism nor by terror but by control and surveillance. Censorship, rural gendarmerie, secret agents, and regular policemen targeted political activists, smugglers, theaters, writers and other potential dissidents. Execution, deportation, imprisonment, or “internal exile” were possible punishments, oftentimes handed out without a court trial.
Part II, “The Nature of the Empire,” consists of five chapters investigating into Napoleon’s successful and lasting civil politics (ch. 5), including the centralized fiscal system and financial policies (ch. 9), his thoughtful modes of annexation and “internal pacification” (ch. 8), the revolts under his rule (ch. 7), and the importance of his character and self-image in these contexts (ch. 6). In chapter 7, “Popular Resistance to the Napoleonic Empire,” Charles Esdaile draws attention to the fact that armed revolts against Napoleon’s regime took only place in Calabria, Spain, Portugal, and Tyrol, where the geography, weapons, and regular troops could be harnessed. Much more common were more subtle forms of resistance, such as riots, recalcitrance, and evasion. “Napoleon and Europe,” Part III of the volume, lays out Napoleon’s obsession with Great Britain and the at first exclusively economic war he fought against the nation (ch. 10); the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and Napoleon’s bureaucratic reorganization of central Europe (ch. 11); the Peninsular War that made Napoleon’s empire crumble due to massive desertion of troops, Spain’s and Portugal’s support from the British, as well as the Spanish and Portuguese Guerilla warfare (ch. 12); and the seven-year military conflict between Napoleon and Russia that cost several 100,000 civilians’ and soldiers’ lives (ch. 13). Reading about this violence and unrest that spread throughout Europe in the early 19th century makes me wonder how people like F.J. Gall could live in Vienna and Paris and not once engage with the war in their writings, only with the fair sex and the musical faculties in people’s brains, to phrase it very drastically.
A collection of Eberhard Weis’s essays, titled Deutschland und Frankreich um 1800, was edited in honor of his 65th birthday. All of the essays had been formerly published between the 1950s and the 1980s. As the title suggests, they focus on the French-German relationship but also on political, social, and economic structures within Germany from the late 18th to the mid-19th century. Weis focuses on the developments in the German south and west, an unsurprising decision for a German-French history, but possibly also a reflection of the political power of these states compared to the northeast (excluding Prussia). The chapters cover a wide variety of topics, from the Illuminati (ch. 3) to the political convictions of Ludwig I before he commenced his rule (ch. 14). Small introductions to each essay by the editors like in Kates’s volume would have helped clarify the historiographical intervention by Weis and helped fashion an overall argument.
The first two chapters explain the extent to which certain German states before the French Revolution can be considered Enlightened absolutist systems. Weis argues that Napoleon’s imposed modernization encountered German states that were already in the process of reform pertaining to the fiscal system, the manorial system, and secularization. On a related note, he explains that the French already adopted patriotic manners during the monarchy, a circumstance that was usually conceived of as an outcome of the Revolution (ch. 5). A comparative analysis between the French and the German manorial systems lets Weis conclude that German smallholders and peasants had a better lot despite the higher fertility of the French soil (ch. 4); this is an interesting observation if one considered the question of why the rural uprisings were an important concern during and after the French Revolution (see ch. 7). Weis’s knowledge of the subtle economic, social, political, and geographical distinctions within Germany and between German and France as well as his ability to succinctly convey them are admirable.
In chapter 10, a relatively long essay on the formation of the Rheinbund, Weis proves his skill to meticulous analyze archival sources and weave the details into a bigger argument: that Napoleon never wanted to be the emperor of Germany and that he respected the sovereignty of local rulers as long as they respected his authority. This argument is in line with assertions in Dwyer’s edited volume that Napoleon, despite his military campaigns all over Europe, had a tendency to cooperate with local rulers rather than violently replacing them and integrating the conquered areas into a uniform French empire. Likewise, chapter 12 reminds the reader of the “revisionist” argument put forward in Kates’s volume that states that the bourgeoisie and the nobles were not clearly distinguishable classes at the outbreak of the Revolution in France. In his consideration of the debates surrounding the Bavarian constitution, which was incepted in 1818, Weis illustrates that the Buerger and the noblemen did not have significantly different opinions about what the constitution should look like in his successful marriage of social and political history.
Eric Brose’s German History 1789–1871 ties together the works of Thomas Nipperdey, Hans-Ulrich Wehler, James Sheehan, Gordon Craig, Ann Allen, and Isabel Hull, to name only a few. His beautifully written account of Napoleon’s rule in Germany (Part I), the constitutional movements (Part II), the industrialization (Parts II and III), the revolutions in 1830 (Part II) and 1848 (Part III), and the formation of the German Empire (Part IV) is not a plain synthesis of the aforementioned and further German and English secondary literature; it is at the same time a narrative account of the events, featuring extensive quotes from the secondary sources it draws on, as well as a sharp analytical endeavor.
Brose attends particularly well to—and includes in his book—literary and visual art, music, questions of gender, and the social, legal, economic, and religious differences between the German states. The reader learns that art became political in times of political turmoil (all parts), that peasant women’s life situations got significantly worse with the progressing industrialization in the 19th century (Parts I and III), that the formerly rigid structures of guilds and serfdom were gradually replaced by state institutions (Part II), and that Zollverein and the railroad were inextricably linked (Part III). None of these insights is unfamiliar for the reader familiar with the above-mentioned works Brose draws on. The novelty of his German History lies in its accessible, narrative tone and its conciseness; I would use assign it in an undergraduate class or as a background reading for the first week of a graduate class on Germany in the 19th century.
Hans Gerth’s monograph Bürgerliche Intelligenz um 1800 is a study of the origins of liberalism in Germany. The book grew out of a dissertation published in 1935 and it almost sank into oblivion as a consequence of the Nazi censorship. For its publication, it was furnished with a biographical introduction and an extended bibliography by the publisher. Following his teacher Karl Mannheim’s concept of Denkstil, Gerth considers liberalism to be a specific thought style. He argues that it grew out of an interplay between “economic liberalism,” that is, capitalist interests (ch. 1) and the modernization of production (ch. 1) on the one hand, and, on the other hand, “cultural liberalism,” that is, the modernization of infrastructure and governance (ch. 4), the rise of pedagogy and changing relationships between teachers and students (ch. 2), the increasing influence of academic thinking (ch. 2), its popularization in the ‘public’ generated by the growing press (ch. 3), as well as the novel appeal of the ideal of friendship in the 19th century (ch. 2).
These are all familiar themes, and quite obviously so, since Nipperdey and Wehler could draw extensively from Gerth’s work in writing their political and social histories of Germany. What is remarkable about Gerth’s approach to the topic is that he writes the genesis of a political thought style as a social history. His research questions are: “Welche Situation macht die deutsche Intelligenz in so weitem Masse bereit, liberales Gedankengut aufzunehmen? Wie war sie zusammengesetzt, welche Faktoren bestimmten ihr Gepraege, wie stand sie im Gesellschaftsgefuege …?“ (p. 29). As Dagmar Herzog argues in more detail (see below) in accordance with Gerth, one of the social origins of liberal thought was the religious realm, specifically the Protestant parish house, where humanism and familiarity were upheld, a spirit that found its continuance in the new Humboldtian ideal of Bildung and—in a somewhat conflicted radical way—in academic fraternities (ch. 2). Liberal state officials and our old friends, the cameralists, were crucial in the consolidation of liberal values and processes as well (ch. 4).
James Sheehan’s history of German Liberalism in the Nineteenth Century goes beyond Gerth’s account in at least three ways: regarding the periodization, the sources, and the conceptualization of liberalism. Sheehan traces German Liberalism from 1770 to the onset of WWI, drawing on contemporary newspapers and periodicals as well as on a wide range of secondary sources about liberalism, histories and autobiographical accounts written throughout the 20th century, including Gerth’s dissertation. Liberalism, to him, is more than a thought style that manifested in education and the ways of governing. Gerth distinguishes between progressive acts and liberal thinking in his introduction, but Sheehan defines liberalism as “an attempt both to understand and to change the world, an ideology and a movement, a set of ideas and a set of institutions” (p. 1), in other words, as a more pervasive intellectual, social, and structural entity that spanned different classes, aspirations, and even political views.
More concretely, the book investigate into “the relationship between liberalism and German society” (p. 2), emphasizing the many ways in which various kinds of ‘liberalism’ have been championed in different ways in different regions of Germany at different times. Refusing to provide a guidebook for 20th– and 21st-century individuals on how to ‘do’ liberalism correctly, he still takes a judgmental approach to his actors, calling them “shortsighted and selfish” or in possession of “bad judgment and political ineptitude,” which he subsumes under the concept of “failures of intellect and will” (p. 2). Nonetheless, he suggests, external powers determined the decline of German liberalism, not the personal shortcomings of individuals or the movement per se. In this context, it becomes very clear in his introduction that he is a structuralist and historical determinist, explicitly extrapolating from his own experiences in the 1970s that individuals can neither change politics nor the ways of history. This pessimistic opening to the book reads very much like the assertion that Germany was doomed to go its Sonderweg. I am not a child of the Cold War, and I reserve myself the right to be more optimistic; if Napoleon could change the world, why should others not be able to have a significant impact?
In six chronologically presented parts, Sheehan provides an overview of the fragmentation of the state and its political landscape, the decline of the parties and the related hurdles to participate in politics, as well as the specifically liberal ideological ambivalence towards the state, participatory democracy, and industrialized capitalism. Particularly interesting is his argument that the German unification replaced liberalism with nationalism, parliamentarism with militarism, and domestic politics with foreign policy and war, creating an atmosphere in which liberalism necessarily (so he suggests) disintegrated. Consequently, Sheehan suggests in his conclusion, former liberals gave their vote to the Nazis as “an alternative” (p. 281), which was at the same a vote “against their traditional enemies,” namely Catholic conservatism and labor parties (p. 282). It is striking how much emphasis Sheehan puts on the ideological reasons for the failure of liberalism as he undergoes much effort to meticulously document the social and geographical variance within liberalism; I wonder why he did not choose to find a social explanation for the “bankruptcy” (p. 283) of liberalism in the face of Bismarck and the Nazis.
Dagmar Herzog describes in the introduction to her monograph that “Intimacy and Exclusion documents the persistence of religious conflicts in a supposedly secularizing age” (p. 4). More specifically, the book traces early liberalism in Baden, one of the most and earliest liberal German states, in the two decades leading up to 1848, illuminating the ways in which liberal views were formulated in response to a resurgence of Catholic conservativism. The argument that the years before 1848 were more characterized by an “ever-increasing ideological polarization” than by a general liberalization (p. 4), Herzog contributes to an explanation of why the revolutions failed. She pays particular attention to religious constructions of gender and sexuality as well as the exclusion of Jews despite the liberal calls for religious freedom. Her sources allow her to present a very convincing picture of the entanglements between religion, politics, and the “private sphere”; she draws on collections in various church, state, and university archives, including sermon transcripts, pamphlets, and protocols of parliamentary debates, as well as an immensely broad range of contemporary religious and political newspapers, books, and articles. Herzog explains in her introduction that she deliberately chose many polemic and argumentative texts in order to gain insight into the ways in which arguments were phrased, how speakers strategized to persuade the public of their own political and religious views, and how they justified the persistence of inequalities, in particular between men and women as well as between Christians and Jews.
In a first chapter, Herzog introduces the debates surrounding sexuality and marriage from the 1820s to the 1840s. First, liberal Catholics asked for an abolishment of priestly celibacy, demanding freedom in the choice of the love life for all Catholics. Second, Catholics and Protestants fought for the official legalization of interreligious marriages, a question in which the state decided in favor of the Catholic Church, which was absolutely opposed. Very much in line with Hull’s account, Herzog shows how these two debates brought conversations about sexuality and married life into the “public sphere” and the liberal attempts to leave it in the “private sphere,” out of the church’s and the state’s reach.
In the following two chapters of her book, Herzig shows how neither the liberation of Jews (ch. 2) nor of women (ch. 3) were general concerns of the liberal movement, an assertion that contradicts large parts of the historiography on the topics. The opposition of liberals against Jews—and the basis for a racialization of their being different—derived from the stereotypical idea that Judaism was a backwards religion incompatible with progressive ideals. The question of whether women should emancipate was not even asked; instead, men were told to assert their masculinity and emphasize their natural difference from women, to protect their wives from priests who might break their celibacy vow and seduce them, and to turn away from Rome and to the Deutschkatholiken, together with their wives, who were primarily sexual and reproductive objects.
The final two chapters provide insight into visions regarding the emancipation of Jews (ch. 4) and women (ch. 5), articulated by some liberals at the Mannheim “Monday Club,” founded in 1847. Jews were allowed to join the Monday Club, but the attempts of philosemitism were inconsistent; liberals still regarded Judaism a morally inferior religion and their solution to the discrimination against Jews was an annihilation of their difference. It is unsurprising that philosopher and writer Louise Dittmar’s calls for female liberation and an abandonment of the idea of sexual difference were equally unsuccessful. Obviously, the German liberals before 1848 were not that radical. As Herzog shows, like the French Revolution, liberalism before and after 1848 was a question of men’s liberation and sexual emancipation, a debate in which the Catholic Church seemed an easy target of reactionary conservativism. This is thus not a history of early feminism and Jewish emancipation but rather a pre-history of the Kulturkampf. Moreover, it is an endorsement of Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss’s argument that classifications oftentimes originate from the religious realm and are then transformed into social realities; Jewish/Christian is obviously another categorization in addition to the dichotomies of male/female, white/non-white, heterosexual/homosexual, etc., which historians should aim at deconstructing with their scholarship.
Peter Fritzsche’s cultural history Stranded in the Present analyzes a change in the European, and by extension also North American, experience of time and a different relationship to history in the early 19th century. After the French Revolution, after the war, and in the midst of the industrialization, Fritzsche argues, the society had a sense of a lost past, of an impossibility to connect to the life before the Revolution. According to Fritzsche, this notion does not only pertain to the years prior to the French Revolution and Napoleon. His point is that any past seemed to be distant, strange, open to reinterpretation, and neither a model for the present nor a predictor of the future after the dramatic events of the late 18th century; instead, contemporaries adopted a new (if not entirely new in its quality, then at least in its pervasiveness) sense of time that lasted until the 21st century. Drawing on published diaries, autobiographies, letters, literary art, and periodicals from around 1900, Fritzsche illustrates that this novel experience of time did not solely occur on an individual level, but that it modified the ways in which people related to the both private and public “social experience” more broadly (p. 6). Part of this new consciousness was “that history became a [dramatized] mass medium,” Fritzsche concludes (p. 9).
In the first out of five chapters, each following a different set of thinkers and writers, Fritzsche illustrates the ways in which the post-Revolution generation started seeing each other as “contemporaries,” as “time comrades” (p. 53) in an era in which the Enlightened concept of a continuous time was so obviously proven wrong by the violent experiences of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. The mass media and modern transportation technologies allowed individuals in North America and Europe to engage in public exchange about these events and to gain a sense of shared history, at the same time excluding the rest from the possibility of becoming “contemporaries” as well. The case of French emigres illuminates an even heightened estrangement of Revolution survivors in the 19th century (ch. 2). In this context, Fritzsche defines nostalgia, a concept that frames and permeates his analysis, as “a product of a shared historical consciousness of general displacement that is able to make parochial misfortunes and individual losses socially meaningful” (p. 64). This quote speaks to the almost lyrical quality of the entire book.
Chapter 3 provides the reader with a tangible example of the altered consciousness: in the form of a new valuation of ruins as reminiscent and evocative remains of an irretrievable but value-laden and nationalized past. The Grimm brothers’ collection of folk tales, described in chapter 4, rehashes the same argument with literary ‘ruins’, with the difference that the folk tales make obvious the mismatch between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ culture. The Grimm brothers rewrote and modernized the tales they had collected, giving the reader another example of the actors’ perceived distance from the past. Chapter 5 closes the book with an examination of “the historicization of private life” (p. 183), that is, the increasing consumption of history in the ‘private sphere’ and a heightened sense of one’s own historicity, resulting in a surge of autobiographical accounts—including quilting—during the Romantic era.
Terry Pinkard’s history of idealism in German Philosophy, 1760–1860 reaffirms Fritzsche’s argument of a lost past by describing idealism “as a link between reason and freedom which held that modernity represents a fundamental break in human time” (p. 366). Pinkard explains that the new self-consciousness about the power of one’s mind and its susceptibility to change elicited the thought that views of the world and humans themselves are open to reinterpretation and unstable—an extension of the discovery of the reinterpretability of history so aptly described by Fritzsche. In four parts, Pinkard summarizes and analyses idealism in the writings of I. Kant and post-Kantian philosophers of varying degrees of lasting fame; the examination of Kant and Hegel each takes up an entire part of overall four parts to the book. In the introduction to the monograph as well as introductions to Parts II, III, and IV, Pinkard provides an overview of the political and cultural situation of “Germany” before its unification, a fact that is very present in Pinkard’s writing.
Pinkard’s reasoning is not always easily accessible and the volume provides more of an overview of the works of idealist thinkers than a genuine historical argument. In Part I, Pinkard discusses Kant’s ideas on the validity and origin of our judgments and knowledge about things. The position that the Enlightened rationality is sufficient to create a better world got under much attack during and after the Reign of Terror, as Pinkard shows in Part II. Several post-Kantian philosophers proposed that reason alone is not enough, some of them returning to the basis of faith (Jacobi, ch. 4), others advocating for the scientific pursuit of philosophy (Reinhold, ch. 4) and the abandonment for the notion of an infallible and conscious individual self (Fichte, ch. 5). Romantic writers and philosophers even attacked the goal of reason per se, aiming at reenchanting nature and life. Instead of following Kant’s conclusion that humans should not engage with matters outside of reason, the Romantics embraced experience, art, intuition, and natural philosophy—and went even so far as to question humans’ ability to freedom altogether (chs. 6 and 7). With Napoleon also came a new political relevance of philosophy to Germany (Part III). In this atmosphere, Hegel philosophized about why “leading one’s life” was of utmost importance, and he suggested that philosophy could provide the necessary guidance for doing so.
Frederick Beiser’s monograph The Fate of Reason zooms in on the debate surrounding “the authority of reason and the supremacy of epistemology” (p. vii) between the publications of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason in 1781 and Fichte’s Doctrine of Science in 1794. Beiser mainly draws on the works of well and lesser known philosophers at the time, published in the form of monographs or in periodicals, including several hostile responses to Kant.
Beiser identifies two core challenges that Kant’s philosophy provided for Enlightenment thinkers, who believed in the “universality and impartiality of reason” (p. 8). First, it collapsed the firm boundaries between faith and reason, suggesting that all we know originates from our own mind and that nothing can be known for sure about the outside world or metaphysical questions, an insight resulting in the “pantheism controversy” in which thinkers debated the options of and between rational nihilism and irrational fideism (chs. 2, 3, and 5); one of the legacies of the controversies were a heightened fear of nihilism (as Jacobi suggested) or assertions of solipsism (as D. Hume suggested). Second, the fact that reason, when it doubts itself, cannot be certain of anything or has to refuse do doubt itself and thus be dogmatic—an issue known as the meta-critical problem (chs. 7, 8, and 9). Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel would later try to find solutions to these problems within idealism.
Other philosophers resurrected metaphysics, which Kant had declared dead (ch. 7). Yet another reaction to the post-Kantian confusion was the search for a lower-level substitute, so to speak, of reason, namely a material causality as expressed in vitalist materialism, a form of non-reductionist and non-mechanistic monism. According to this teleological view, the mind is a highly organized substance with a so-called organic living force, an entity crucial in Herder’s naturalist explanation of the origin of language (ch. 5). Despite Hegel’s and Schelling’s attempts to scientifically prove vitalism, the concept did not last very long and was soon superseded by 19th-century reductionist naturalism—or ‘modern science’. As for the usefulness of this very impressive volume full of intellectual philosophical history, the analyses of Hamann’s conviction that reason is historical and culturally determined as well as Herder’s vitalist theory of mind are probably the only sections in this book that I may review as I move on to my dissertation.