Towards an Urban Nation: Germany since 1780

Towards an Urban Nation: Germany since 1780

Towards an Urban Nation: Germany since 1780

Towards an Urban Nation: Germany since 1780

Excerpt

While there has always been a strong interest in late medieval and early modern towns in Germany, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as the period when more and more people actually lived in cities have much less attention. So historical research on the urbanization of Germany hardly began before the end of the Second World War and a brief survey therefore can be limited largely to the post-war period. There had been, of course, the groundbreaking attempts of economists and early sociologists like Karl Bücher, Werner Sombart and Georg Simmel to come to terms with the rapid urban development of their times but these attempts were largely ignored by contemporary historians. Even after the Second World War urban problems were conceived of by historians mainly as problems of politics and administration rather than as core aspects of social change. Thus the most impressive example of this type of work – Heinrich Heffter's history of self-administration in nineteenthcentury Germany – tried in the second half of the 1940s to recapture a liberal tradition of self-administration on which a new and democratic Germany could build. As the subtitle to this voluminous work documented, this was a history of ideas and institutions. But by the early 1960s authors like Helmuth Croon and Wolfgang Hofmann broadened the picture considerably by researching the social and political composition of municipal councils, thus linking the realm of urban government and administration to the conflicts of urban society.

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