Modern Germany Reconsidered, 1870-1945

Modern Germany Reconsidered, 1870-1945

Modern Germany Reconsidered, 1870-1945

Modern Germany Reconsidered, 1870-1945


In this major textbook, leading international scholars provide clear, concise summaries of many of the most important controversies and developments in German history from 1870-1945. Twelve contributors, distinguished for their detailed and original work in a particular area, summarise the nature of the controversies, explain the various interpretations, and offer their own conclusions and arguments. Modern Germany Reconsidered follows the chronological development of the whole range of modern German history, whilst highlighting themes of special interest: the role of women, economics, German liberalism, the Holocaust.


This is the second collection of ‘Reconsiderations’, the first of which dealt with A.J.P. Taylor’s Origins of the Second World War. the aim of the present book, like the first one, is fairly simple: to serve undergraduate students taking courses in the history of modern Germany. the origins of the first book reveal how this ambition was conceived and realized: in an attempt to demonstrate R.G. Collingwood’s concept of ‘secondary history’ to a class of first-year history students, I had them read A.J.P. Taylor’s Origins and then look at a series of reviews, articles and books written on the subject since he wrote. This experiment proved to be a great success, as students were challenged by his provocative interpretation and eager to see how professionally trained historians reacted to it. Thus, both the nature and the value of historical debates were demonstrated to students who could also test Collingwood’s hypothesis that it was the secondary history of a subject with which one should begin.

What I found to be difficult and frustrating was the process of putting together a coherent and accessible set of readings for my students to consider; the best that I could do was to collect a miscellany of materials that varied considerably in size, scope and style and were cumbersome to use. With this in mind I approached a number of leading experts to see if they would be interested in writing an essay on various aspects of Taylor’s interpretation and to talk about the responses to it and the ‘state of the art’ of the debate today. Simultaneously, I found a receptive and enthusiastic editor in Jane Harris-Matthews, formerly of Allen & Unwin, who was convinced of the utility of such a book. Her assessment has proved accurate, and that first book is now used regularly in undergraduate history courses around the world.

The original formula has been expanded upon for this book, which is not tied to any one historian or interpretation. But the aim remains similar: to provide students with clear and accessible summaries of the most important controversies and developments in the interpretation of German history from 1870 to 1945, and thus to enable both instructors and students to overcome the limitations imposed by reliance upon a single-author survey of the period, a form which usually leaves little room for a discussion of debates.

The chapters in this book are not intended to be original in themselves, and I am indebted to the contributors who were willing to forego originality for the sake of producing a book that would be useful for students. They apparently share my conviction that we must do what

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