A History of Modern Germany, 1800 to the Present

A History of Modern Germany, 1800 to the Present

A History of Modern Germany, 1800 to the Present

A History of Modern Germany, 1800 to the Present


Featuring revised and extended coverage, the second edition of A History of Modern Germany offers an accessible and engagingly written account of German history from 1800 to the present.
  • Provides readers with a long view of modern German history, revealing its continuities and changes
  • Features updated and extended coverage of German social change and modernization, class, religion, and gender
  • Includes more in depth coverage of the German Democratic Republic
  • Examines Germany's social, political, and economic history
  • Covers the unification of Germany, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, post-war division, the collapse of Communism, and developments since re-unification
  • Addresses regional history rather than focusing on the dominant role of Prussia


In 1800 Germany was a ramshackle empire, made up of hundreds of petty principalities, free cities, and ecclesiastical and aristocratic estates, which ever since 1512 had borne the impressive title of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Voltaire caustically remarked that it was neither holy nor Roman, and certainly not much of an empire. As for German–the word really did not mean much at that time.

Among the German states only Austria and Brandenburg-Prussia counted for much, and Prussia was not even part of the empire. The empire nonetheless had many virtues, its federal structure providing a model for the founding fathers of the United States, but it was in a state of relentless decline and was impervious to reform. It was overrun by the armies of revolutionary France and reorganized under Napoleon. The historian Thomas Nipperdey begins his monumental history of nineteenth-century Germany with the catchy phrase: “In the beginning was Napoleon” Like most such aphorisms it is a half-truth. This was no second creation, but it did mark the end of the empire and a significant transformation of Germany’s political geography. Napoleon forced sixteen of what the great reformer Baron vom Stein contemptuously called “petty sultanates” into the Confederation of the Rhine, thereby greatly enhancing Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden in the hope of creating a third Germany to offset Austria and Prussia. The Confederation was reformed along French lines, adopting the progressive Napoleonic code of law, whereas in Prussia the reforms were designed to strengthen the state so as eventually to free those provinces that were under French occupation. These reforms and the struggle against France were to lay the foundations of Prussian strength in the new century, and to lead to the formation of a new Germany in 1871. In the process the progressive liberalism of the early decades of the century was gradually transformed into an increasingly reactionary nationalism.

A somewhat vague notion of a German national identity was first articulated in the eighteenth century. It was centered on the linguistic and cultural peculiarities of the German-speaking world. It was abstract, humanistic, cosmopolitan, philosophically rarefied and apolitical. The intense hatred of the French, caused by the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, along with the unacceptable behavior of the French occupying troops soured this early nationalism. Cosmopolitanism turned into an arrogant feeling of cultural superiority. The apolitical became a reactionary obsession with a mythological German past. The rarefied was distilled into an impenetrable but intoxicating obscurity. The new nationalists hoped that when the wars were over a powerful and united Germany would emerge, but their hopes were dashed at the Congress of Vienna, where they were overridden by the imperatives of the great European powers.

Britain and France preferred to accept the changes made by Napoleon and completed his work by creating a German Confederation comprising the 39 remaining states. There was . . .

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