The Democratic Movement in Germany, 1789-1914

The Democratic Movement in Germany, 1789-1914

The Democratic Movement in Germany, 1789-1914

The Democratic Movement in Germany, 1789-1914


This study treats the intellectual and political history of the various democratic movements in the major German states during the nineteenth century. Snell describes the origins of the democratic impulse, traces the gradual alienation of German democracy from German liberalism, and concludes with an extensive analysis of political and social institutions of the German empire as promoters or deterrents of democracy. This book is the first to focus on the history of ideas and politics during this period.

Originally published in 1976.


In the summer of 1958, while I held a visiting appointment at Tulane University, John Snell showed me the first chapter of a book that he was then planning to be titled "Germany Enters the Democratic Era." It was bulky as such chapters go and reviewed the history of German representative institutions, together with the efforts to expand their range and power, since 1870. Correspondence about the work with publishers and colleagues indicates that the work was making rapid progress at the time I first learned of its existence, and in 1959, when Snell published his The Nazi Revolution: Germany's Guilt or Germany's Fate? in D. C. Heath Problems in European Civilization, he announced on page 94 that Germany Enters the Democratic Era "should appear" before the year was out.

Eight years later the book remained far from complete and the earlier announcement, as Professor Snell wrote a friend on 31 March 1967, "was one of my worst predictions." the delay was, however, not the result of idleness. in addition to the Heath booklet, he published in 1959 his Wartime Origins of the East-West Dilemma over Germany, and he was already working on his study of the diplomacy of World War II, Illusion and Necessity, which was to appear in 1963 under the imprint of Houghton, Mifflin Company.

The study of the genesis of German democracy, meanwhile, had not been neglected, but by 1961 John Snell was no longer certain that he could do justice to the subject in one volume. While he still anticipated putting the years 1789 to 1918 between two hard covers, he also expressed the expectation of writing a number of sequels covering the Weimar, Nazi, and post-World War II years. Before such designs could take shape, however, and while Illusion and Necessity was going to press, John Snell became dean of the Graduate School of Tulane University. Administration proved to be a far from happy detour for the scholar, but more importantly it put German democracy back on the shelf.

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