The Origins of Modern Germany

The Origins of Modern Germany

The Origins of Modern Germany

The Origins of Modern Germany

Excerpt

Many books have been written in recent times on the history of Modern Germany, beginning with the rise of Prussia in the eighteenth century or the redrawing of the map of Europe in 1815. The present volume covers wider ground. Its subject is the origin and rise of modern Germany; and the search for the original factors governing German history -- which is essential matter for all who wish to understand the German question of to-day -- carries us back into a remote past.

In 1933 a German historian published a lecture with the challenging title Germany's Middle Ages -- Germany's Destiny. To many English readers it may appear a paradoxical contention that the decisive turning-point in German history lies back at the close of the eleventh and in the opening years of the twelfth centuries, and that it is impossible to understand the physiognomy of modern Germany without appreciating the character and enduring results of that critical period. And yet I believe that this contention, familiar in Germany for many decades, contains an essential truth. No one is likely to underrate the importance for the rest of Europe -- and, indeed, for world-history -- of the German reaction, beginning in the days of Bismarck, to the crisis of modern industrial capitalism; but the peculiar character of that reaction is only comprehensible in the light of Germany's past. Factors deeply rooted in German history -- both in the history of the German people in relation to their governments and in the history of the German states in relation to the other states of Europe -- constituted an iron framework, a mould within which were cast all German efforts, from 1870 to 1939, to cope with the problems of modern capitalist society.

There cannot be too many analyses of capitalist society, both in its political and in its economic aspects, between 1870 and 1939. But there is a danger that the fierce light of publicity, which the present intense interest in the causes of international instability has thrown on the history of the period 1870-1939, may blind instead of illuminate. This danger will be real, unless awareness of immediate causes and contemporary events is counter-balanced by a deeper understanding of the continuity of history and of its underlying currents.

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