Baedekers as Casualty: Great War Nationalism and the Fate of Travel Writing

By Larabee, Mark D. | Journal of the History of Ideas, July 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Baedekers as Casualty: Great War Nationalism and the Fate of Travel Writing


Larabee, Mark D., Journal of the History of Ideas


Three weeks into the First World War, a list of German casualties in the London Times included this improbable notice: "It is reported that Herr Karl Baedeker, the publisher of the famous guide-books, has been killed in action."1 The most famous Karl Baedeker (1801-59) had started publishing in Coblenz in 1827. By 1914, the family business had passed to his youngest son, Friedrich (Fritz). The man killed in 1914 was Fritz's son, also named Karl, while the guidebooks still appeared under their founder's name.2 Evidently the Times had confused one Karl with another. Yet this report, however erroneous with regard to the youngest Baedeker, metonymically foretold a more widespread trauma - for the books themselves would become war casualties. In January 1916, Findlay Muirhead (co-editor of Baedeker's English-language volumes with his brother James F. Muirhead) announced a new series of guidebooks to replace the German ones, "which, after the war," it was supposed, were "not likely to be popular in the countries of the Allies."3 Indeed, by 1918 Baedekers drew denunciation in Britain and America for having been instrumental to the German war effort.

The relation between nationalism and the trajectory of the Baedekers' popularity outside Germany has yet to receive sustained attention (notwithstanding the considerable scholarship already carried out on these guidebooks). In light of this relation, I will articulate the foremost reasons for the precipitous decline of the Baedeker empire in the early twentieth century. Critics have partially addressed the first of these reasons: that conditions on the Western Front undermined foundational concepts of landscape description, thereby (I would add) implicating Baedekers as a representational method that had come to be seen as limited and inaccurate. Other scholars have focused on how the guidebooks emblematized a lost pre-war style of international journey within a contested cultural field of travel narratives. However, evidence in neglected archival and fictional sources qualifies our understanding of changes to travel style and the relation between those changes and the use of Baedekers. In what follows, I revisit and reconcile these assessments by linking them to a still more pressing, unexamined consideration: namely, that the events of 1914-18 also recast the Baedekers' mediation of international access as a form of nationalist expansionism, and hence a suspect project.

Much of the Baedeker story has become familiar thanks to the seminal work of Paul Fussell, continuing through that of James Buzard, Edward Mendelson, and Rudy Koshar, among others. As they have observed, Baedekers were in their heyday before the war, providing highly popular guidance during an age of burgeoning travel. According to Mendelson, Karl Baedeker had seen how guidebooks of the early 1800s typically offered either simple lists of tourist destinations without any context, or overly elaborate discussions of what to see and how to feel when seeing it. "Karl Baedeker chose a middle way," Mendelson explains; "he gave his readers precisely the information they needed to find their way cheaply and conveniently, and precisely the information they needed in order to appreciate what they saw. He trusted them to provide their aesthetic and emotional responses for themselves."4 Furthermore, Baedekers stood in for human guides, giving a wealth of details on transportation and money matters. For example, the 1913 edition of Northern Germany begins with twenty-seven pages on languages; currency; passports and customs; railways; motoring and cycling; sample itineraries; hotels; mail, telegraph, and telephone services; and a nineteen-page essay on North German architecture and painting from Romanesque to rococo.5

Baedekers owed their phenomenal popularity, however, to more than the scope of their information. Early evaluations attributed their success to an empirically based, objective narrative framework. Karl Baedeker personally verified the accuracy of his books, researching the first volumes himself. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Baedekers as Casualty: Great War Nationalism and the Fate of Travel Writing
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.