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The first book in the series I am copy-editing (and more), Worlds of Consumption, is now available. Decoding Modern Consumer Societies, edited by Hartmut Berghoff and Uwe Spiekermann (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), offers an introduction to and stocktaking of the relatively young field of consumption history.

Since I have a vested interest in the project, I won’t try to convince you that it is the best thing since sliced bread, but I will say that I have learned a lot and that I am firmly convinced of the value of consumption history. Indeed, I have included consumption history in my last two courses, Belinda J. Davis, Home Fires Burning: Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000) for my graduate course on war and society and Uta G. Poiger, Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000) for my modern Germany course for undergraduates.

For more information about the German Historical Institute’s new book series, Worlds of Consumption, please view the linked PDF file on Dropbox, which includes tables of contents for Decoding Modern Consumer Societies as well as for two volumes that will appear later this year, The Development of Consumer Credit in Global Perspective: Business, Regulation, and Culture, edited by Jan Logemann, and The Rise of Marketing and Market Research, edited by Hartmut Berghoff, Philip Scranton, and Uwe Spiekermann.

Clio and me have been getting along pretty well lately, but you wouldn’t know it from this neglected blog. Much of my silence has had to do with the nature of my editing job. I edit a lot of interesting work that teaches me new things and occasionally leads me to related ideas of my own, but I’m not usually free to talk about those things. Either the material is not in print yet, or I’d betray the trust of authors with whom I have spoken in confidence about work in progress. Describing the things I’m learning about this side of academia and publishing would also make interesting blogging, but writing about them would mean injuring both confidentiality and collegiality, no matter how good a face I put on any given story. So I’m generally quiet here, unless I can comment on how the history I’m learning might be relevant in work outside the institute.

On the other hand, the small graduate course I taught this summer, War and Society in Modern Europe, gave me a chance to think more about my earlier research and how I might do something with it in the future. I’m planning to take the spring 2012 semester off from part-time teaching, so that I can do a little writing. It’s time to start thinking about the Groener project again. In particular, I want to move past the inevitably narrower set of specialized questions that have framed it to consider in what ways some of it might be relevant to a broader academic audience.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering if I should do some of that thinking on this blog. I began this blog after I had already completed my dissertation, and I have never much used it as a research blog. I’m wondering what the advantages and disadvantages of such might be. I am concerned mainly with thought, research, and communication; however, I don’t have to worry about a non-existent tenure-track position. The main advantage, it seems to me, is that it would afford a chance to discuss ideas in their nascency that I otherwise have little opportunity to talk about, unless I am teaching a related graduate course, which has only happened once so far. Sure, I work at a historical institute, but my (interesting) job there is to work with others on their ideas.

I’m thinking about this in the context of other changing habits. I have also been neglecting my other blog, Language for You, and there’s that whole twitter thing. Perhaps it’s time to conceptualize a single blog that would work for my current portfolio of jobs and projects?

I’m teaching modern Germany again this fall. Based on my experience last fall, I have decided not to go with Frank B. Tipton’s Modern Germany as a textbook. As much as I liked its affordability, breadth, and depth, it proved too much for the uninitiated in German history. This sentiment seems to have been nearly universal in the class, no matter how much effort students put into the class or what grade they earned. This semester I’m going with Mary Fulbrook’s Concise History of Germany. That might seem like a drastic swing in the other direction, but I have thought more about what I need a textbook to do: offer a basic narrative and highlight a limited number of key themes. The rest can be covered through other books, online readings, and class discussions. This is not a perfect solution, but it will give me much more flexibility in the classroom. I also think it will help make German history more accessible to my students. And Fulbrook’s narrative is by no means dumbed down. It’s just short.

Here’s the complete list of the required books:

  • Mary Fulbrook, A Concise History of Germany, Second Edition, Cambridge UP, 2004 [ISBN-13: 9780521540711]
  • Alfred Kelly, ed., The German Worker: Working-Class Autobiographies from the Age of Industrialization, U of California P, 1987 [ISBN-13: 9780520061248]
  • Roger Chickering, Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914–1918, Second Edition, Cambridge UP, 2004 [ISBN-13: 9780521547802]
  • Detlev J. K. Peukert, The Weimar Republic, Hill & Wang, 1993
    [ISBN-13: 9780809015566]
  • Robert G. Moeller, The Nazi State and German Society: A Brief History with Documents, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009 [ISBN-13: 9780312454685]
  • Uta G. Poiger, Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany, U of California P, 2000[ISBN-13: 9780520211391]

The emphasis of the books is strongly twentieth-century, although the sources in Alfred Kelly’s book also include much from the nineteenth century. We will fill in gaps for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the overviews and primary sources offered in the excellent online German History in Documents and Images.

Finally, here’s the course description:

This course will explore social, economic, cultural, and political developments in Germany from the end of the eighteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first. Topics to consider include the dual revolutions of the nineteenth century, industrial and political, and their accompanying social and cultural effects; the creation of a German nation-state from a loose collection of independent kingdoms, principalities, and city-states; developments in war and society that led not only to the creation of a German nation-state in 1871, but also to the two World Wars that ended in Germany’s division and the Cold War; the integration of West Germany into NATO and the European Union, on the one hand, and East Germany into the Warsaw Pact and Soviet economic structures, on the other hand; and, finally, reunification of the capitalist West and communist East within the context of Western economic, political, and security frameworks. The World Wars and Holocaust pose central challenges for us as we consider the shifting nature of Germany as both an idea and a state over the past two centuries; however, we will consider other lines of development in modern German history as well.

I’m teaching a graduate course at Mason this summer called “War and Society in Modern Europe.” I haven’t worked out a syllabus yet, but here is a course description and book list. There will be other readings, too, but these are the books that we’ll read in common.

Course Description

Modern European history cannot be understood without also studying the history of war. Likewise, the history of war in modern Europe cannot be understood independently of the broader social, political, cultural, economic, and technological context within which Europeans fought their wars. Ironically, however, military developments do not receive adequate attention in general European history, and broad developments in European society tend to be overlooked in histories of warfare—or so it often seems. In fact, there are general historians, albeit too few, who incorporate military history into their research and teaching, and there are military historians who carefully contextualize their work. If military history is sometimes looked down upon in the academy, its practitioners and those who refuse to accept the label of “military historian” have nonetheless produced an impressive body of work. In a field described with labels such as “war and society” and “new military history,” it has become possible to link military history, social history, cultural history, gender history, political history, and economic history to understand the all-encompassing activity that war became by the early twentieth century, if not earlier. In this course, we will sample some of this literature as well as a limited number of primary sources, whereby the emphasis will be on the historiography. We will discuss books in common, and each student will also present and write a review of a specialized monograph. The larger project for the term will be a historiographical essay that reviews the relevant literature on a specific topic, either covering an aspect of war and its societal context or examining a seemingly nonmilitary development and its actual relationship to war.

Required Books

  • Connolly, Owen, The Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, 1792–1815. New edition. Routledge, 2005. [ISBN: 0415239842]
  • Showalter, Dennis. The Wars of German Unification. Arnold, 2004. [ISBN: 0340580178]
  • Gregory, Adrian. The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War. Cambridge UP, 2008. [ISBN: 0521728835]
  • Davis, Belinda J. Home Fires Burning: Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin. U of North Carolina P, 2000. [ISBN: 0807848379]
  • Stites, Richard. Culture and Entertainment in Wartime Russia. Indiana UP, 1995. [ISBN: 0253209498]
  • Mosse, George L. Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars. Oxford UP, 1991. [ISBN: 0195071395]
  • Klimke, Martin and Maria Höhn, A Breath of Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany. Palgrave, 2010. [ISBN: 0230104738]

Recommended Books

  • Townsend, Charles, ed. The Oxford History of Modern War. Updated edition. Oxford UP, 2005. [ISBN: 0192806459]
  • Morillo, Stephen with Michael F. Pavovich. What is Military History? Polity, 2006. [ISBN: 0745633919]

Students who are unfamiliar with the material or are eager to learn more might also want to read two classic surveys on this subject: Geoffrey Best, War and Society in Revolutionary Europe 1770–1870 and Brian Bond, War and Society in Europe 1870–1970.

Yesterday I asked how I could integrate the consumption history I’m learning into my teaching, and I pointed to a couple examples where it’s already there. But I missed a glaringly obvious one: the Great War.

Consumption is a vital part of the story in Gerald Feldman’s classic Army, Industry, and Labor in Germany, 1914—1918 (1966), insofar as the purchasing power of labor was inextricably linked to Germany’s social and political stability and, therefore, the country’s ability to produce sufficient armaments to continue fighting. The point is more accessible in Roger Chickering, Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914—1918 (1998 and 2004), which I have used in a course on the Great War and will use again next fall in one on modern Germany. There is also Belinda Davis, Home Fires Burning: Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin (2000), which I will be using in a graduate course on war and society this summer.

I also usually bring up a much earlier aspect of consumption history when I address the Enlightenment and the public sphere: coffee houses. To make this point, there is a delightful reading from before the Enlightenment on the Internet Modern History Sourcebook: “The First English Coffee-Houses, c. 1670—1675.”

Of course, none of this is informed by a specific historiography of consumption history, but it does point out how this topic is already in my teaching. But there’s a difference between including a topic and addressing it systematically. To think about war and society in Europe, I can at least draw on the periodizing nomenclature of cabinet war, people’s war, and total war to help describe the level of societal involvement in interstate conflicts over the past few centuries (Stig Förster et al.). If such language and periodization exists for understanding consumption history, I have not yet learned it.

Perhaps the main point is to recognize modern consumer societies as having a history in the first place, instead of taking them as a direct reflection of human nature and, hence, rendering them ahistorical, as too often happens in simplistic political rhetoric that opposes capitalism and communism—rhetoric that invariably finds its way into student spoken and written comments. I sometimes try to do this with economic thought in the early modern period, but historicizing capitalism should be a central historiographical problem for the modern era, too.

Since I began my editing job a little over a year ago, I have begun learning a little about a lot of history that I had previously never experienced. While my editing has included a variety of smaller projects as diverse as the interests of the institute’s fellows and recent alumni, my main area of responsibility is editing a new series on consumption history. Two volumes are under contract, and a third will be very soon, but I’ve been forcing myself to sit on my hands and not go into details here until things are actually published.

Meanwhile, I have begun to wonder how I might integrate what I’m learning about modern consumer societies into my teaching. Connections sometimes come up spontaneously in class, but maybe I could do something more meaningful. Well, in the past I have used Emile Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames (aka The Ladies’ Paradise), which I first encountered as a teaching assistant for Sandra Horvath-Peterson. And next fall I will use Uta Poiger’s Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany in a survey of modern Germany. But how could I approach the issue more systematically (when I am able to make some time for reflection)?

If you are just looking for some quick information on German soldiers and French civilians in the war of 1870–71, see an older post on this blog, “Atrocities in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870–71.” Otherwise, please read on.

I decided to upload my MA thesis to Google Docs to make this information available to the general public. The file is huge, 34.9 MB, because I had to scan the original some time ago, having produced it on my 1987 Mac in 1994 and not having electronic copies of the illustrations or a way to make the pagination of the text come out the same as the original on my old ImageWriter. I tried to reduce its size with the usually magical PDF Shrink, but the result looked awful in this case.

Before I get to the thesis, though, let me list two relevant articles I wrote, which are better, in case that is what you are after. This might seem like a silly, self-agrandizing exercise to some, but since this blog frequently get hits from people using search engines like Google to learn about this war, I think getting this information together in one post could be helpful.

First, there is “The Bavarian Army and French Civilians in the War of 1870–1871: A Cultural Interpretation,” War in History 8.3 (2001): 271–93. (Reprinted in Warfare in Europe 1825–1914. Edited by Peter Wilson. The International Library of Essays on Military History, ed. Jeremy Black. Ashgate Publishing, 2006. 135–58.) Here’s the abstract. The advantage to this article is it is all in English, and it integrates my earlier findings into the total war debate discussed at a productive series of conferences launched in 1992 by the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC. (See the titles that contain “total war” on this page, but ignore the links, which don’t seem to work outside the institute.) In terms of the actual subject, it devotes quite a bit of space to a close-up view of Bazeilles.

The other article I wrote on this topic is “Die deutschen Greueltaten im Krieg 1870/71 am Beispiel der Bayern,” in Kriegsgreuel: Die Entgrenzung der Gewalt in kriegerischen Konflikten vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Sönke Neitzel and Daniel Hohrath (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2008), 223–39. If you don’t read German, I’m sorry. Check out the link at the end of this paragraph and then move to the next one. If you do read German, this article lets you see the original language of the sources, instead of making you read my translations. It is also in an interesting edited collection on atrocities. The big difference between this and the article in English is that I do not spend much time on Bazeilles here, instead devoting much more attention to other interactions with civilians, both positive and negative. Also, I had to try to frame it in a way that fit the volume’s overall concept. For more information, see an older post on this blog, “Atrocities in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71,” which summarizes the highlights.

Personally, I think my articles on the Franco-Prussian War are much more readable than my old master’s thesis, and their arguments are certainly more mature, not least because they engage more recent historiography. Still, I own the copyright to this thesis, but not my articles, so why not share? Here: “The Bavarian Army and French Civilians in the War of 1870–71.” M.A. thesis, Universität Augsburg, 1994. One oddity: It is written in English, but all the quotes are in the language in which I found them, usually German. That will irritate some, but it will possibly help anyone who wants to see the original German quotes that I translated into English for the War in History piece.

Lastly, for the sake of completeness, here’s a short blog post that explains how I happened upon this topic: “Paradoxes.” It was my first post on this blog. I thought it would become a part of a series, but the blog has had less focus than that, as blogs often do.

Now if anyone wants to suggest an appropriate internet archive to upload my MA thesis to and can explain why that particular archive is a good bet, I’m all ears. I’d be especially interested in finding something that deals with either the military topic or this period in German history. For now, though, my Google Docs solution will have to do.

Update, Feb. 12, 2012: For more posts on military and other history, please visit my new blog, Stoneman’s Corner.

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