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.

My review of Heidi Merkehns’ book on the Franco-Prussian War appeared yesterday on H-Soz-u-Kult. The book is in German, but I wrote the review in English, because that takes less time and does not require an extra set of eyes on the manuscript before I submit it.

By the way, the review lists me as at Georgetown, which is not true. I did my PhD there, and I taught there again this summer, but I am still leading the life of an adjunct. Right now that means I am at George Mason University. What happens in the winter, on the other hand, is up in the air because of budget cuts in Virginia.

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

Sometimes history just leaps off the pages and proclaims its relevance for our own times. On December 24, 1894, The Times of London published a long editorial about the first trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus for alleged treason.

We must point out that, the more odious and unpopular a crime is, the more necessary is it that its proof and its punishment should be surrounded by all the safeguards of public justice. Of these, the most indispensable is publicity. . . . It may be important for the French people to preserve the secrets of their War Department, but it is of infinitely greater importance for them to guard their public justice against even the suspicion of unfairness or of subjection to the gusts of popular opinion.

The Times correspondent wrote these words when there was still little doubt of Dreyfus’ guilt in the public at large. There were no Drefusards yet, that is, members of a movement to see the wrongfully convicted man exonerated. It was three years before Emile Zola wrote “J’accuse.” The point wasn’t about guilt or innocence. It was about the rule of law, which meant due process out in the open even for grave matters of national security. The later establishment of Dreyfus’ innocence reminded observers why.

Tomorrow my class is discussing Michael Burns, France and the Dreyfus Affair: A Documentary History (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999). Burns tells this dramatic tale with his own gripping prose interspersed with documents from the period. And he extends the tale as far as 1998, in order to help readers understand the affair’s legacy. For those with more time on their hands I also recommend Jean Denis Bredin, The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman (New York: George Braziller, 1986), a big history book that reads like a good political thriller.


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