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.


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