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)?
Caleb McDaniel offers a useful blog post on grading with his iPad. I find his take helpful, because he combines the practical with the pedagogical.
[hat tip: kellyinkansas]
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.
Anyone who has seen handwritten German sources from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries will know that the handwriting at the time was very different from what they know today. One way to learn this script is with a so-called Deutsche Fibel, a German schoolbook designed to teach kids reading and writing. To help those who are new to this script, I have scanned and uploaded such a schoolbook to Google Docs.
In order to learn how to read the script, you might want to learn how to write it, at least in the beginning. The letters will be easier to remember that way.
Update (8/18/2010): Someone has gone ahead and uploaded the scan to the Internet Archive. If you would prefer to use their interface instead of Google Docs, here: http://www.archive.org/details/DeutscheFibel. That will be especially handy if you don’t have a Google account.
Update (2/28/2012): I just realized that the Internet Archive links back here for the PDF version; however, you can still get around Google Docs with this direct link to the PDF on the Internet Archive. Sorry. Next time I scan something, I will simply throw it up on the Internet Archive directly, now that I know how it works.
It seems silly to keep my dissertation, “Wilhelm Groener, Officering, and the Schlieffen Plan” (2006), locked up on databases only accessible via research libraries, so I’ve made it available as a PDF document via Google Docs. I still reserve all rights on the thing, but I might as well make it more accessible to people without a university affiliation.
If you want to know more, before you view a 1 MB document, here are just the abstract and table of contents.
And here are two short blog posts on the topic:
Finally, in historiographic terms, a very short article I did is relevant: “Particularistic Traditions in a National Profession: Reflections on the Wilhelmine Army Officer Corps” (2000).
Where does the journey go from here? Since the Schlieffen Plan debate is still going on, I should update my findings on that issue and write an article accessible to broader scholarly audiences. Maybe a couple other scholarly articles are possible too; however, I am not contemplating a monograph at the moment, as my editing job and adjunct teaching are keeping me pretty busy.
Update, Feb. 12, 2012: For more posts on Wilhelm Groener, the Schlieffen Plan, and German war planning, please visit my new blog, Stoneman’s Corner.
When confronted with history too narrowly conceived or framed, I often think back to one graduate course I took, “Issues in British Literature,” which challenged me on a number of levels. To start with, the British historiography we learned seemed to have nothing in common with what I had encountered for German, French, and Russian history. Of course, different countries and different histories were involved, but not even the language or categories of analysis employed in the British historiography were as familiar as I expected them to be. This circumstance did not stop the authors from writing history and arguing with each other as if the assumptions that informed their language were self-explanatory. Their writings offered an odd mixture of history as common sense that rejected social theory combined with the expectation that readers should not dare question how they framed and wrote about history, because, well, readers with enough uncommon intelligence and specialized training would understand. The rest should not bother trying.
(It would help if I offered some examples here, but that would require research, not just memory and experience. Since this blog represents a mere first draft of some thoughts, and perhaps the basis of some conversations, I will just press on.)
For me, this situation was about much more than trying to find my footing in a new historiographical space. I wanted to take the material and integrate it into a kind of European history. How else was I to make sense of the modern German, French, British, and Russian history in which I would later take my comprehensive exams? But I don’t think I ever learned to put these histories and historiographies together while taking courses and preparing for exams. Not until confronted with the challenge of teaching survey courses did I begin to accomplish the task of putting together histories, but still not historiographies. Some twelve years after taking those exams, it is still an ongoing challenge.
Whenever I contributed to class discussion in the British history course, I tried to relate what I was reading to how I understood German history. Since the class was big, everything I said had to be squeezed into short soundbites, whenever I got a chance to speak. There was not enough time for substantial dialogue, just for proving one had done the reading and was thinking about it. The sum of all our contributions was frequently disjointed. Indeed, integrating ideas from my own historiographical experience was a hazardous undertaking, because others—including the professor—did not share the same historiographical backgrounds and therefore could not necessarily understand my own language and assumptions. Unfortunately, I did not realize at the time how far many of us had already embarked on a journey of national specialization that made it difficult to talk across national historiographies with each other. It took my comprehensive exams to make that point painfully clear.
Thoughts like these come up when I am confronted with historiography that insists on its right to talk in a code that only other specialists will understand. I have seen a lot of rhetoric about the desirability of comparative, transnational, and global history, but often the same scholars use language that narrows their audience to a size too small to spark the kind of discourses necessary to analyze and narrate history across the national and disciplinary boundaries to which our training and research too often confine us.
The course in British history did not just introduce me to the shortcomings of history and historiography, which until then had appeared more coherent to me than they really were. While frustrating my efforts to talk across national boundaries, it challenged me to integrate a variety of approaches and questions within the narrower, but still rich field of British history itself. Our writing assignment for the semester was to write a paper that drew on every book and article we had read for the class, including cultural history, political history, social history, economic history, and foreign policy from the early eighteenth through the mid-twentieth century. We could write about anything we wanted, but we had to think of some sort of narrative that could draw on incredibly disparate material.
I decided that Britain’s history was unusual in comparison to the rest of Europe’s, because, despite all its eighteenth-century riots, it was the only state I knew that escaped revolution in modern times. There was my topic: social stability. And it worked. Whereas my discussion contributions convinced the professor that I knew little, the paper succeeded—not as history for other historians, but as an exercise in synthesis, which historians need to be able to do, but which we too rarely do, since acquiring historical expertise seems to require extreme specialization. That course taught me that I could integrate seemingly disparate historiography after all, albeit not on the fly in that kind of classroom context. It also taught me that such synthesis is not only desirable, but possible, even in unlikely situations. That goes not only for teaching, but also when trying to communicate specialized knowledge to colleagues with expertise in other areas.
I have started a blog for my fall course, Hist 314, History of Germany in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. It is not much to look at yet, but I wanted to let students know who were looking for information on the course. Before I can do more, though, I shall have to finish teaching my current summer course.