Germany: From Unification to Reunification

171 TUTOR: David Evans (MA)

In the century and a half from around 1840 to 1990 no country did more to shape the history of Europe than Germany. We shall consider the nature of Bismarck's united Germany and how it transformed the balance of power in Europe and helped to set the scene for the First World War. We shall then examine whether the post-War Weimar Republic was doomed from the start, before studying Nazi Germany and a new plunge into war. Germany emerged from that war diminished and divided, but found a new role in Europe and, unexpectedly, achieved reunification in the late 20th century.

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Course Notes

1.Unification.

The destruction of the Holy Roman Empire by Napoleon: the changes that resulted and the extent to which the Battle of Leipzig (1813) represented a success for German national feeling.

The reorganisation of Germany at the Congress of Vienna: continuing obstacles to closer unification.

Why the upheavals of 1848 did not realise German nationalist objectives.

The significance of Bismarck: his aims and the factors that made it possible to achieve them.

The road to unification: the role of the wars with Denmark, Austria and France.

 

2.Imperial Germany.

The nature of Bismarck's Germany: he had created Kleindeutschland(Little Germany, i.e. without Austria),dominated by Prussia.

Germany in the 1870s: Bismarck's alliance with the National Liberals and his attack on the Catholic Church.

The importance of his alliance with Austria-Hungary of 1879: its implications for foreign and domestic policy.

Germany in the 1880s: Bismarck courting of the conservatives and efforts to destroy socialism.

Germany under Wilhelm II: the significance of his personality; how far was Imperial Germany a constitutional state?

German foreign policy and the outbreak of the First World War.

Defeat in war: the 'stab in the back' legend. The collapse of the monarchy.

 

3.Weimar Germany.

The establishment and the nature of the Republic.

The Peace of Versailles: did it doom the Republic?

The internal weaknesses of the Republic: irreconcilable forces on the right.

The economic misfortunes of Weimar Germany: inflation in 1923; depression after 1929.

The foundation of the Nazi party and the rise of Hitler to dominance within it.

The role of the popular vote and of backstairs intrigue in Hitler's 'seizure of power' in 1933.

 

4.The Third Reich.

The foundation of the Nazi dictatorship and the cultivation of the Hitler myth.

Why did internal opposition to Hitler always fail? Hitler's attempt to create a racial utopia:

policies to 'improve' the Aryan race; the elimination of Jews and other 'inferior' races.

Hitler's foreign policy in the 1930s: how far did foreign statesmen play into his hands?

The Second World War: why did Hitler win early victories, but then suffer ultimate defeat?


 

5. From defat to reunification.

The consequences of defeat: the expulsions of Germans from the east; the reduction of Germany; the division of Germany.

The emergence of West Germany as a significant power: development of a stable democracy; integration into NATO and the 'economic miracle'; role in the EEC.

The fate of Soviet-dominated East Germany: the rising of 1953; the problem of Berlin and the erection of the Wall in 1961.

Ostpolitik fashioned by Willi Brandt: the stress on German cultural unity as a substitute for impossible political unity.

The destruction of the Wall in 1989 and the emergence of a demand for political reunification: Gorbachev's agreement with Helmut Kohl.

 

Reading:

J.Steinberg Bismarck: a life.

A. Bullock Hitler.

M.Fulbrook A history of Germany, 1918-2020.

Neil MacGregorGermany: memories of a nation.

 

 

 

 

Course Tutor

David Evans

MA

About David

David Evans was brought up in Birmingham and attended King Edward's School in the city. He studied History at Cambridge and proceeded to teach the subject at Eton College for 41 years. Finding the history of art of absorbing interest, he introduced its study at 'A' Level to Eton. Since 2007 he has taught historical and art historical topics at Marlborough College Summer School.

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