How valuable are perspective and precedent in the study of history? Can earlier centuries shed light on present ones? How far back may one meaningfully go?
Germans have two histories--the twelve years between 1933 and 1945, which are exceedingly well known, and the twenty centuries before and after the Nazi Era, which are barely known. GERMANS AND THEIR HISTORY (G&TH) places Germany’s shorter history within its longer. In doing so, it asks whether there are geographical features, political and social structures, cultural and intellectual patterns that typify a people over time and can illuminate present behavior.
By contrast with other European countries, Germany’s historical development is said to be exceptional and peculiar, even retarded and perverse. G&TH reaches back to the first century C.E. and forward to the twentieth-first in search of tradition and innovation in German history. The goal is to discover defining experiences in German history and memory and to ask what they promise, or portend, for present-day Germans, who confront new demographic, economic, and geo-political crises, which many observers predict they cannot survive.
For students interested in enrolling in G&TH, the Federal German Government’s annual publication, Facts About Germany, edited by Arno Kappler, is a good book to skim and is recommended as a primer. It may be obtained free of cost at any German consulate. It is recommended that students consult one of the following recent histories for an overview and interpretation. Copies of each are available in the library and five copies of each are available at the the campus bookstore. Fulbrook is bread-and-butter, basic and highly reliable; Schulze has flair and more pictures per page than any other single volume; Ozment is interpretive and provocative. Mary Fulbrook, A Concise History of Germany (Cambridge UP, 1990)
Steven Ozment, A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German
People (HarperCollins, 2004, Granta Books, 2005)
Hagen Schulze, Germany: A New History (Harvard UP, 1998) Copies of Robert Kagan, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (Vintage, 2003), the first class reading, are also available on library reserve and in the campus bookstore
Procedurally, G&TH is a cooperative seminar-style reading and discussion course. The syllabus contains more reading than any one member of the class could easily cover, much less digest. Each week there will be shared selections, which all will read, and individually assigned readings (marked by an *), which students must “volunteer” for individually, following their own interests and class need.
Students are required to attend all sessions and to participate in the discussions. Grades will be based on class reports, participation in discussion, and an end-of-class summary paper of 7-10 pages on a topic of interest freely chosen in consultation with Mr. Ozment.
Sessions* 1. COURSE INTRODUCTION: Mr. Ozment (6/27) 2. AMERICA, GERMANY, AND EUROPE TODAY (6/29) Robert Kagan, Of Paradise and Power
Tod Lindberg, Beyond Paradise and Power: Europe, America
and the Future of a Troubled Partnership (Routledge,
2005), chs. 5 (Ischinger), 7 (Ash))
Geoffrey Barraclough, “Germany, Yesterday, Today, and