"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" in 1848

Fall 2016 -- History 213 -- Professor Patch

The Imperial War Flag, 1871-1918

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While England, France, and Spain developed powerful, centralized monarchies in the later middle ages, Germany fragmented into hundreds of autonomous principalities and city-states within the very loose confederation known as the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.”  Competition among these small states yielded some benefits for the German people, including a multitude of art museums, and any prince who grossly mistreated his subjects found that they could easily take up residence under a more benign government nearby.  After the armies of Napoleon conquered Germany, however, almost all educated Germans agreed that political fragmentation had disastrous results, and they dreamed of a powerful, unified German nation-state that could expel all foreign elements.  Industrialization began to transform Germany soon thereafter, and businessmen emerged alongside the intellectuals as champions of national unification for the sake of economic development.  Our topics include the impact of the Napoleonic Wars on Germany, the failure of the democratic revolutions of 1848 to achieve national unification, the apparent triumph of the dream of national unity in 1871 under the leadership of Bismarck and the Kingdom of Prussia, the emergence of powerful challenges to Bismarck’s order by Catholics, workers, and women, and the attempts by the Imperial government to unify the nation behind the slogan of “World Policy” (i.e., colonial expansion).  We will focus on the interaction between economics and politics to analyze the tensions between the dream of national unity and the intensifying conflict among the rival movements of nationalism, socialism, feminism, liberalism, and Catholic clericalism.  By the end of the term you will be expected to develop some answers to the following questions: Why did the attempt to unify Germany fail during the democratic revolutions of 1848 but succeed under the leadership of Bismarck and the Kingdom of Prussia in 1871?  Why did social and political conflict in Germany intensify steadily after 1871?  Why did old prejudices against Jews evolve into a radical political movement in the 1890s?  Did Imperial Germany's aggressive foreign policy on the eve of the First World War result from attempts by conservative elites to divert attention from domestic conflicts?

Click on the buttons above to access the course syllabus, review image galleries seen in class, or (under "Readings") the documents distributed in class and a list of recommended works for book reports.

Meeting time and place, Fall 2016: Tu, Th, 10:10-11:35, Leyburn 201

Instructor: William L. Patch, Kenan Professor of History, patchw@wlu.edu

Office hours: Newcomb 219, Tuesday 3-5, Thursday 11:40-12:30 & 3-4:30, or by appointment