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HIST2221 Modern Germany, 1870-1945

Module Overview

This module is about Germany’s path into modernity and surveys German history from the Kaiserreich to the Second World War. We will engage this critical phase of social, political and economic transformation with a variety of topics, including nationalism, industrialization, changing gender roles, cultural dimensions, bourgeois values, ideas of society, antisemitism and genocide as well as war. We will explore why and how political regimes changed and what this meant to the German people. Our focus will be Germany (in all its changing meanings in the period under investigation), but we will also go beyond the national level to explore European dimensions as well as regional developments. The course is designed to meet the needs of both students intending to specialize in modern German history and those with other or related primary interests in modern Europe. Since the module seeks to cultivate historical thinking as well as conceptional understanding, special attention will be given to research concepts and problems. We will ask, e.g., why there are different interpretations of how the Great War started, why gender and body history is a useful category for historical research, or how revealing the currently discussed concept of the Volksgemeinschaft (national community) is. Moreover, primary sources will play a major role to familiarize students with the time we are studying. Next to textual sources such as private letters, newspaper articles or laws, we will inquire into pictorial material such as oil paintings or political posters.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• provide and discuss with sophistication major topics of Germany’s path into modernity • critically examine how historical interpretations functioned as political and cultural resources in the period under investigation • consider the ways German history informs about problems facing other regions and eras • reflect on interpretations of historical change at different scales: European, national and regional • improve the understanding of historiographical concepts and dominant research patterns and critically reflect their values and limits • cultivate reading skills and foster the critical analyses of primary sources as well as research literature

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • key moments of German and European history in the period under investigation
  • key primary sources
  • functions and implications of different political regimes between monarchy, democracy and totalitarianism
  • miscellaneous forces of historical changes: individuals, structures
  • functions of historical caesuras and their problems
  • several metrics for evaluating historical change: social, economic, political, intellectual, cultural
  • identify and distinguish between so different approaches as social history, cultural history, gender history and political history
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • present and judge historical arguments
  • make critical and substantial contributions to discussions and debates
  • identify and summarize key arguments in research literature
  • display efficient time management
  • work independently and unsupervised for extended periods of time on complex tasks
  • interact productively with tutors and peers
  • organise and structure material to write and present clearly
  • write speedily for extended periods
  • write in a mature, sophisticated and reflective manner with proper use of academic language
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • combine various approaches to interpret history in a complex way
  • place events and ideas in their historical context and draw conclusion about causes and consequences
  • read texts more closely and analytically to identify main theses in research literature
  • understand how research texts are structured and what this structure is for
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • become conversant in critical interpretations of German history
  • take up and defend a position in research controversies/argumentations with appropriate use of evidence and terminology
  • acquire basic proficiency with pivotal research terms and concepts such as teleology, modernization, nation/nationalism, militarism, industrialisation, crisis, gender/femininity/masculinity, totalitarianism, Volksgemeinschaft, genocide/Holocaust
  • distinguish between large-scale historical trends and regional developments
  • differentiate several types of primary sources including both, textual and non-textual examples


The course will follow the following schedule: • The German Empire: Foundation Myths and Nationalism • Militarism, Gender and Bourgeois Values • Industrialization: Leading Sectors and Regional Developments • Sleepwalkers? Germany and the Great War in Europe • Defeat, Revolution and Versailles • Weimar Germany: Culture and Conflicts • Crisis! Why did Weimar Fail? • The NS-State and the Volksgemeinschaft • Antisemitism and Military Masculinities • Second World War and Holocaust

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • weekly lectures which provide knowledge and understanding of chronology, sources and key concepts • weekly seminars centred on the study of primary sources and discussion of research literature • one-on-one appointments to provide guidance and feedback on research and writing Learning activities include: • preparatory reading before each seminar (guided by given research questions) • research of additional information relevant to the module or texts • group and class discussion and debate during seminars • self-study in preparation for the required assignments and revision for the final exam

Preparation for scheduled sessions36
Follow-up work12
Completion of assessment task52
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Evans, Richard John (1997). Rereading German History. From unification to reunification 1800-1996. 

John Breuilly (1992). The state of Germany: the national idea in the making, unmaking and remaking of a modern nation state. 

Rüger, Jan/Nikolaus Wachsmann (2015). Rewriting German history. new perspectives on modern Germany. 

Blackbourn, David (2007). History of Germany 1780-1918. The long nineteenth century. 

Smith, Helmut Walser (2011). The Oxford handbook of modern German history. 

Bracher, Karl Dietrich (1995). Turning Points in Modern Times. Essays on German and European History. 

Clark, Christopher (2006). Iron Kingdom. The rise and downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947. 

Peukert, Detlev (2001). The Weimar Republic. The Crisis of classical modernity. 

Fulbrook, Mary (1997). German History Since 1800. 

Sheehan, James J (1994). German history, 1770-1866. 

Fulbrook, Mary/Martin Swales (2000). Representing the German nation. History and identity in twentieth-century Germany. 

Müller, Sven Oliver/Cornelius Torp (2006). Imperial Germany revisited. Continuing debates and new perspectives. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Exam  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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