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The Oxford History of Historical WritingVolume 5: Historical Writing Since 1945$

Axel Schneider and Daniel Woolf

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199225996

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199225996.001.0001

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From the Search for Normality to the Search for Normality: German Historical Writing

From the Search for Normality to the Search for Normality: German Historical Writing

(p.220) Chapter 11 From the Search for Normality to the Search for Normality: German Historical Writing
The Oxford History of Historical Writing

Stefan Berger

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter demonstrates the overwhelming dominance of a Marxist, Soviet-inspired agenda, and the supremacy of social and especially economic history. During the Cold War, only the historians in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) followed the Western path. Their counterparts in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) adhered to the Marxist-Leninist framework of history-writing prescribed by the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED). The divided world of the Cold War ensured that history-writing in the FRG and GDR became highly polarized. Anti-communism remained the underlying rationale of much historical writing in the FRG during the 1950s, and anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism comprised the ideological backbone of the GDR’s historical profession. Ultimately, the Cold War was crucial in incorporating West and East German historians into different transnational networks. After 1945, the two Germanies were attempting to regain some kind of national as well as historiographical ‘normality’ following major political and historiographical caesuras.

Keywords:   Cold War, Federal Republic of Germany, German Democratic Republic, Marxist-Leninist framework, German history-writing, Socialist Unity Party, anti-communism, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, historiographical normality

‘The German state is destroyed, further German territory will be lost. Foreign rule will be our fate for a long time to come. Will we succeed in rescuing the German Geist?’ Thus begins the final paragraph of Friedrich Meinecke’s Die deutsche Katastrophe [The German Catastrophe], first published in 1946. Meinecke’s book was an attempt at stocktaking which included modest doses of criticism of the historical profession and a re‐evaluation of the path of German history. National Socialism, he concluded, had its origins in specific national traditions, which included Prussian militarism and the political weakness of the German bourgeoisie. Germany had to abandon its aloofness towards the West and become part of it. Many aspects of German history and historiography were wrong and in need of revision, but the German Geist ‘still has to fulfil its special and irreplaceable mission within the Western community’.1 Ideas of a German special mission, a Sonderweg, had not entirely disappeared, and they were now anchored within the perception of a ‘Western’ path, which the future Germany had to share with other ‘Western’ nations.

During the Cold War, only the historians in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) followed that Westernizing path. Their counterparts in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) adhered to the Marxist-Leninist framework of history‐writing prescribed by the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED). The Cold War was crucial in incorporating West and East German historians into different transnational networks. In the West, cooperation developed through scholarships and exchange programmes, especially with North America, but also with Britain, France, and, to a lesser extent, other West European nations. In East Germany, bilateral historical commissions, of which the most important was the German-Soviet one founded in 1957, were established in most countries in communist Eastern Europe. The divided world of the Cold War ensured that (p.221) history‐writing in the FRG and GDR became highly polarized. Anti‐communism remained the underlying rationale of much historical writing in the FRG during the 1950s, and anti‐imperialism and anti‐capitalism comprised the ideological backbone of the GDR’s historical profession. Levels of political instrumentalization of GDR historiography were far greater than in the FRG, where the historical profession always had a more pluralistic and autonomous outlook. This chapter will compare the reorganization of the historical sciences in East and West Germany, and analyze their interrelationship up to reunification. In some respects one might say that the two Germanies after 1945, as well as the reunified Germany after 1990, were attempting to regain some kind of national as well as historiographical ‘normality’ following major political and historiographical caesuras. The chapter will assess how successful German historians were in establishing such ‘normality’.

The Predominance of ‘Tamed Historism’ in the FRG during the Post‐War Years

Immediately after the Second World War, most West German historians did not follow Meinecke’s self‐critical stance. Instead, they chose to write the history of National Socialism out of German national history. Gerhard Ritter, one of the leading German historians in the post‐war period, set the tone by locating the roots of Nazism in modern democratic mass society. It was held responsible for the collapse of traditional religious and moral standards, which had paved the way for the nihilism and cultural destruction of Nazism.2 Hence Ritter saw the task of the historical profession after 1945, not in criticizing the German national tradition, but in strengthening it. National self‐confidence was needed to lift the Germans out of the black hole in which they found themselves in 1945.

Ritter’s position reflected the traditional nationalism widespread in the German historical profession, which had led many to support Hitler and National Socialism. After 1945 the West German historical association never issued an official apology to those colleagues who had been forced into exile, and it rarely invited back those who had to leave. Of 134 historians exiled under National Socialism, only 21 returned to Germany after 1945, and many of those settled in the communist East. West German historians were busy constructing the legend of a historical profession which had remained largely unaffected by National Socialism. Only in the 1990s did German historiography undertake a (p.222) more thorough investigation of the strong support given to Nazism by historians who subsequently made brilliant careers in the FRG.3

After 1945, conservatives like Ritter and Hans Rothfels dominated the historical profession in the West. Ritter had maintained contact with the resistance circles of 20 July 1944 and had been imprisoned by the Nazis thereafter. Rothfels, as a ‘Jew’, had been forced to leave his chair at the University of Königsberg and emigrate in 1938, and he was one of the very few to return to an outstanding career in West Germany after the war. Together, Ritter and Rothfels played a major role in exculpating the West German historical profession from any responsibility for Nazism and ensured, at the same time, that methodological or thematic innovation remained limited in post‐war West German historiography. A ‘tamed historism’4 reigned supreme in most historical departments, where the themes of lectures showed little change. Only 20 of 110 full professors of history in Germany and Austria had to undergo any kind of denazification process, and for them the chances of getting away with their reputations and job prospects intact were good. When the Association of German Historians (VHD) was refounded in October 1948, its official statements revealed a marked hesitancy to embark upon any revision of German historiography, and an almost complete lack of methodological or topical innovation. History by and large remained political history, to be researched in state archives. It focused on great statesmen and the affairs of the state, and it was national history. The founding of the influential Ranke Society in 1950 was directly motivated by the desire to prevent negative perceptions of German history and immunize German historians against critical perspectives on national history. Several of its founding members had been prominent supporters of the National Socialist regime.5

Some attempts were made to reconfigure the most prominent historical figures in the pantheon of German national history to fit the post‐war situation. The Freiherr vom Stein and the Prussian reformers, for example, were now portrayed as arch‐liberals. The revolutionaries of 1848 were hailed as historical forerunners of the Bonn republic. The Bismarck debate of the 1950s brought some limited (p.223) attempts to break with the most blatant legends surrounding the ‘iron chancellor’ and the ‘founder of the Reich’, but it also confirmed Bismarck as one of the greatest German statesmen of all time. There were some attempts to provide European perspectives and move German history out of its (almost) purely national framework, for example at the Institute of European History, founded at Mainz in 1950. While the Institute contributed to the Westernization of West German historical writing, much European history‐writing in the 1950s took place within the framework of a ‘Christian occident’ (christliches Abendland), which facilitated a conservative appropriation of Europe in the interests of anti‐communism. The strong anti‐communist perspective of West German historians was also evident in the popularity of totalitarian theory and the tendency to equate the ‘brown’ and ‘red’ dictatorships in Nazi Germany and the GDR.

The ‘loss of the German East’ was not only an important topic in post‐war West German political discourse. It also became an historiographical focus with the establishment of several extra‐university research institutes, of which the Collegium Carolinum, founded in Munich in 1956, and the Herder Institute, founded in Marburg in 1950, were arguably the most important. At the universities, many scholars researched the history of the ‘German east’, and Theodor Schieder fronted the massive attempt to document the expulsion of Germans from East Central and Eastern Europe. Ironically, the same Schieder had been supplying the Nazis with plans to purge East Central Europe of its Slav population to make room for German settlers. After 1945 he seemed to have few qualms about directing a research project, which amounted to a justification of the historical right of Germans to settle in the areas from where they had been removed as a result of the Yalta and Potsdam treaties.6

Organizationally, the VHD worked closely with the Association of German History Teachers, refounded in 1949 (originally founded in 1913), which also published an influential historical journal entitled Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht. Together they have continued to organize, up to the present day, the biennial Historikertag—a week‐long conference with many sections presenting research, and attended by many university historians, students, and school teachers, the origins of which go back to the late nineteenth century. No major university reform upset the traditional organization of teaching and research at West German history departments. The ‘big’ professors and their chairs (Lehrstühle), which came with assistantships, secretaries, and student helpers, dominated the departments ruling them in the traditional autocratic and paternalistic fashion. The strength of the German Ordinarius (full professor) and the long period of formal qualification (p.224) (with a second doctorate, the Habilitation, being obligatory) meant that the dependency of younger scholars on the professoriate was strong, with particular networks of professors able to influence appointments and career progression to a considerable degree.

An important innovation of the post‐war period was the institutionalization of contemporary history (Zeitgeschichte). The Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, founded in 1951, focused on the immediate prehistory, history, and aftermath of National Socialism and the Second World War. Its journal, the Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, became a major forum for research on contemporary history. The Institute’s library and archive developed into one of the most important specialist repositories for the history of twentieth‐century Germany. Initially, contemporary history was eyed suspiciously and charged with presentism, but the high quality of the historical work produced at the Institute contributed to its acceptance and growing popularity in the FRG.

Contemporary history was not without its problems. German‐Jewish historians of the Holocaust and their narratives were marginalized at the Munich‐based institute, and there were frequent attempts to instrumentalize contemporary history politically. It was only from the 1960s onwards that the narrow focus on the German resistance to Hitler, the moralizing tone of many post‐war analyses of National Socialism, and the demonization of Hitler began to give way to more comprehensive interpretations of the Germans’ entanglement with National Socialism and the social history of Nazism. The idea that National Socialism was a mere accident in an otherwise proud national history began to lose its purchase. The strong transnationalization of German contemporary history after 1945 contributed to this change. From 1960 onwards, a second extra‐university institution, the Forschungsstelle für die Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus in Hamburg, contributed to research into diverse aspects of National Socialism.

A range of other institutions had an important impact on the West German research landscape in history. First, the Commission for the History of Parliamentarism and Political Parties, founded in 1951, was responsible for thoroughly investigating the historical foundations of liberal democracy in Germany as well as the mistrust and hostility that liberal democracy and pluralism aroused in German political culture. It was, in particular, the history of the Weimar Republic that served as a foil against which a more democratic and pluralist self‐understanding of the Germans was to be explicated in historical studies. Second, the Max Planck Institute for History at Göttingen was refounded in 1955. It became the home of some prestigious projects of West German historiography including, for example, the bibliography of German history (the Dahlmann‐Waitz) and medieval source editions of the Germania Sacra. Important research on early modern and modern history was carried out at the Institute before its eventual transformation into a research institute for multi‐religious and multi‐ethnic societies in 2007. Third, the Historical Commission at the Bavarian (p.225) Academy of Sciences, which had existed since 1858 (Leopold von Ranke was its first president), remained an important institution for historical research after 1945, among whose prestige projects have been the New German Biography, a variety of source editions, and the Year Books of German History. Fourth, the Historical Commission in Berlin, founded in 1959, focused on the history of Berlin and Brandenburg-Prussia, although its prestigious book series published much seminal research on German history and gained a strong international reputation. Fifth, the Research Office of the Bundeswehr for Military History, founded in 1957, became a centre for military history. From 1979 onwards it has been engaged upon a multi‐volume history of the Second World War, which has been translated into several languages and has set international standards. Of particular importance for the international visibility of German historical research was, sixth, the foundation of German Historical Institutes in Rome (1888), Paris (1958), London (1976), Washington (1987), Warsaw (1993), and Moscow (2005). Financed by the West German government, these institutes fulfil important mediating roles between German historiography and the historiographies of their host countries.

Establishing a Communist Historiography in East Germany

If we consider the origins of East German historiography, it is clear that institutionally and thematically, a more decisive break with the national tradition of historical writing occurred in the German Democratic Republic. At a Berlin conference on the reconstitution of the historical sciences in post‐war Germany in 1946, Anton Ackermann, the communists’ chief ideologue at the time, postulated two central aims of any future historiography: first, to write social rather than political history and, second, to overcome historiographical nationalism.7 One of the lessons that the communists drew from the anti‐fascist struggle was the need to rewrite the history of Germany, and in particular that of the German labour movement. Initially, the Marxist historian Alexander Abusch suggested viewing national history as a series of wrong turns and catastrophes. The SED, however, soon realized that no new state could be built on an entirely negative construction of national history. Abusch’s ideas, quickly dubbed ‘misery theory’ (Miseretheorie), gave way to an understanding of German history that was neatly divided into positive and negative traditions. The negative line ran from Luther to Frederick the Great, then to Bismarck and Hindenburg, and culminated in Hitler and the FRG. The positive line ran from (p.226) Thomas Müntzer to Karl Marx and the early German labour movement, and then to the Communist Party (KPD) of the Weimar Republic and the communist resistance to fascism, and culminated in the SED and the GDR. Subsequently, much of the research on German history in the GDR was forced into this interpretative framework.

The third party conference of the SED in 1950 and the reform of East German higher education in the early 1950s were milestones on the road to a transformed East German historical profession. Marxist exiles, such as Jürgen Kuczynski, Walter Markov, Ernst Engelberg, Leo Stern, and Alfred Meusel, played a prominent role in educating a first generation of Marxist historians, who dominated the history departments at East German universities from the 1950s onwards. In the period between 1948 and 1953 remnants of non‐Marxist, ‘bourgeois’ historiography were purged. In 1958 a separate GDR historians’ association came into being, following the confrontation and subsequent walkout of the GDR delegation to the all‐German Historikertag of that year, completing the transformation of East German historiography. The SED had set the institutional and discursive framework for historical studies, and it would continue to control and police the borders of that framework. In 1953 GDR historians founded their own journal, the Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft. Below the one ‘national’ organ there existed, like in West Germany, a variety of more specialized journals for particular aspects of history‐writing.

The partisanship of GDR historiography created massive problems, a range of taboo topics, and many deformations of professional history‐writing.8 Historians unwilling to legitimate SED rule and write a history which befitted communist views of the past, were purged, sacked, and persecuted. Until 1961, many of those ‘bourgeois’ historians who had remained in the GDR, fled to the West, either in anticipation of, or after, being sacked from their university positions. A Manichaean division of the world into friend and foe, good and bad became characteristic of GDR historiography. Marxism-Leninism became a straitjacket, constraining historians to adhere rigidly to a very narrative and unimaginative political history. And yet it never became entirely ossified, and even managed to challenge West German historiography by establishing social and economic history. Some Marxists, such as Walter Markov at Leipzig University, attempted to use Marxist theory productively for a new approach to global history. Later on, Wolfgang Küttler became a champion of ‘formation theory’ in order to modernize Marxist theory in the 1980s.9 East German historiography in the 1950s looked much more innovative and capable of breaking with the German traditions of history‐writing than did its counterpart in the West.

(p.227) The SED valued historical research and gave it ample resources. The number of historians at East German universities rose fivefold between 1949 and 1962.10 The institutionalization of a separate GDR historiography in the 1950s brought important changes to the organization of teaching and research. The history departments at the universities were reorganized following the Soviet model into sections for national history, for Russian and East European history, and for world history. The biggest and most important sections always remained those for national history. The major institutes for German history at the Universities of Berlin, Leipzig, and Halle were the classic examples. As the National Document of 1962 emphasized, history in the GDR had the task of illuminating the historical role of the GDR in creating the first socialist state on German soil. The abolition of the federal states (Länder) in 1952 meant that the traditional regional history (Landesgeschichte) remained marginal, with few resources dedicated to it. This was in marked contrast to the FRG, where the strength of federalism meant that Landesgeschichte could flourish.

In addition to the GDR universities, separate research institutes, employing hundreds of historians, were set up. Of particular importance was the Institute of History at the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin. Founded in 1956, it was later subdivided into four Institutes for German, General, Ancient, and Economic History respectively. It played an important role in leading and coordinating historical research in the GDR. More specialized research institutions included the research department of the Museum of National History and Jürgen Kuczynski’s Institute for Economic History—also both in East Berlin. At its Institute for Marxism-Leninism (founded in 1949) the ruling SED employed historians who researched in particular the history of the German labour movement, edited the collected works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and acted as ideological guard dogs of the profession more generally. Historians also worked at the Academy of Social Sciences of the Central Committee of the SED, founded in 1951, and at the Party Academy (Parteihochschule), founded in 1946. The Institute of Military History at Potsdam was under the direction of the Ministry of Defence.

The almost wholesale replacement of the historical profession by a younger, GDR‐trained group of historians in the 1950s meant that the new group was quite homogeneous and displayed a different habitus to that of the traditional German professor. The Habilitation (second doctorate) was abolished, but at the same time the so‐called doctorate B (roughly equivalent to the Habilitation) became the qualification for those handpicked to undertake a university career. ‘Cadre plans’ ensured that job prospects were practically guaranteed. They took away the hunt for jobs and the competition that went with it, characteristic of the profession in the West. At university history departments, teaching and not (p.228) research was regarded as the most important task of faculty members. Research was carried out in groups, and publications by authors’ collectives often replaced the single‐authored monograph. Loyalty to the GDR and the SED was a precondition for an historical career, which ensured the relative uniformity of political outlook among GDR historians. Some historians tried to evade the strong politicization of history‐writing by moving to themes and areas in the more distant past, where such politicization was less marked.

West Germany since the s: From the Breakthrough of Social History to Happy Eclecticism

In West Germany, social and economic history was not entirely absent from the historiographical landscape. In the post‐war years it received an institutional focus in the Arbeitskreis für Sozialgeschichte, founded by Werner Conze in 1957. The group’s interest in social history was rooted in the right‐wing racialized people’s history (Volksgeschichte) of the inter‐war period, and the conservative understanding of mass society.11 The ‘brown roots’ of West German social history were problematic, although the new generation of West German social historians, trained in the 1960s, were also inspired by French, British, and North American models of history‐writing. In particular, historians who had been exiled during the Nazi years and who had found a new academic home at American universities now served as bridge‐builders between American and German scholarship, and contributed to the Americanization, or Westernization, of German historical sciences.12

Unlike 1945, the 1960s were a major watershed for West German historiography. First of all, the expansion of the higher education system in the FRG opened the floodgates to new appointments. It now became much more difficult for a handful of influential ‘gatekeepers’ within the German historical profession to control entry and ensure its social and political homogeneity. In addition to the sheer numbers of historians entering the historical profession, university reform in the 1960s and 1970s also dented the autocratic rule of the ‘big’ (p.229) professors in many universities. Although the reform process was uneven and differed widely from state to state in the FRG, structures and procedures of decision‐making were made more democratic, with lower echelons of staff getting some say in how departments were run and how appointments were made. This institutional sea change facilitated the pluralization of historical methods and made possible different interpretations of the past.

In the early 1960s the gatekeepers of the historical profession were still trying to silence those who stepped out of line. The most famous example of the latter was Fritz Fischer, the Hamburg‐based historian, who caused a furore with the publication of his book Griff nach der Weltmacht [Germany’s Aims in the First World War] in 1961. Methodologically, the book was an extremely traditional, archive‐based diplomatic history. But its interpretation of the First World War went against everything for which German historians had believed in and argued ever since the debate about German war guilt after the Versailles Treaty. Fischer claimed that the victorious Allies had been right in putting the sole blame on Imperial Germany and its elites, who had indeed deliberately provoked war in 1914. The reaction from the liberal-conservative mainstream of the German historical profession was strong. Some of their reviews were denunciatory, and they lobbied successfully to withdraw the financial support for Fischer’s tour of American universities, which only went ahead thanks to American funds.

The Fischer controversy demonstrated that a major generational divide had opened up within the German historical profession. A younger generation of historians often supported Fischer and endorsed the more self‐critical and self‐reflexive attitude to German national history that Fischer represented. In fact, when Fischer, in a second publication from the mid‐1960s, claimed that a straight line could be drawn from German ambitions for world power in 1914 to German responsibility for the Second World War, he paved the way for the negative inversion of the German Sonderweg, which became accepted opinion in the left-liberal mainstream of German historiography during the 1970s and 1980s. If the creation of the German Reich in 1871 was no longer the telos of Prussian history, it was now a brief aberration of 75 years, which had brought nothing but utter misery to Germans and Europeans alike. The German lesson from the first half of the twentieth century was that a unified Germany was not good for Europe, and that Germans and Europeans would be happier with many Germanies than with one.

The debate surrounding the German Sonderweg was one of the most important and long‐lasting in the historiography of the Federal Republic, starting just after the end of the Second World War and continuing well after reunification in 1990. In the 1950s and 1960s many conservative German historians tried to uphold notions of a positive German Sonderweg. The supporters of Fischer undertook a comprehensive reinterpretation of German national history from the 1960s onwards, which still made the German historical trajectory look special, but now disastrously so. The negative inversion of the Sonderweg was (p.230) heavily criticized by conservative historians, especially Thomas Nipperdey, who famously accused Hans‐Ulrich Wehler of being a ‘Treitschke redivivus’ in his attempt to highlight one‐sidedly the negative telos of Prusso‐German national history. Arguably more influential was a seminal intervention by two British historians of Germany, David Blackbourn and Geoff Eley, who criticized any notions of a German Sonderweg and instead pleaded that the German historical trajectory be understood within a more Europeanized framework of modern history. Mythen deutscher Geschichtsschreibung [The Peculiarities of German History] (1980) encouraged a younger generation of German historians to investigate German history in a more comparative and transnational way, the outcome of which was an increasing abandonment of notions of a German Sonderweg.

The pluralization of the West German historical profession made possible the belated breakthrough of social history in the FRG. The Bielefeld school, or the Kehrites as its members were sometimes called in the English‐speaking world, came to symbolize the turn to social history. Heavily influenced by modernization theory, they sought to merge the theoretical insights of Max Weber and Karl Marx to provide a framework for the study of modern societies. Hans Rosenberg and his blend of political and socio‐economic history, as well as his idea of an illiberal German Sonderweg, was a major influence on the Kehrites. The fact that Rosenberg had been exiled by the Nazis, but returned to visiting professorships at the Free University Berlin in 1949/50 and Marburg in 1955 before finally settling in Germany again in 1977, added to his authority among a younger generation of historians more intent on dealing directly with the place of Nazism in German history.

The social historians’ institutional stronghold was the newly founded University of Bielefeld (1971), where two key representatives of German social history, Wehler and Jürgen Kocka, taught. The successful institutionalization of social history included the foundation of a hugely successful new journal, Geschichte und Gesellschaft [History and Society] (1975). It also saw the beginnings, in 1972, of an important new book series with the publisher Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht entitled Kritische Beiträge zur Geschichtswissenschaft. Journals like Geschichtsdidaktik and Journal für Geschichte and book series such as Neue wissenschaftliche Bibliothek, Arbeitsbücher zur modernen Geschichte, and Neue Historische Bibliothek were also connected to the Kehrites. Apart from the University of Bielefeld, an early extra‐university centre for social history, and in particular the history of the German labour movement, was the Research Institute of the Friedrich‐Ebert Foundation in Bonn. Established in 1959, it had close ties to the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Its journal, Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, published from 1961 onwards, became one of the foremost journals for social and labour history in West Germany.

An important extension and enrichment of social history was provided by Reinhard Koselleck’s Begriffsgeschichte (conceptual history), which also became associated with the University of Bielefeld. Koselleck wanted to add to the (p.231) synchronic analyses of structural history the diachronic analyses of how terms changed their meaning and what this semantic change meant for human experiences and social change. Historical semantics of this kind went beyond a narrow history of ideas approach, anchoring terminologies in their legal, social, and political contexts. It transcended the older forms of Geistes‐ and Ideengeschichte and made intellectual history the bedfellow of the up‐and‐coming social history in West Germany. Koselleck’s Begriffsgeschichte found expression in the multi‐volume Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch‐sozialen Sprache in Deutschland [Historical Concepts: A Historical Dictionary of Political and Social Language in Germany] (8 vols., 1972–97), and proved internationally compatible with attempts to draw attention to historical semantics, especially those of Quentin Skinner and the ‘Cambridge School’ of political thought.13

The new social history in the FRG productively took up the earlier challenge by GDR historiography. It became more difficult for GDR historians to claim that their West German counterparts ignored the histories of class and revolutions. Unlike their GDR colleagues, the Kehrites were not struggling with a ruling Communist Party setting the parameters for what could and could not be argued in historical studies. And soon the social science history in West Germany was outperforming the Marxist‐Leninist historiography in East Germany as far as innovative and interesting new perspectives on German social history were concerned. There were exceptions to this rule: for example, the work of Hartmut Harnisch on agrarian history, the comparative work on revolutions by Manfred Kossock, and the urban history of Helga Schulz. But on the whole, GDR historiography looked increasingly stale under conditions of communist dictatorship. It continued to be characterized by a lack of innovation, a climate of fear and denunciation, and constant political control.

In West Germany, historians of the Bielefeld school would frequently talk about their achievements as a paradigm change in historical writing. Some predicted that the older conservative and historist political history was being replaced by a more left-liberal social history. But this was wishful thinking, often rooted in an unconscious rejection of pluralism and the desire to control the profession just as much as their conservative Überväter (dominant father figures) had done before them. Due to the fact that many of the Bielefelders and their allies occupied important institutional positions relatively early on in their careers, they formed a ‘long generation’ which could become particularly influential within West German historiography.14 But they could not achieve the dominance that some of them had hoped for. From the 1970s onwards the social historians of the Bielefeld school found themselves challenged by a variety of (p.232) other histories—notably the history of everyday life, women’s and, later, gender history, and cultural history.

Historians of everyday life were unhappy with a social science history which paid attention to structures and processes but seemed to forget about the people and their everyday experiences.15 During the 1970s, history workshops sprang up in many West German towns and cities and started to research local history. In 1983 they formed the ‘Association of History Workshops’ (Geschichtswerkstatt e.V.), which organized annual history festivals. They paid particular attention to groups of people who had been neglected by historical studies, in particular to workers, but also to victim groups under National Socialism and to anti‐fascist resistance groups. The history workshop movement was thus an important catalyst in the long process of ‘coming to terms with the National Socialist past’ that characterized German memory politics more generally from the 1960s onwards. Some members of these history workshops were working‐class autodidacts, but overwhelmingly they recruited among teachers, trade unionists, and professional groups. They were broadly on the left.

The rising popularity of oral history was directly linked to the history workshop movement. Both shared an interest in how ordinary people perceived their historical experiences. They wanted to concentrate on the subjective perceptions of historical experience. This promised to be especially useful in relation to periods of dictatorship, when official archival material was less able to provide a perspective on historical experience. Lutz Niethammer’s studies on everyday life in the Ruhr under Nazism and in the post‐war era, as well as his project on the communist GDR, became important studies, and set standards for oral history research.16 Oral history research was also prominent in the areas of local and regional history, and the history of minorities, workers, and women. Similarly, it proved extremely worthwhile for historians of non‐literate (often extra‐European) societies, and for those interested in tracing continuities and discontinuities across generational divides. The journal BIOS—Zeitschrift für Biographieforschung und Oral History and the Lüdenscheid‐based Institute for History and Biography, founded by Alexander von Plato, have been particularly important for its development since 1988.

Women’s history also emerged out of the political turmoil of the 1960s.17 It aimed to make visible women in history, and began by concentrating on the history of women’s movements and the participation of women in movements for emancipation. From the 1980s onwards gender historians such as Regina (p.233) Schulte, Ute Frevert, and others argued successfully that gender informed virtually all histories and historical processes as well as events, and should be included as a major category for historical investigation into all mainstream histories.18 Some of the leading practitioners of gender history, such as Karin Hausen, were successful in establishing centres for gender studies in the 1980s, although the institutional anchoring of women’s and gender history at German universities remained weak. Most of the practitioners of women’s and gender history were (and continue to be) women. They faced the additional difficulty that the historical profession in Germany was still a male‐dominated profession.

The reception of cultural history in Germany took place within a thoroughly internationalized historical science, which nevertheless retained many national peculiarities.19 The interest in culture was strongly related to an interest in the constitution of identities and to the ‘linguistic turn’ in historical studies.20 How did people in the past make sense of the world? How did culture create representations and social practices? The theories of Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Natalie Zemon Davis, Judith Butler, Hayden White, and Clifford Geertz were particularly influential on the new ‘cultural history’—an umbrella term used to describe many different types and approaches, including microhistory, historical anthropology, cultural studies, intellectual history, postcolonial studies, and transnational history. The turn to culture was also motivated by the disappointment about the abstract nature of structural social history, the neglect of personal and subjective levels of historical experience in grand theories of social change, and the hope that culture would allow a more immediate access to forms of representation, experience, and identity in highly complex and contested societies.21

But the historical profession in West Germany throughout the 1970s and 1980s did not only consist of these new forms of history‐writing, as the historist historiographical tradition was vigorously defended by prominent historians, including Golo Mann, Thomas Nipperdey, and Andreas Hillgruber. They argued that the high politics of states, classic diplomatic history, as well as the study of ‘great men’, all had to retain their place in German historiography. As a critic of historical social science, no historian was arguably more influential than Thomas Nipperdey, partly because he was willing to meet the Bielefeld school on their own terrain: social history. The traditionalists, who were often politically (p.234) conservative, were still strong in the historical profession and tended to dominate the historical institutions—in particular the German Historical Association and the Historische Zeitschrift.

Traditional historists attacked the new social history, not only for its allegedly undue politicization of the subject, but also for producing a dry and unreadable form of history, which withdrew from an engagement with the wider public. During the 1970s there was much talk about the ‘crisis of history’ in West Germany—a belief that history was losing terrain to the social sciences. There were even suggestions that history be dropped as a school subject, and replaced with the social sciences. Questions were being asked about the usefulness of history, and it looked as though the ‘lead science’ of the nineteenth century would be moved to the back benches. But talk of the terminal decline of history was premature. Historical exhibitions, such as the Staufer exhibition in the 1970s, or the Prussia exhibition in 1981, tended to find wide audiences. The popularity of historical biography also never waned. Joachim Fest’s biography of Hitler (1973), Lothar Gall’s biography of Bismarck (1980), Theodor Schieder’s biography of Frederick the Great (1983), Golo Mann’s biography of Wallenstein (1986), and Hans Peter Schwarz’s two‐volume biography of Konrad Adenauer (1986, 1991) are just some prominent examples of biographies which made it to the top of the West German best‐seller lists. In fact, the more recent popularity of history channels, and in particular the endless stream of historical productions by Guido Knopp, shown at prime time to millions of keen spectators, testifies to the fact that history still has a very dedicated following among a lay mass audience.22

But the public voice of history was no longer uniformly conservative and historist. The Bielefelders in particular had access to the media and used it to intervene in what they regarded as important public debates on history. In 1981, for example, Wehler criticized ‘Prussomania’ as a ‘flight into a transfigured past’ which relied on a one‐sidedly positive reassessment of Prussian values and achievements.23 The massive success of the television movie Heimat was partly due to the collaboration of the film‐maker Edgar Reitz with the professional historian‐cum‐television‐adviser Peter Steinbach. Other historians, including Eberhard Jäckel and Ian Kershaw, also used the opportunities of television to communicate history to millions of viewers.

What is extremely noticeable about social history, everyday life history, women’s and gender history, and cultural history, is their desire to foster interdisciplinary links to related subject areas, in particular sociology, economics, philosophy, literature, ethnology, and psychology. Apart from a pronounced interdisciplinarity, they also built transnational links and networks and moved (p.235) beyond the national framework of historical studies. Their leading practitioners move in line with international developments in the historical sciences as far as methods, theories, and subject areas are concerned, and in some respects one can talk about a loss of national specificity of the historical sciences from the 1970s onwards. But a loss of national specificity was arguably also the precondition for the marked upturn in comparative and transnational studies from the 1980s onwards. Comparison was seen by many younger historians of the 1990s as a means of moving beyond tired‐looking notions of a positive or of a negative German Sonderweg and of establishing commonalities and differences in historical trajectories. In doing so, they still did not move decisively beyond national history, as they often used the nation‐state as unit of comparison within their studies. But the national paradigm became more self‐reflective and relative. This move away from an unquestioned national paradigm coincided with debates on the FRG developing a post‐national identity. Once historians had established that the experience of Germans with a unified nation‐state between 1871 and 1945 had not been a happy one for themselves and other Europeans, it was but a short step to look for alternatives to national forms of identity.

The Nationalization of GDR Historiography in the 1980s and the Impact of Reunification

Just as historians in West Germany were becoming more self‐reflexive about the national paradigm, GDR historians rediscovered national history in the context of the ‘heritage and tradition debate’ which preoccupied GDR historical sciences in the 1980s. Only briefly, during the 1960s and earlier 1970s, had the preoccupation of GDR historiography with national history given way to a more internationalist orientation. In this period, the GDR stressed its identity as a ‘socialist nation’. The concept gained currency in direct response to West German Ostpolitik. The need for stronger demarcation from the FRG meant that GDR history was now put into the context of the development of the socialist/communist world after 1917. But this internationalization was short‐lived. From the mid‐1970s onwards, the party and its historians underlined the GDR’s existence as a socialist German nation, and the insistence on national sovereignty went hand in hand with an exploration of historical national traditions which might serve to underpin that socialist national consciousness. From here it was only a small step to begin calls for a more wholesome exploration of German history. This was at the heart of the ‘heritage and tradition debate’. Historical studies in the GDR rehabilitated whole areas of national history that had previously been taboo. Historians argued that the GDR had a responsibility, not only for its progressive and forward‐looking heritage culminating in the (p.236) GDR, but also for the other traditions, which were not immediately linked to actually existing socialism. Research on classes other than the working class now became possible; eras and personalities previously non‐grata in GDR historiography were rediscovered; and the territories in the ‘German East’ that had become part of other East European states after 1945, were now for the first time becoming the object of GDR historical research.24

Traditionalist conservative West German historians, such as Michael Stürmer, referred to this national turn of GDR historiography in their own attempts to revive the national tradition of history‐writing in the FRG during the 1980s.25 Stürmer and like‐minded historians argued that West Germany was in danger of becoming a country without history, meaning a country without identity. What was needed was a stronger and more positively accentuated historical consciousness underpinning national identity in the FRG. Stürmer was not only a professor of history at the University of Erlangen‐Nürnberg; he was also a close advisor of the Christian Democrat Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who had come to power in 1982 promising a ‘spiritual-moral renewal’ of the country. A new patriotism was to be part of that ‘renewal’. However, National Socialism proved to be a major stumbling block on the road to achieving it. These attempts to relativize the importance of National Socialism and the Holocaust to German national history caused a strong reaction by left-liberal historians who denounced the ‘apologetic tendencies’ they contained, and confirmed the central place of National Socialism in a post‐war German national identity that could not be positive. The Historikerstreit was not just about politics, national memory, and the role of National Socialism in it; it also highlighted the dearth of empirical research on perpetrators of the Holocaust in Germany, and kick‐started a major research effort, which produced substantial studies in the 1990s and 2000s. But in the mid‐1980s, for many German historians, the political lessons of the period in German history between 1871 and 1945 seemed clear: post‐nationalism and the acceptance of the division of Germany.

Acceptance of bi‐nationalism was also one of the reasons for an initial dialogue between West and East German historians in the 1970s and 1980s. Ever since the 1950s the relationship had been one of implacable hostility. GDR historians had accused their West German colleagues of complicity in the National Socialist crimes and thought them structurally incapable of a more (p.237) self‐critical historiography that could come to terms with the National Socialist past.26 West German historians, in turn, by and large ignored East German historiography as propaganda and political journalism—until West German social historians picked up on it as a productive challenge. There was a noticeable and increasing recognition in the West that the GDR historical profession had become more professional, and that one might even discern a limited amount of pluralism among GDR historians. Ever since the 1967 seventh party conference of the SED declared the need to develop all the sciences in the GDR, there had been a marked tendency in the historical sciences to move beyond all‐too‐obvious propaganda exercises and develop historical scholarship in accordance with international standards. The foundation of the Council for Historical Sciences in January 1968 allowed historians, not autonomy from the party, but a limited say in the framing of their historical works. The integration of the GDR Historians’ Association into the International Commission for the Historical Sciences in 1970 marked a further step in the direction of dialogue.

While many GDR historians remained trapped in a stale and unproductive Marxism-Leninism, it was noticeable that some of them engaged constructively with West German research on the history from below, women’s and gender history, and cultural history. Hartmut Zwahr’s studies about the formation of the Leipzig proletariat are difficult to imagine without West German social history, and the ethnologists Sigrid and Wolfgang Jacobeit, as well as Hermann Strobach, practised a kind of ‘history from below’ within the GDR. Women’s history in the GDR was reduced largely to the history of the proletarian women’s movement. Only in September 1988 did the National Committee of the Historians’ Association of the GDR appoint a commission which was supposed explicitly to research the history of women and the women’s movement. Dietrich Mühlberg’s studies of working‐class life in Germany, published in the 1980s, also went some way in the direction of a cultural history of the working class. The productive engagement of GDR historians of the First World War with the work of Fritz Fischer likewise testified to the positive impulses which GDR historiography received from its West German counterpart in the 1970s and 1980s.

It was among those social historians close to the West German Social Democratic Party (SPD) that the idea of a dialogue with their East German colleagues was taken furthest. In March 1987 the Historical Commission of the SPD organized a conference at which East and West German historians engaged in a lively debate about their differing interpretations of the national past. A climate of cooperation and relatively free discussion seemed to prevail.27 Cooperation spelt normalization of GDR–FRG historiographical relations, but it also (p.238) threatened the separate identity of GDR historiography, as historians from East and West sought compromise over scholarly standards beyond the ideological Cold War struggle.

Along came German reunification in 1990. Quite unexpectedly, the nation‐state was on the agenda again. During the first half of the 1990s, a self‐styled New Right attempted once again to renationalize German historical consciousness and remove National Socialism from its central place in German cultural memory. Despite the fact that some conservative historians at times looked on these efforts sympathetically, the extreme right‐wing views of historians such as Rainer Zitelmann or Karl‐Heinz Weissmann, and their institutional weakness (none of them occupied a university chair), meant that they faded from view after 1995.

Instead, what came to dominate the German historical profession after 1990 was a ‘search for national normality’.28 Post‐nationalism was now criticized as yet another German Sonderweg. Reunification offered the opportunity to unite the national principle with the ideas of liberty and pluralism which had been the underlying values of the FRG and had also informed the 1989 revolution in East Germany. Something akin to a new consensus arose out of this debate on national normality. And the new historical national master narrative was provided by one of the foremost left-liberal historians of the FRG, Heinrich August Winkler.29 For a while, historical investigations into the ‘second German dictatorship’ threatened to replace interest in National Socialist Germany. Ultimately, however, a strong interest in both dictatorships characterized historical research in the 1990s. Furthermore, it was noticeable that the reunified Germany saw the first attempts to historize the history of the FRG. While almost all historiographical debates in West Germany had dealt with the First World War, the Weimar Republic, and the National Socialist period, the 1990s also saw debates on the meaning of 1968 for West Germany, the impact of left‐wing terrorism on the post‐war republic, and the achievements and shortcomings of Neue Ostpolitik. This is not to say that the National Socialist years were not capable of producing major debates after reunification. The Goldhagen debate, the historiographical repercussions of the Wehrmacht exhibition, the debate on the role of German historians under Nazism, and to some extent also the debates surrounding the Holocaust memorial and German victimhood in the Second World War, still demonstrated the powerful hold of National Socialism, the Holocaust, and the Second World War over German memory debates.

And what about historical research in East Germany after 1990? Had the East German turn to national history in the 1980s and the dialogue of East German (p.239) historians with their West German counterparts paved the way for a unified historical consciousness after 1990?30 As far as the historical profession is concerned, it is difficult to tell, as East German historiography did not survive the move to a unified Germany. After 1990 the opportunity to undertake a comprehensive reform of all German universities was missed, and the West German system was introduced across East Germany. East German professors were evaluated by their West German peers—and many were found wanting according to the Western benchmarks of quality. A second wave of dismissals followed when the remaining East German professors were politically evaluated and a great many of them were shown to have acted as informers of the infamous East German secret police, the Stasi. Only a handful of East German historians survived the Western onslaught. By the mid‐1990s the history departments at East German universities had come to be dominated by Westerners. An older East German historiography survived in a kind of niche culture, which it carved out for itself. However, given that it has no institutional foothold in the world of higher education, it cannot reproduce itself and will die with the last generation of historians trained and educated in the GDR.


For much of the period between 1945 and 1990, German academic historiography travelled along two distinct paths in two separate states. In the GDR, the establishment of Marxist-Leninist historiography as a state historiography came at the high price of political conformism. At first, GDR historiography broke decisively with the tradition of German historism, and it developed historical studies in revamped institutions and with a new understanding of the historian’s role in society. However, its inability then to innovate and adapt to theoretical challenges and new methodologies, and its continued political instrumentalization by the SED, made it unattractive, even if individual historians did sterling work, and even if it served as a productive challenge to a nascent West German social history in the 1960s and 1970s. In contrast to the substantial historiographical change in the GDR after 1945, West German historiography changed very little in the immediate post‐war years. Here the challenge to traditional historism arose only in the context of the 1960s. The expansion and reform of higher education made it impossible for the gatekeepers of the historical profession to keep control over entry into the Zunft. The net result was the pluralization of historical writing, which saw not only the breakthrough to social history but also the proliferation of new histories, including the history of everyday life, women’s and gender history, and the new cultural history. In methodological (p.240) terms, a second generation of social historians attempted to develop the social history of the Bielefelders in a way that would take up the productive challenges from history from below, gender history, and cultural history.

The Fischer controversy of the 1960s marked West German historiography’s break with historiographical nationalism. Following the negative inversion of the Sonderweg, German historiography moved in the direction of an acceptance of bi‐nationalism and the normative endorsement of post‐nationalism. The Historikerstreit of the 1980s and reunification in 1990 brought renewed debates about national history. Especially after 1990, the search for national normality is once again a ubiquitous characteristic of German debates on history. National history clearly dominates the popular forms of history in the media, but professional historiography in Germany has arguably moved away from a concentration on national history. The trend is towards transnational and comparative history and the history of cultural and political transfer, all of which aim to deconstruct notions of specific national developments. Furthermore, the more recent past has seen a vital interest in non‐national history with the appointment of chairs in European and non‐European history. Global history is on the rise also among German historians; university departments now include historians of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and at long last it seems possible to make a career as a professional historian in Germany without being a national historian.

Timeline/Key Dates

  1. 1945 (8 May)End of the Second World War in Europe; end of the German Reich; occupation of Germany, and division into four zones of occupation

  2. 1949Foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic; Konrad Adenauer first Chancellor of the FRG; Walter Ulbricht general secretary of the SED in the GDR

  3. 1968Student revolt in West Germany

  4. 1969Willy Brandt takes office as first social democratic Chancellor of the FRG

  5. 1971Walter Ulbricht is replaced as general secretary of the SED by Erich Honecker

  6. 1972Basic Treaty signed between the FRG and the GDR, paving the way for the international recognition of the GDR

  7. 1981Prussia exhibition in Berlin

  8. 1982Thirteen years of social democratic rule in the FRG come to an end with the election of Helmut Kohl as Chancellor

  9. 1989Revolution in East Germany ends SED rule

  10. 1990Reunification of the two Germanies

  11. 1995Gerhard Schröder becomes Chancellor of a red–green coalition

  12. 2005Angela Merkel becomes Chancellor of a grand coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD

(p.241) Key Historical Sources

Bibliography references:

Abusch, Alexander, Der Irrweg einer Nation: Ein Beitrag zum Verständnis deutscher Geschichte (Berlin, 1945).

Blackbourn, David and Eley, Geoff, The Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth‐Century Germany (Oxford, 1984); orig. pub. as Mythen deutscher Geschichtsschreibung: Die gescheiterte bürgerliche Revolution von 1848, trans. Ulla Haselstein (Frankfurt, 1980).

Fischer, Fritz, Germany’s Aims in the First World War (London, 1967), orig. pub. as Griff nach der Weltmacht: Die Kriegszielpolitik des Kaiserlichen Deutschland 1914–1918 (Düsseldorf, 1961).

Hausen, Karin, Frauen suchen ihre Geschichte: Historische Studien zum 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Munich, 1983).

Kocka, Jürgen, Klassengesellschaft im Krieg: Deutsche Sozialgeschichte 1914–1918 (Göttingen, 1973).

Kuczynski, Jürgen, Geschichte des Alltags des deutschen Volkes 1600–1945, 5 vols. (Berlin, 1983).

Medick, Hans, Weben und Überleben in Laichingen 1650–1900: Lokalgeschichte als Allgemeine Geschichte (Göttingen, 1997).

Mommsen, Hans, Von Weimar nach Auschwitz: Zur Geschichte Deutschlands in der Weltkriegsepoche (Munich, 2001).

Mommsen, Wolfgang, Der autoritäre Nationalstaat: Verfassung, Gesellschaft und Kultur des deutschen Kaiserreiches (Frankfurt, 1990).

Nipperdey, Thomas, Deutsche Geschichte 1866–1918, 2 vols. (Munich, 1990, 1992).

Ritter, Gerhard, Staatskunst und Kriegshandwerk: Das Problem des ‘Militarismus’ in Deutschland, 4 vols. (Munich, 1959–68); trans. Heinz Norden as The Sword and the Sceptre: The Problem of Militarism in Germany, 4 vols. (London, 1972–3).

Rosenberg, Hans, Grosse Depression und Bismarckzeit: Wirtschaftsablauf, Gesellschaft und Politik in Mitteleuropa (Berlin, 1967).

Rothfels, Hans, ‘Zeitgeschichte als Aufgabe’, Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 1 (1953), 1–8.

Schulte, Regina, Das Dorf im Verhör: Brandstifter, Kindsmörderinnen und Wilderer vor den Schranken des bürgerlichen Gerichts (Reinbek, 1989).

Schultz, Helga, Berlin 1659–1800: Sozialgeschichte einer Residenz (Berlin, 1987).

Wehler, Hans‐Ulrich, Das deutsche Kaiserreich (Göttingen, 1973); trans. Kim Traynor as The German Empire, 1871–1918 (Leamington Spa, 1985).

—— Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte, 6 vols. (Munich, 1987–2008).

Zwahr, Hartmut, Zur Konstituierung des Proletariats als Klasse (Berlin, 1978).


Berger, Stefan, The Search for Normality: National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Germany since 1800 (2nd edn, Oxford, 2003).

(p.242) Dorpalen, Andreas, German History in Marxist Perspective: The East German Approach (Detroit, 1985).

Iggers, Georg G., The German Conception of History: The National Tradition of Historical Thought from Herder to the Present (2nd edn., Middletown, Conn., 1983).

—— (ed.), The Social History of Politics: Critical Perspectives in West German Historical Writing since 1945 (Leamington Spa, 1985).

—— Ein anderer historischer Blick: Beispiele ostdeutscher Sozialgeschichte (Frankfurt, 1991).

—— et al. (eds.), Die DDR Geschichtswissenschaft als Forschungsproblem (Munich, 1998).

Jaeger, Friedrich and Rüsen, Jörn, Geschichte des Historismus (Munich, 1992).

Jarausch, Konrad and Sabrow, Martin (eds.), Die historische Meistererzählung: Deutungslinien der deutschen Nationalgeschichte nach 1945 (Göttingen, 2002).

Kocka, Jürgen, Sozialgeschichte in Deutschland seit 1945: Aufstieg—Krise—Perspektiven (Bonn, 2002).

Küttler, Wolfgang, Rüsen, Jörn, and Schulin, Ernst (eds.), Geschichtsdiskurs: Globale Konflikte, Erinnerungsarbeit und Neuorientierungen seit 1945, vol. 5 (Frankfurt, 1999).

Meier, Helmut, (ed.), Leo Stern (1901–1982): Antifaschist, Historiker, Hochschullehrer und Wissenschaftspolitiker (Berlin, 2002).

Mertens, Lothar, Priester der Clio oder Hofchronisten der Partei? Kollektivbiographische Analysen zur DDR Historikerschaft (Göttingen, 2006).

Raphael, Lutz, Geschichtswissenschaft im Zeitalter der Extreme: Theorien, Methoden, Tendenzen von 1900 bis zur Gegenwart (Munich, 2003).

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(1) Friedrich Meinecke, Die deutsche Katastrophe: Betrachtungen und Erinnerungen (Wiesbaden, 1946), 119, 176.

(2) Gerhard Ritter, ‘The Fault of Mass Democracy’, in John L. Snell (ed.), The Nazi Revolution: Germany’s Guilt or Germany’s Fate (New York, 1959).

(3) Winfried Schulze and Otto Gerhard Oexle (eds.), Deutsche Historiker im Nationalsozialismus (Frankfurt, 1999).

(4) Ever since 1995 I have deliberately used the term ‘historism’ rather than ‘historicism’. Whereas ‘historism’ (in German Historismus), as defined by Leopold von Ranke, can be seen as an evolutionary, reformist concept which understands all political order as historically developed and grown, ‘historicism’ (in German Historizismus), as defined and rejected by Karl Popper, is based on the notion that history develops according to predetermined laws towards a particular end. I would plead to follow the German language and introduce two separate terms in the English language as well, in order to avoid confusion. ‘Tamed historism’ is from Ernst Schulin, Traditionskritik und Rekonstruktionsversuch: Studien zur Entwicklung von Geschichtswissenschaft und historischem Denken (Göttingen, 1979), 140.

(5) Manfred Asendorf, ‘Was weiter wirkt: Die “Ranke Gesellschaft—Vereinigung für Geschichte im öffentlichen Leben”’, 1999: Zeitschrift für Sozialgeschichte, 4 (1989), 29–61.

(6) Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen aus Ost‐Mitteleuropa, 8 vols. (Bonn, 1953–62); Matthias Beer, ‘Im Spannungsfeld von Politik und Zeitgeschichte: Das Großforschungsprojekt “Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen aus Ost‐Mitteleuropa”’, Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 46 (1998), 345–89.

(7) Ilko‐Sascha Kowalczuk, ‘“Wo gehobelt wird, da fallen Späne”: Zur Entwicklung der DDR‐Geschichtswissenschaft bis in die späten 50er Jahre’, Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, 42 (1994), 307.

(8) Martin Sabrow, Das Diktat des Konsenses: Geschichtswissenschaft in der DDR 1949–1969 (Munich, 2001).

(9) Ernst Engelberg and Wolfgang Küttler (eds.), Formationstheorie und Geschichte (Berlin, 1978).

(10) Werner Conze, ‘Die deutsche Geschichtswissenschaft seit 1945’, Historische Zeitschrift, 225 (1977), 1–28 (figures for GDR historians given on p. 6).

(11) Lutz Raphael (ed.), Von der Volksgeschichte zur Strukturgeschichte: Die Anfänge der westdeutschen Sozialgeschichte 1945–1968 (Leipzig, 2002); and Thomas Etzemüller, Sozialgeschichte als politische Geschichte: Werner Conze und die Neuorientierung der westdeutschen Geschichtswissenschaft nach 1945 (Munich, 2001).

(12) Gerhard A. Ritter, ‘Die emigrierten Meinecke‐Schüler in den Vereinigten Staaten. Leben und Geschichtsschreibung im Spannungsfeld zwischen Deutschland un der neuen Heimat: Hajo Holborn, Felix Gilbert, Dietrich Gerhard, Hans Rosenberg’, Historische Zeitschrift, 284 (2007), 59–102; and Arnd Bauerkämper, ‘Americanisation as Globalisation? Remigrés to West Germany after 1945 and Conceptions of Democracy: The Cases of Hans Rothfels, Ernst Fraenkel and Hans Rosenberg’, Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, 49 (2004), 153–70.

(13) Hans Erich Bödecker, Begriffsgeschichte, Diskursgeschichte, Metapherngeschichte (Göttingen, 2002).

(14) Paul Nolte, ‘Die Historiker der Bundesrepublik: Rückblick auf eine “lange Generation”’, Merkur, 53 (1999), 413–32.

(15) A good introduction to German Alltagsgeschichte is provided by Alf Lüdtke (ed.), The History of Everyday Life: Reconstructing Historical Experiences and Ways of Life (Princeton, NJ, 1995).

(16) Lutz Niethammer (ed.), Lebensgeschichte und Sozialkultur im Ruhrgebiet 1930–1960, 3 vols. (Berlin, 1983–5); and id., Alexander von Plato, and Dorothee Wierling, Die volkseigene Erfahrung: Eine Archäologie des Lebens in der Industrieprovinz der DDR. 30 biographische Eröffnungen (Berlin, 1991).

(17) See Ch. 7 by Julie Des Jardins in this volume.

(18) For a good introduction to women’s and gender history in Germany, see Karin Hausen and Heide Wunder (eds.), Frauengeschichte–Geschlechtergeschichte (Frankfurt, 1992).

(19) Christoph Conrad, ‘Die Dynamik der Wenden: Von der neuen Sozialgeschichte zum Cultural Turn’, Geschichte und Gesellschaft, Sonderheft 22: Wege der Gesellschaftsgeschichte (Göttingen, 2006), 133–60.

(20) Peter Schöttler, ‘Wer hat Angst vor dem “linguistic turn”? Ein Diskussionsbeitrag’, Potsdamer Bulletin für Zeithistorische Studien, 7 (1996), 5–21.

(21) For some of these trends, see Ch. 1 by Chris Lorenz and Ch. 10 by Kevin Passmore in this volume.

(22) Wulf Kansteiner, In Pursuit of German Memory: History, Television, and Politics after Auschwitz (Athens, OH, 2006), ch. 8.

(23) Hans‐Ulrich Wehler, Preussen ist wieder chic: Politik und Polemik in 20 Essays (Frankfurt, 1983), 71.

(24) On the close interrelationship between national identity formation and history‐writing in the GDR see Klaus Erdmann, Der gescheiterte Nationalstaat: Die Interdependenz von Nations‐ und Geschichtsverständnis im politischen Bedingungsgefüge der DDR (Frankfurt, 1996). For trends in East German historiography during the 1980s, see Georg G. Iggers, ‘New Directions in Historical Studies in the German Democratic Republic’, History and Theory, 28 (1989), 59–77.

(25) There is an endless historical literature on the Historikerstreit. For good introductions and perceptive commentaries in the English language, see Richard Evans, In Hitler’s Shadow: West German Historians and the Attempt to Escape from the Nazi Past (London, 1989); and Charles Maier, The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust and German National Identity (Cambridge, Mass., 1988).

(26) See especially Gerhard Lozek et al. (eds.), Unbewältigte Vergangenheit: Kritik der bürgerlichen Geschichtsschreibung in der BRD (3rd edn, Berlin, 1977).

(27) Susanne Miller and Malte Ristau (eds.), Erben deutscher Geschichte, DDR–BRD: Protokolle einer historischen Begegnung (Reinbek, 1988).

(28) On the impact of reunification on the German historical profession, see Stefan Berger, The Search for Normality: National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Germany since 1800 (2nd edn, Oxford, 2003).

(29) Heinrich August Winkler, Der lange Weg nach Westen: Deutsche Geschichte, 2 vols. (Munich, 2000). The book has been translated into English, Spanish, and French.

(30) As argued by Jan Herman Brinks, Die DDR Geschichtswissenschaft auf dem Weg zur deutschen Einheit: Luther, Friedrich II und Bismarck als Paradigmen politischen Wandels (Frankfurt, 1992).