History | History of Germany since 1648 I, Thirty Years' War to Unification
B377 | 26238 | Roos


Above class carries culture studies credit
A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class open to undergraduates only

In the late 1700s, Germany consisted of over 1,700 virtually
autonomous political entities, a number that included the mighty
powers of the Habsburg Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia as well as
small principalities, free cities, and independent Imperial
villages. Not until 1871 was a German nation-state founded. What
constituted “Germany” and “Germanness” in the centuries before this
nation-state came into existence?

At the beginning of the 17th century, the world of most Germans was
still small, typically not extending far beyond the borders of one’s
native village or town. To a great extent, people’s lives were
determined by their place in the rigid medieval social order, which
was based on fundamental legal inequality separating the different
social “estates” of peasants (the vast majority of the population),
city dwellers, nobles, and clergy. We will look at the social
structures, political institutions, and cultural beliefs and
practices that shaped the lives of ordinary Germans. In the two
centuries following the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), massive changes
affected German society. The medieval social order faced powerful
challenges through the rise of absolutism, the growth of supra-local
markets, the spread of Enlightenment ideas, and the French
Revolution of 1789. How did German nationalists in the early 19th
century respond to these developments? What difficulties did they
face in their quest to create a unified Germany? Was the founding of
the German Empire in 1871 a victory or defeat for liberal
nationalists? Many historians have identified Germany’s status as a
belated nation as one important root cause for the rise of National
Socialism in the 1930s. Is this a convincing argument? We will
discuss these and many other questions as we explore the richness of
German history in the period between 1648 and unification. While the
main emphasis is on developments after the Thirty Years’ War, we
will spend some time exploring the historical background to this
bloody conflict, and especially the role of the Reformation in
sparking religious wars. Topics include the Reformation, the 1525
Peasants’ War, magic, witch hunting, the Thirty Years’ War,
absolutism, the rise of Prussia, Baroque culture, the position of
social outsiders, anti-Semitism, gender relations, the
Enlightenment, the French Revolution in Germany, the Napoleonic
Wars, industrialization, the revolution of 1848, and the military
path to unification.

The readings for this class include primary sources (for example,
Martin Luther, "Address to the Christian Nobility of the German
Nation"; and Marc Raeff, ed., "Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier"),
a textbook (Mary Fulbrook, "A Concise History of Germany"),
scholarly essays, and works of fiction. The reading load will be 80-
100 pages per week. This course is based on a combination of
lectures, discussion, and in-class activities like class debates.

Requirements: Regular attendance and active participation in class
discussion are essential for a good participation grade (20% of the
final grade). There are two four to six-page papers (each counts for
20% of the final grade), one midterm (15%), and one final exam (25%).