HST283: Imperial Germany, 1871-1918

20 credits (semester 2)

Module Leader: Professor Benjamin Ziemann



Pass in at least two of the Level One modules History Units HST112-121.


Module Summary

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the study of Imperial Germany. The (Second) German Empire, founded in 1871, was a period of contradictions. It comprised both a widespread belief in superstitious forms of religion, as exemplified by the popular resonance of apparitions of Virgin Mary in the 1880s, and some of the most innovative achievements in the sciences and humanities. The political system was characterised by the participatory effects of the introduction of universal male suffrage, which had no equivalent in any other major European country apart from France, and the persisting relevance of the Imperial court and traditional elites in the decision-making processes.

The module will discuss these contradictions, and will built on a rich historiography which has discussed the possibilities and problems of political and social reform. Key topics which are crucial for an understanding of these debates will be covered, such as the party system and the electoral culture of the Reich, the structure and sociability of the bourgeois middle class, the forms and impact of social militarization, and the emergence of radical nationalism from the 1890s. Particular attention will be paid to the importance of confessional conflicts and identities in Imperial Germany and to the First World War as a social and political crisis.


Teaching and Assessment

This module will be taught through a combination of lectures and seminars.

The word limit for essays includes footnotes, but excludes the bibliography.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level2


Selected Reading

  • James Retallack (ed.), Imperial Germany 1871-1918 (Oxford: OUP, 2008) (paperback recommended for purchase)
  • Matthew Jefferies, Contesting the German Empire, 1871-1918 (Oxford, 2008)
  • Volker R. Berghahn, Imperial Germany, 1871-1914: Economy, Society, Culture and Politics, (Providence: Berghahn, 1994)
  • David Blackbourn, The Long Nineteenth Century (London: Fontana, 1997) (Fontana History of Germany, 1780-1918)
  • Roger Chickering (ed.), Imperial Germany: A Historiographical Companion, (Westport/Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996)
  • Geoff Eley and James Retallack (eds.), Wilhelminism and its Legacies. Essays for Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann. German Modernities, Imperialism, and the Meanings of Reform, 1890-1930 (Oxford, New York: Berghahn, 2003)
  • Sven Oliver Müller/Cornelius Torp (eds.), Imperial Germany Revisited. Continuing Debates and New Perspectives, New York: Berghahn Books, 2011


Intended Learning Outcomes
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