HST3071/3072: The Weimar Republic – Laboratory of Modernity

40 credits (semesters 1 and 2)

Module Leader: Professor Benjamin Ziemann


A pass in at least two history modules at level two.

Module Summary

The history of Weimar Germany has often been portrayed as an almost permanent crisis and the ultimate demise of parliamentary democracy. But the Weimar Republic was more than just a polity and economy in crisis. It was also a laboratory of modernity, a site of permanent experimentation in politics, the arts and mass media, in gender relations and in attempts to built new communities. These experiments and their attempts to come to grips with the modern condition have also resulted in an extremely diverse and rich artistic and intellectual production, from Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht to Otto Dix and Siegfried Kracauer. The module will examine key topics in the political participation and symbolic representation of this classical modernity. It will explore these issues in a broadly conceived perspective, drawing upon a broad range of contemporary source material, both textual and visual. One key aim of the module is to allow students to think outside the box, to engage with a familiar topic from an unexpected and fresh angle.


Seminar topics will include, among others:

Module Themes
The Republic in the Countryside: Aims and Symbolic Representations of Rural Protest
The Nation, National Solidarity and the Concept of a People´s Community
The Politics of the Body: Abortion, Contraception, Republican Eugenics
Revolt of the Images: The Volk in Nazi Pictorial Propaganda
Welfare Recipients and Collective Participation
The Culture of the Communist Working-Class Movement
Jewish Citizenship and Culture
The Aesthetics of Violence: Pacifist and Paramilitary Politics
Republican Symbolism in the Social Democratic Milieu
Mass Media and Cultural Modernism


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/level3

Selected Reading

  • Matthew Stibbe, Germany 1914-1933. Politics, Society and Culture (Harlow : Longman, 2010)
  • Benjamin Ziemann, 'Weimar was Weimar. Politics, Culture and the Emplotment of the German Republic', German History 28 (2010), pp. 542-571.
  • Nadine Rossol, Performing the Nation in Interwar Germany. Sport, Spectacle and Political Symbolism 1926-1936 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010)
  • Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, Edward Dimendberg (eds.), The Weimar Republic Sourcebook (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994)
  • Detlev Peukert, The Weimar Republic (London: Penguin 1993)
  • Peter Fritzsche, Did Weimar Fail?, in: Journal of Modern History 68 (1996), pp. 629-656
  • Peter Fritzsche, Germans into Nazis (Cambridge/Mass. London: Harvard UP 1998)
  • Bernd Widdig, Culture and Inflation in Weimar Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001)
  • Eric Weitz, Weimar Germany. Promise and Tragedy (Princeton, 2007)
  • Thomas W. Kniesche/Stephen Brockmann (eds.), Dancing on the Volcano. Essays on the Culture of the Weimar Republic (Columbia: Camden House, 1994)
  • Raffael Scheck, Mothers of the nation. Right-wing women in Weimar Germany (Oxford: Berg, 2004)
  • Konrad H. Jarausch/Michael Geyer, Shattered Past. Reconstructing German Histories (Princeton. Oxford: Princeton UP 2003)
  • Benjamin Ziemann, War Experiences in Rural Germany, 1914-1923 (Oxford: Berg, 2007)

Intended Learning Outcomes
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