Germany and 'The West': The History of a Modern Concept

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9781782385974: Germany and 'The West': The History of a Modern Concept

"The West" is a central idea in German public discourse, yet historians know surprisingly little about the evolution of the concept. Contrary to common assumptions, this volume argues that the German concept of the West was not born in the twentieth century, but can be traced from a much earlier time. In the nineteenth century, "the West" became associated with notions of progress, liberty, civilization, and modernity. It signified the future through the opposition to antonyms such as "Russia" and "the East," and was deployed as a tool for forging German identities. Examining the shifting meanings, political uses, and transnational circulations of the idea of "the West" sheds new light on German intellectual history from the post-Napoleonic era to the Cold War.

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About the Author:

Riccardo Bavaj is a Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of St Andrews. From 2009 to 2012 he was a Feodor Lynen Research Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. His publications include "'The West': A Conceptual Exploration" in European History Online (2011) and Die Ambivalenz der Moderne im Nationalsozialismus (2003).

Martina Steber is a Research Fellow at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin. Her publications include Ethnische Gewissheiten: Die Ordnung des Regionalen im bayerischen Schwaben vom Kaiserreich bis zum NS-Regime (2010) and Visions of Community in Nazi Germany: Social Engineering and Private Lives, edited with Bernhard Gotto (2014).


"The editors of this volume deserve praise for the fine balance they found between thematic breadth and focus, and the authors for the exceptional quality of the individual chapters. A volume of this size cannot claim comprehensiveness. But it is this book's great accomplishment to provide a rich picture of the complexity and ever changing nature of German perceptions of 'the West.' Whoever engages with this field is well advised to start with this insightful volume." · H-Soz-Kult

"Highly informative and enriching... these chapters were written primarily by historians of a younger generation that is in the process of positioning itself in the field. Above all, they are clearly internationally-oriented, which enables a rich variety of perspectives that can only be advantageous for a topic that is shot through with political, cultural, ethnic and socio-economic themes. Although each chapter could stand by itself without any problem, it is the volume as a whole that allows fascinating insights into the rich diversity that characterizes the West." · Sehepunkte

"It is impossible to do justice to each chapter and contributor in the space available. They are all remarkably clear and well written and extremely informative... For a collective enterprise of this sort, the volume is remarkably well structured and well organized. The Introduction, written by the two co-editors, does a strikingly good job in terms both of bringing all the parts and chapters together into a coherent whole and of presenting the reader with a summary of the state of the art of scholarship in an ever-increasing and fascinating body of work." · Journal of Contemporary History

"Building on existing literature and primary research, this book is the first comprehensive collection of papers on the historical semantics of 'the West' in Germany. Everybody interested in this topic will find rich material in this pioneering publication." · European History Quarterly Review

"The admirable chronological breadth of the collection draws discussion of Germany's perceived relationship with the West away from the momentous year of 1914... The complexities sampled here of Western identity formation and exceptionality in Germany... present a compelling invitation to a new research field." · German History

"This is an ambitious volume that provides in-depth coverage of German attitudes and interpretations of 'the West,' and how these have changed over time... A particular value of this volume is its use of German sources, making German-based arguments and interpretations available to English-speaking academia." · Giles Scott-Smith, Leiden University

"[This] volume provides an impressive overview of the history of German images and perceptions of 'the West,' its changing meanings and importance over a long period of time. It unites the foremost experts on this subject." · Egbert Klautke, University College London

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