A Description of Our Course
This course will examine the history of German-speaking central Europe from the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire to the present day. In that period, Germans endured many wars on their soil, pursued a global empire, provoked two world wars, waged unrestrained genocide against Europe’s Jews, and stood at the front lines of a cold war. Divided by the Iron Curtain for half of the twentieth century, the German people were partitioned by ideology; the western republic became one of the wealthiest countries in the world and the most powerful state in Europe, while the eastern dictatorship became a grim, repressive society. Each of Germany’s many transformations and permutations brought social upheaval and cultural transformation. Among the major political structures, we will explore national identity, generational divides, changing relationships between the sexes, and the history of everyday life.
Most importantly, this is a course about the skills and methods of historical study. Students will cultivate their skills as blossoming historians, reading a diverse set of texts and learn to digest their principal arguments efficiently. We will pay particularly close attention to articulating our own historical arguments and sustaining them in oral and written communication.
Our course is focused on the German people’s relationship with the world and the German state’s place within international society. Our approaches will emphasize perceptions of Germany within international politics and culture and Germans’ own visions for the world.
Students will learn the principal events of modern German history from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Whereas many courses on German history focus on the evolution of the state that is the current Federal Republic of Germany, our course will explore the entire deutscher Sprachraum—i.e., all the areas of German-speaking Europe.
This course emphasizes the historical method, namely the ability to read a diverse body of texts. We will practice our skills of active reading and textual analysis—perhaps the most important skills you can acquire early in your college career. We will learn and practice engaging intellectually with our material, making our reading efficient and helping us better to understand and remember what we have read. We will learn:
- how to read various types of sources, including philosophical texts; historical letters; monographs; scholarly articles; op-eds; and, the apotheosis of human expression—the essay.
- how to digest the principal argument of a text and extract the main ideas from an author's work.
- how to situate individual pieces of writing within historiographical contexts and within a larger scholarly discourse.
- how to articulate our own academic arguments.
Required: Students should procure copies of the required texts in advance of our first meeting. To supplement the primary texts, I will place materials on our online course page. Required texts are:
- Martin Kitchen, A History of Modern Germany, 1800-2000, 2nd ed. (Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).
- John C. G. Röhl, Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Concise Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
- Peter Fritzsche, Germans into Nazis (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998).
- Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York: Harper Perennial, 1998).
- Timothy Garton Ash, The File: A Personal History (New York: Vintage, 1998).
- Jules R. Benjamin, A Student's Guide to History, 12th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2013).
Reference: Some members of our course may wish to consult reliable reference volumes that provide more detail than Kitchen’s A History of Modern Germany. Useful texts include:
- James J. Sheehan, German History, 1770-1866 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).
- Gordon A. Craig, Germany, 1866-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
- Mary Fulbrook, A History of Germany, 1918-2014: The Divided Nation, 4th ed. (Malden, Mass: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015).
Recommended: I particularly recommend the following texts for improving research techniques, grammar, prose style, and argumentation respectively.
- Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. Fitzgerald, The Craft of Research, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).
- Blanche Ellsworth and John A. Higgins, English Simplified, 13th ed. (New York: Pearson, 2013).
- Wilson Follett, Modern American Usage: A Guide, rev. Erik Wensberg (New York: Hill and Wang, 1998).
- Joseph M. Williams and Gregory G. Colomb, The Craft of Argument, 3rd ed. (New York: Pearson, 2007).
Films: Students will be required to view two films. I will arrange screenings.
- Der Untergang, directed by Oliver Hierschbiegel (2004).
- Good Bye, Lenin!, directed by Wolfgang Becker (2004).
Your contributions in class and online will count for twenty-five percent of your final course grade, your final examination will count for twenty-five percent, and your research essay will comprise the remaining fifty percent.
Our course requires your active contributions to our discussions and learning. In fact, you might look at our course as a semester-long discussion about history and the methods historians use to do their work. We will practice our oral and written communication, listening, and reading skills and learn to incorporate feedback from others. Each of you has a distinctive background, personality, and communication style that can contribute to a creative and effective learning climate in our class.
Our course includes a substantial reading load. Each student will read all of the assigned material critically before each respective class meeting. As you read, you should focus of the authors’ central arguments and how they relate (1) to that unit’s other readings and documents and (2) to the history and historiography of modern Europe. To assist you in focusing on the arguments of our texts, consider what the author is trying to make you believe. Consider the construction of the texts and the rhetorical strategies authors employ. How does the author weave together narrative and analytical writing to advance his or her argument? Where does the author find sources to support such an interpretation?
Across the term, you will produce a substantial, polished research essay based on primary as well as secondary sources. Your final essay will be a minimum of twelve pages in length and will include footnotes and a comprehensive bibliography. In preparation for your final paper, we will meet to discuss your topic, refine your research and writing techniques, and review the final draft.
Short explanations are included here, with more detailed instructions to follow.
- Statement of Interest: Your statement of interest will constitute a short written affirmation of your research topic, including a tentative question you might seek to answer. Jan. 6th.
- Analytical Essay: You will write an analytical essay of two to three pages. The essay will coincide with the content of our readings or with a tentative topic for your research essay and will allow you an opportunity to practice crafting and sustaining an academic argument, to hone your prose style, and to refine your ideas as you work toward the development of a substantive research topic. Jan 8th.
- Research Plan: Your research plan will enumerate the perceived tasks of research and writing involved in your project, establish them logically, and identify anticipated dates of completion for each task. Your research plan should become a fluid document, aiding you in establishing your research and writing priorities and integrating the various strands of your research into a common intellectual framework. Jan. 11th.
- Prospectus: Your prospectus will constitute a one-page document that articulates your topic, your central argument, the reasons that support your thesis, and the evidence on which your thesis will be based. It should represent the crux of the argument you will present in your final essay. Jan. 13th.
- Annotated Bibliography: The annotated bibliography will identify the existing primary-source material and secondary-source literature available on your research topic. This initial bibliographic canvassing will serve as the beginning of a working document that will compel you to survey the important literature related to your topic. Jan. 15th.
- Preliminary Research Report: Your preliminary research report will update both your research plan and prospectus, adding some matters for further consideration as you reach the conclusion of your project. Jan. 18th.
- Five pages of text or detailed outline: As you near the completion of your research essay, you will have the choice to submit either five pages of polished text from your essay or a detailed outline of the content of your final essay. Jan. 20th.
- Research Essay: Your final research essay, a minimum of twelve pages, should include footnotes that conform to the Chicago Manual of Style and a comprehensive bibliography. Jan. 28th.
Submission Guidelines: With each assignment you submit, please ensure that your name and a title are featured on the first page. Cover pages are unnecessary. Submitted drafts should be typewritten, double-spaced, paginated, stapled, and free of typographical errors. Please submit printed copies of your assignments in class on the prescribed due date, and submit electronic copies via our course website. Electronic copies should only be submitted as PDF files. With each assignment you submit, always retain an electronic copy on your own hard-drive.
Grading: Scores of A recognize creative and integrated engagement of the ideas we study with the overall logic of the course. Scores of B denote comprehensive awareness of the most important components of the course. Scores of C represent accurate but selective comprehension. Scores of D signify relevant misunderstanding. Scores of F represent confused or irrelevant work. Late assignments receive a score of F.
All students will sit for a final examination on January 29th from 11:10 a.m. to 1:10 p.m.
The examination will include short-response questions and broad interpretive essays. You should therefore complete all course readings and listen to lectures with a view toward increasing your powers of historical analysis rather than memorizing arcane details devoid of their historical contexts. The examination will feature a range of questions on German history from 1815 to the present, and one or more questions will specifically address the assigned monographs and films.
All students are required to sit for the examination. The scheduling of the examination is dictated by the Registrar and cannot be changed. Per College policy, neither a make-up substitute for the examination, nor a change of time, is an option. If a student is absent from a final examination, a grade of F will be recorded for the course. Only the Provost can grant an exception.
You will receive a grade for each class meeting. Absences from class will receive grades of zero. In calculating your final grade, I will waive the single lowest score. Students who are absent on the day an assignment is due should submit their assignments electronically no later than the beginning of that day’s class meeting.
Honor and Academic Integrity
As a student of history, you are bound by the highest sense of honor and academic integrity. To compromise one's own honor adversely ripples throughout the scholarly community, a community built upon mutual trust. The American Historical Association, in its “Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct,” holds that "the trust and respect both of one's peers and of the public at large are among the greatest and most hard-won achievements that any historian can attain. It is foolish indeed to put them at risk." Those truths apply to every level of your work—from your responses in the classroom to your professional publications.
As such, you should remain vigilant in your scholarly endeavors not to compromise your honor. The AHA Statement continues: "Historians should practice their craft with integrity. They should honor the historical record. They should document their sources. They should acknowledge their debts to the work of other scholars. They should respect and welcome divergent points of view even as they argue and submit those views to critical scrutiny. They should remember that our collective enterprise depends on mutual trust. And they should never betray that trust."
Be mindful that even accidental or subtle violations of professional standards remain, in fact, violations. The AHA writes that “[t]he real penalty for plagiarism is the abhorrence of the community of scholars.” Not attributing the concepts of others still constitutes academic fraud, even in craftily reworded sentences. Similarly, providing one citation for an extensively used source amounts to plagiarism.