Direkt zum InhaltDirekt zur SucheDirekt zur Navigation
▼ Zielgruppen ▼

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - bologna.lab - Neue Lehre. Neues Lernen

History of Germanies (1806-1990)

Taught by Frank Beyersdorf

Friday, 16:00 - 18:00, Hausvogteiplatz 5-7, Room 0323-26

Language requirements: min. English B2



Course Description

This course surveys German history through the prism of Berlin between the Confederation of the Rhine to the second unification of the German lands in 1990. We concentrate on politics and political culture of the Germanies.


Requirements, 5ECTS

30-40% Class participation
10-20% Pop quizzes
10% presentation
40% Essay


Terms of Trade

  • Humboldt University Academic Regulations apply.
  • Most imperatively: Talk to me in case of problems, questions etc.
  • Attendance policy: You may not miss more than two sessions. If you miss more – with or without an excuse – you cannot pass this seminar. Exceptions might be possible with a reasonable cause (i.e. a doctor’s note) and if you agree to a make-up task.
  • Plagiarism: The presentation of another person’s ideas as your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether verbatim or paraphrased, constitutes an act of plagiarism. The penalty for that is a fail for this seminar and notification to HU and your home university.
  • Cell phones must be switched off during class. I also prefer for you to not check social media etc. during class.


Participation / Reading Assignments

This is a discussion-based seminar. I expect you first and foremost to actively contribute to class, which is reflected in the high percentage for this part of your grade. Participation means working though the assigned readings for each session (c. 50 pages per week), which are available at the digital course platform Moodle (the enrolment key for the moodle course is ‘kaffeetasse’). Please take notes on the readings and prepare questions – both of a factual and critical nature. There will be short pop quizzes (unannounced tests) on the readings, which you can easily answer if you have read the text (i.e.: What was the intention behind the Customs Union?). You may fail one of the quizzes (below 50%), but a second fail will result in a fail for the whole overall seminar.


Field Trips

This seminar features two field trips outside our usual seminar time, on two Saturday afternoons. The first takes place on Oct 24th (90 min) and the second, for two sessions (180 min) on Saturday November 21st. These excursions are part of the seminar and your attendance is therefore mandatory. It is your responsibility to be at the sites on time and to prepare assigned readings, since we will have time and space to discuss this on site.



You have to present for ten minutes on the assigned texts for each session. Do NOT summarise the text - briefly state and explain the thesis of the author and give one or two examples of her/his empirical evidence. Go beyond the text – connect the author’s thesis to, for instance, the history of your own country, today’s world, criticise the text – be creative. Furthermore, select an excerpt from a primary document (no more than half a page) elaborating on the assigned readings for discussion in class. You may use documents referred to in the texts or select from the source collection at German History in Documents and Images edited by the GHI Washington. Outline who, when, where, why, and in what context your selected source came from. Either upload your selection Thursday midnight @ Moodle or bring a hardcopy for all to the session. If you present in a team, everybody has to speak, and you have to make clear who contributed what to the presentation. Everybody else has to check and read the handout /excerpt before the start of the session.



You decide and discuss with me the topic, thesis, and empirical evidence for your paper. It is to be 3000 words (without footnotes and literature). List page numbers if you quote or cite literature and primary sources otherwise I cannot check and have to treat the information as not substantiated. Submit your final product via email and in hard copy by 1 February 2016 midnight. Please note, plagiarism will not be tolerated and will result in a fail.



This syllabus is a tentative outline for this seminar. The seminar’s Moodle platform constitutes the official syllabus. It is there that you’ll also find reading assignments as pdfs, updates and directions on field trips.


1.       16th Oct. Introduction: End of the Holy Roman Empire

2.       23rd Oct. From German States to German Empire

Smith Walser, Helmut, The Nation, Jonathan Sperber ed. Germany 1800-1870, Oxford: OUP 2004, 230-256.

Green, Abigail, Political and Diplomatic Movements, 1850-1871, in Jonathan Sperber ed. Germany: 1800-1870, OUP 2004, 69-90.

3.   24th Oct. Field Trip German Historical Museum

4.       30th Oct.  Empire’s Internal Consolidation

Weichlein, Siegfried Nation State, conflict resolution, and culture war, 1850-1878, in Helmut Walser Smith ed. The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History, OUP 2011.

Orlow, Dietrich, A History of Modern Germany: 1871 to Present, 7 ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson 2012, 13-38.

5.       6th Nov. European and Global Empire

Orlow, Dietrich, History of Modern Germany, 42-64.
Walser Smith, Helmut (2008). The Continuities of German History: Nation, Religion, and Race across the Long Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, CUP, 170-182.
Anghie, Antony, Berlin Conference, Merriam, John and Jay Winter eds, Europe 1798-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, Scribner 2006, 220-224.
Schroeder, Paul W., International Politics, Peace, and War 1815-1914, Blanning, T.C.W., ed. The Nineteenth Century Europe 1789-1914. Oxford: OUP 2000, 181-209.

6.       13th Nov. Weimar Republic

Orlow, Dietrich, History of Modern Germany, 88-95.
Fulbrook, Mary, A History of Germany 1918-2008: The Divided Nation, 3 ed. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell 2009, 21-33.
McElligott, Anthony, Political Culture, Ibd. ed. Weimar Germany. The Short Oxford History of Germany. Oxford: OUP 2009, 26-44, 299-307.

7.       20th Nov. Nazi Germany 

Orlow, Dietrich, History of Modern Germany, tba.
Fulbrook, Mary, A History of Germany 1918-2008, tba

8./9. 21st Nov. Field Trip KZ Sachsenhausen  

Mazower, Mark, Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century, London: Penguin 1998, 138-180.

10.   27th Nov. Germany no More: Occupation and Reconstruction

Fulbrook, History of Germany, 113-117, 129-142.
Jarausch, Konrad H., After Hitler: Recivilizing Germans, 1945-1995, OUP 2006, 19-63.

11.   4th Dec. Two Polities  

Fulbrook, History of Germany, 143-153.
Sperber, Jonathan, 17 June 1953: Revisiting a German Revolution, German History 22:4 (2004), 619-638.

12.   11th  Dec: Two Economies

Fulbrook, History of Germany, 153- 166, 137-42, 171-175.
Steiner, Berghoff, H. and U. A. Balbier (2013). The East German Economy 1945-2010: Falling Behind or Catching up?, CUP, 17-27.

13.   18th Dec: Protests 1960s

Brown, Timothy S., ‘1968’ East and West: Divided Germany as a Case Study in Transnational History, American Historical Review 114:1 (2009), 69-96.

Harrison, Hope, Driving the Soviets up the Wall: A Super-Ally, a Superpower, and the Building of the Berlin Wall, 1958-1961, Cold War History 1, no. 1 (2000): 53-74

14.   9th Jan: Field Trip Every Day Life in the GDR

(Movie) Frank Beyer (director), Traces of Stone, 1966 (1989).

15.   15th Jan: Peace Movement of the 1980s

Nehring, Holger, Creating Security from Below: Peace Movements in East and West Germany in the 1980s, Kevin McDermott and Matthew Stibbe eds. The 1989 Revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe. From Communism to Pluralism, Manchester University Press 2013, 136-53.

16.   22nd Jan: 1989: Annus Mirabilis

Grieder, Peter, When your neighbour changes his wallpaper’: the ‘Gorbachev factor’ and the collapse of the German Democratic Republic, in Kevin McDermott and Matthew Stibbe eds. The 1989 Revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe: From Communism to Pluralism, Manchester University Press 2013, 72-87.
Patton, David F., Annus mirabilis: 1989 and German Unification, in Helmut Walser Smith ed. The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History, OUP 2011, 755-771.