Symbolic Representations of the Nation: Baden, Bavaria, and Saxony

TitleSymbolic Representations of the Nation: Baden, Bavaria, and Saxony
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsFink, Erwin
EditorCole, Laurence
Book TitleDifferent Paths to the Nation Regional and National Identities in Central Europe and Italy, 1830–70
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan

Imperial Germany (the Kaiserreich) was founded by the proclamation of 18 January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, after a series of conflicts conventionally known as the ‘wars of unification’. The new state was created largely by Prussian military success and the ingenuity of Otto von Bismarck — or so the story has usually gone. Admittedly, such a summary does not do justice to recent master narratives of modern German history provided by the likes of James Sheehan, Thomas Nipperdey, or Hans-Ulrich Wehler. These authors have acknowledged both the importance of social and economic factors in leading to unification and the continuing diversity of the German territories afterward. Nevertheless, most historical accounts continue to suggest that the German nation was forged primarily in a ‘revolution from above.’ Even more significantly, having described pre-unification ‘Germany’ as a tapestry of regional diversity, historians grow less cautious once the threshold of 1871 is passed. Typically, they revert to generalizing statements about ‘German politics’, ‘German society’, and ‘German nationalism’ — all in the singular. Regional historians have been chipping away at this Prussocentric, uniform interpretation for some time now, by juxtaposing it to divergent developments in Germany’s federal states. In doing so, they have offered a major re-evaluation of German history. Arguably, however, their conclusions have yet to be fully assimilated by ‘mainstream’ German historiography.

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