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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST2140 Imperial Germany 1871-1918

20 creditsClass Size: 28

Module manager: Prof Holger Afflerbach

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The history of Imperial Germany ends where it started: in the "hall of mirrors" in Versailles. In January 1871 it was the place of Imperial coronation. In May 1919, defeated Germany, now a republic, had to sign the peace treaty of Versailles in the same place. Imperial Germany was a society with a double face: On one side it was an optimistic, quickly modernizing nation with an avant garde culture and phenomenal economic growth rates. On the other side, Germany was a state with a notoriously backward political system. This class will explore some of the facets of this state and society. It will deal with Bismarck and his ideas for a United Germany (or Greater Prussia). It will focus on his attempts to make the German nation-state compatible with the international order. It will deal with the German monarchy, especially with Wilhelm II, the last German emperor. It will deal with the contradicting trends in Germany society: Widespread militarism on one side, a growing welfare state on another side, and a rising political left, especially Social democracy, on the third side.We will study anti-Semitism in Imperial Germany. We will also study the writers of the epoch and the question of how the works of Theodor Fontane and Heinrich Mann influence our image of Imperial Germany. The class will end with the discussion of German responsibility for the outbreak of World War I and with the defeat and breakdown of the German monarchy in November 1918.


By the conclusion of this module, students should be able to:
- understand the basic political and social developments in Imperial Germany;
- see Imperial Germany as a radically modernizing state and society;
- understand also the very traditional power structures in Germany;
- evaluate the cultural life of this epoch;
- discuss Bismarck's and Wilhelm II's politics and Imperial Germany's place in Europe;
- see continuities and discontinuities between Imperial Germany, World War I, the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich.

Skills outcomes
Enhances Common Skills listed below:

- High-level skills in oral and written communication of complex ideas.
- Independence of mind and self-discipline and self-direction to work effectively under own initiative.
- Ability to locate, handle and synthesize large amounts of information.
- Capacity to employ analytical and problem-solving abilities.
- Ability to engage constructively with the ideas of their peers, tutors and published sources.
- Empathy and active engagement with alternative cultural contexts.


Lesson 1 - Introduction: Bismarck's and Wilhelm II's Germany
Lesson 2 - From 1848 to 1871: The Creation of Imperial Germany
Lesson 3 - Imperial Germany: State and citizens
Lesson 4 - Bismarck's Germany: A divided society? Ethnic and religious minorities
Lesson 5 - Germany in Europe. Bismarck's foreign policy
Lesson 6 - From Bismarck to Wilhelm II.
Lesson 7 - Traditionalism and avantguarde: Culture, art and science in Imperial Germany
Lesson 8 - German Foreign policy 1890-1914
Lesson 9 - Germany and the Outbreak of World War I
Lesson 10 - Imperial Germany in World War I
Lesson 11 - Defeat, revolution, abdication: The Legacy of Imperial Germany and the Republic of Weimar.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

- Exam preparation;
- researching, preparing, and writing assignments;
- undertaking set reading; and
- self-directed reading around the topic.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Contributions to class discussions, an assessed oral presentation, one assessed essay.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3,500 word assessed research essay due 12 noon Monday of exam week 170.00
Oral Presentation10 minute presentation in class, plus 1000 word paper, to be posted before class on Minerva.30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Oral presentations can be re-sat with an alternative written exercise

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:25:06


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