History 323: Modern Germany
Tobin Hall room 204 – TR 11:15 am – 12:05 pm



Dr. Jon Berndt Olsen
Department of History

University of Massachusetts at Amherst


Office Hours: Tuesdays 10-11, Thursdays 2-3 or by appointment
Office:  Herter Hall 609
Telephone: 413.545.6767
Email: jon@history.umass.edu

Web: http://people.umass.edu/jon

Blog: http://blogs.umass.edu/jon


Teaching Assistant:


Tom Army is my Teaching Assistant for this course. Mr. Army is in charge of three discussion sections on Mondays and will be grading your quizzes, exams, and papers. If you have questions about the course, please contact Mr. Army first. If you still need assistance, please contact me.

Teaching Assistant Email Address Office Office Hours
Tom Army tarmy@history.umass.edu Herter 713 Tuesday 1-3




Contemporary historians of Germany tend to agree that the German state developed in a different manner than its western neighbors, such as France or Great Britain. Yet, historians remain divided as to which factors ultimately led to this divergent path or whether certain alternative policies might have steered Germany along a different developmental path. Regardless of which side of this question one feels is more convincing, the fact remains that the formation of the German state came relatively late within the European context and that German nationalism was a root cause of both World War I and World War II.  Indeed, overcoming nationalism and the Nazi past has dominated German politics since 1945.

Our primary concern in this course will be to look at the internal and external factors that influenced the development of German nationalism and German national identity – what does it mean to be “German”?  This is not to say that other important ideologies and issues will be ignored – quite the contrary.  Nationalism, in fact, has shown a remarkable propensity to co-opt, or subsume other ideologies under its own banner.  Nationalism, therefore, will serve as a connective tissue running throughout the course as we investigate the different ways in which it has been expressed and how it has functioned in different contexts, the impact that it has had in different areas, and the way in which it has interacted with and influenced other important ideologies.




In this class we will look at the history of the German states from the mid-17th century to the present.  Naturally, in a class that spans such a broad area, there is a limit to just how much we can cover as well as how deeply we can delve into any one subject. Nevertheless, I hope to present you with some of the most important trends and issues during this period in order to get a sense of how Germany became a nation-state, how World War I brought about the demise of the German Empire, how the settlement terms of WWI influenced the rise of Nazism and renewed German aggression that erupted into World War II, and finally how post-1945 Germany has attempted to deal with its Nazi past.  Naturally, there will be some issues that you would rather see covered in more depth, while others of you would prefer that I skip some of the ones that I do, in fact, cover.  Such is, unfortunately, the nature of the survey class.  Hopefully, though, you will find enough here that interests you (and maybe discover some new areas to which you had previously not given much thought) to make this learning experience a valuable and enjoyable one.