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Germany and 'The West': The History of a Modern Concept

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Germany and 'The West'

The History of a Modern Concept

Edited by Riccardo Bavaj and Martina Steber

328 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-597-4 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (April 2015)

ISBN  978-1-78533-504-4 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (June 2017)

eISBN 978-1-78238-598-1 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Buy the eBook from these vendorsRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“…this well-researched and stimulating volume will be of interest to specialist and nonspecialist scholars alike, particularly those working on transatlantic relations and intellectual history. Indeed, the editors’ remarkable introduction provides the best starting point for the exploration of Germans’ complex engagement with “the West” currently available. The volume also makes the contributions of prominent German scholars accessible in English for the first time. Finally, given the current rise of populist and authoritarian challenges to “Western” political institutions, understanding the contested history of this concept is more necessary than ever before.”  • Journal of Modern History

“The book is an erudite account of both the concept of the West and German political thinking during the past centuries. And as such, it is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in conceptual, intellectual, and political history. After reading the book, the idea of the West remains as elusive as ever, but we are a lot wiser about the manifold meanings and uses this concept can have.” • Contributions to the History of Concept

“This volume is a magnificent tour d’horizon on a controversial and still current subject.” The English Historical Journal

“The editors of this volume deserve praise for the fine balance they found between thematic breadth and focus, and the authors for the exceptional quality of the individual chapters. A volume of this size cannot claim comprehensiveness. But it is this book's great accomplishment to provide a rich picture of the complexity and ever changing nature of German perceptions of ‘the West.’ Whoever engages with this field is well advised to start with this insightful volume.” H-Soz-Kult

“Highly informative and enriching… these chapters were written primarily by historians of a younger generation that is in the process of positioning itself in the field. Above all, they are clearly internationally-oriented, which enables a rich variety of perspectives that can only be advantageous for a topic that is shot through with political, cultural, ethnic and socio-economic themes. Although each chapter could stand by itself without any problem, it is the volume as a whole that allows fascinating insights into the rich diversity that characterizes the West.” Sehepunkte

“It is impossible to do justice to each chapter and contributor in the space available. They are all remarkably clear and well written and extremely informative… For a collective enterprise of this sort, the volume is remarkably well structured and well organized. The Introduction, written by the two co-editors, does a strikingly good job in terms both of bringing all the parts and chapters together into a coherent whole and of presenting the reader with a summary of the state of the art of scholarship in an ever-increasing and fascinating body of work.” Journal of Contemporary History

“Building on existing literature and primary research, this book is the first comprehensive collection of papers on the historical semantics of ‘the West’ in Germany. Everybody interested in this topic will find rich material in this pioneering publication.” European History Quarterly Review

“The admirable chronological breadth of the collection draws discussion of Germany’s perceived relationship with the West away from the momentous year of 1914… The complexities sampled here of Western identity formation and exceptionality in Germany… present a compelling invitation to a new research field.” German History

“This is an ambitious volume that provides in-depth coverage of German attitudes and interpretations of ‘the West,’ and how these have changed over time… A particular value of this volume is its use of German sources, making German-based arguments and interpretations available to English-speaking academia.” Giles Scott-Smith, Leiden University

“[This] volume provides an impressive overview of the history of German images and perceptions of ‘the West,’ its changing meanings and importance over a long period of time. It unites the foremost experts on this subject.” Egbert Klautke, University College London


“The West” is a central idea in German public discourse, yet historians know surprisingly little about the evolution of the concept. Contrary to common assumptions, this volume argues that the German concept of the West was not born in the twentieth century, but can be traced from a much earlier time. In the nineteenth century, “the West” became associated with notions of progress, liberty, civilization, and modernity. It signified the future through the opposition to antonyms such as “Russia” and “the East,” and was deployed as a tool for forging German identities. Examining the shifting meanings, political uses, and transnational circulations of the idea of “the West” sheds new light on German intellectual history from the post-Napoleonic era to the Cold War.

Riccardo Bavaj is Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews. His publications include Der Nationalsozialismus: Entstehung, Aufstieg und Herrschaft (2016) and "'The West': A Conceptual Exploration" in European History Online (2011).

Martina Steber is a Research Fellow at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin. Her publications include Ethnische Gewissheiten: Die Ordnung des Regionalen im bayerischen Schwaben vom Kaiserreich bis zum NS-Regime (2010) and Visions of Community in Nazi Germany: Social Engineering and Private Lives, edited with Bernhard Gotto (2014).

Subject: History: 18th/19th CenturyHistory: 20th Century to Present
Area: Germany


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