Legal Entanglements: Law, Rights and the Battle for Legitimacy in Divided Germany, 1945-1989 | BERGHAHN BOOKS
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Legal Entanglements: Law, Rights and the Battle for Legitimacy in Divided Germany, 1945-1989

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Legal Entanglements

Law, Rights and the Battle for Legitimacy in Divided Germany, 1945-1989

Sebastian Gehrig

342 pages, 10 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-80073-083-0 $145.00/£107.00 / Hb / Published (May 2021)

eISBN 978-1-80073-084-7 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“This is a thoughtful, thorough examination of the development of the legal systems of both the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Making use of a truly impressive number of archival and secondary sources…[this] is an informative and valuable book.” • Choice

“An admirable piece of work that not only does a very significant amount of meticulous groundwork, but provides new and fascinating perspectives on and insights into East and West Germany after 1945, and tracks the after-effects of that time to the present day in ways that should inflect thinking on citizenship and identity now.” • Modern Language Review

“An important contribution for our understanding and knowledge of German-German legal history. Gehrig’s Legal Entanglements provides a new framework of analysis, informed both by historical and legal scholarship, which opens new avenues for future research.” • Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte

“Sebastian Gehrig’s pioneering study provides a new framework for future research on the legal entanglements of the two German states. His study explores these entanglements for the first time from a historical perspective for the whole period of 1949 to 1989.” • Sehepunkte

Legal Entanglements shows that although the two Germanys were divided by Cold War politics, their approaches to sovereignty, citizenship and law were deeply intertwined, as the two states navigated both their shared past and the transformation of international law in an era of decolonization. Deeply researched and lucidly written, Gehrig’s book will be essential reading for scholars of modern Germany, internationalism, and human rights.” • Celia Donert, University of Cambridge

“A pioneering comparative study of divided Germany’s contest over legal justice after 1945, showing how their rival understandings of law and citizen rights reflected broader claims of political legitimacy, territorial sovereignty and national identity in a fast-changing postwar world. A must read for anyone interested in the relationship between German legal history and Cold War international relations.” • Paul Betts, University of Oxford

“With innovative methodology and conceptualization, Gehrig analyzes legal-political debates that will be of interest to historians of modern Germany and to scholars interested in the history of both decolonization and the global human rights regime within which his story plays out.” • Young-sun Hong, SUNY Stony Brook

Legal Entanglements is a welcome addition to the literature of postwar German history, covering a very interesting aspect of this period in-depth for the first time.” • Armin Grünbacher, The University of Birmingham


During the division of Germany, law became the object of ideological conflicts and the means by which the two national governments conducted their battle over political legitimacy. Legal Entanglements explores how these dynamics produced competing concepts of statehood and sovereignty, all centered on citizens and their rights. Drawing on wide-ranging archival sources, including recently declassified documents, Sebastian Gehrig traces how politicians, diplomats, judges, lawyers, activists and intellectuals navigated the struggle between legal ideologies under the pressures of the Cold War and decolonization. As he shows, in their response to global debates over international law and human rights, their work kept the legal cultures of both German states entangled until 1989.

Sebastian Gehrig is Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Roehampton, London. He has published chapters and articles in East Central Europe, European Review of History, German History, Historische Zeitschrift, Journal of Cold War Studies and Journal of Contemporary History.

Subject: History: 20th Century to Present
Area: Germany


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