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Studies in British and Imperial History
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The Guardians of Concepts
Political Languages of Conservatism in Britain and West Germany, 1945-1980
Translated from the German by David Dichelle
556 pages, bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-80073-826-3 $179.00/£132.00 / Hb / Published (January 2023)
eISBN 978-1-80073-827-0 eBook
Since 1945, what ‘conservative’ means has troubled intellectuals, politicians and parties in the United Kingdom and West Germany. In Britain conservatism was an accepted term of the political vocabulary, denoting a particular tradition of political thought and practice. In West Germany, by contrast, conservatism was a difficult concept for the young democracy to swallow. It carried a heavy antiliberal and antidemocratic burden and led people to question whether there was a place for conservatism within democratic culture after all.
The Guardians of Concepts scrutinizes the debates about conservatism in the UK and the Federal Republic of Germany from the late 1940s to the early 1980s. Informed by historical semantics, it conceives of conservatism as a flexible linguistic structure, and shows the importance of language for the self-understanding of many conservatives, who not by chance, have regarded themselves as the guardians of concepts. The intense national and transnational debates about the meaning of conservatism had far-reaching consequences and continue to influence politics today.
Martina Steber is Second Deputy Director of the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History, Munich, and Professor of Modern History at the University of Augsburg. Beforehand she held positions at the German Historical Institute London, the University of Konstanz and the University of Wuppertal. Her publications include: Ethnische Gewissheiten. Die Ordnung des Regionalen im bayerischen Schwaben vom Kaiserreich bis zum NS-Regime (2010); Visions of Community in Nazi Germany. Social Engineering and Private Lives (ed. with B. Gotto, 2014); and Germany and 'the West': The History of a Modern Concept (ed. with R. Bavaj, 2015).
Subject: History: 20th Century to Present
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