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Helmut Kohl's Quest for Normality: His Representation of the German Nation and Himself

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Volume 20

Making Sense of History

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Helmut Kohl's Quest for Normality

His Representation of the German Nation and Himself

Christian Wicke

264 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-573-8 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (February 2015)

ISBN  978-1-78533-739-0 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (September 2017)

eISBN 978-1-78238-574-5 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®


“Complex in its multifaceted explanatory framework, the book is accessible and constitutes a superlative model of combining biography with the study of nationalism. The latter constitutes the most novel contribution of this well-researched, straightforward historical depiction of Kohl’s ideology and its impact upon the continuing development of German national identity.” • Choice

“Wicke’s focus on Kohl’s education, generational cohort, familial background, and religious beliefs proves fascinating. His study is carefully researched and draws on an impressive array of sources, including parliamentary records, newspapers, press releases, and speeches, in addition to archival documents…[It] is a valuable contribution to the study of nationalism, memory studies, and German history that offers both fresh ideas and innovative methodologies…[and] once again underscores the importance of history for politicians and its value as an instrument to accomplish specific political objectives.” • American Historical Review

“Wicke’s work makes substantial contributions to scholarship in historiography, nationalism studies, German studies, memory studies, and leadership studies. In marrying biographical method with nationalism studies, Wicke successfully trials a new research methodology that, in its many potential applications, will be certain to interest all scholars of nationalism.” • H-Nationalism

“Christian Wicke’s book—simultaneously a biography of Helmut Kohl, relayed through four nationalist lenses, a history of the Federal Republic and Kohl’s years in politics, and a study in types of nationalism—is a highly creative contribution to historical and political scholarship…Wicke’s creative contribution to scholarship—synthesizing biography, public rhetoric and the study of nationalism—is unquestionable.” • German History

“This is an excellent, well written and thoughtful book that… makes a convincing case for the study of Kohl not only as an important political leader in his own right, but also as a case study of the way in which ideological currents inform and influence the development of personal nationalism.” • James Kennedy, University of Edinburgh

“Wicke allows us to see Kohl not only as a tactician and masterful politician but also as a man who had strong political convictions that influenced his political decisions in important ways… What makes this book special is the intriguing and novel theoretical perspective that combines biography with nationalism studies. This has not been done before and should ensure strong interest among scholars.” • Stefan Berger, Ruhr University Bochum


During his political career, Helmut Kohl used his own life story to promote a normalization of German nationalism and to overcome the stigma of the Nazi period. In the context of the cold war and the memory of the fascist past, he was able to exploit the combination of his religious, generational, regional, and educational (he has a PhD in History) experiences by connecting nationalist ideas to particular biographical narratives. Kohl presented himself as the embodiment of “normality”: a de-radicalized German nationalism which was intended to eclipse any anti-Western and post-national peculiarities. This book takes a biographical approach to the study of nationalism by examining its manifestation in Helmut Kohl and the way he historicized Germany’s past.

Christian Wicke is Assistant Professor in Political History at Utrecht University.

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


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