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Democracy—A German Affair? Rethinking the German Past

October 22, 2021 at 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Can and should the history of democracy in Germany be written as a success story? With her newest book, Demokratie: Eine deutsche Affaire, Hedwig Richter, professor at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich, has generated fierce debate by claiming that democracy has a longer history in Germany than the older, male-dominated scholarship has claimed with its contested notion of a German Sonderweg (special path) that deviated from the West. Written for a broader audience, the book provides a provocative new interpretation of democracy in German history and the role of the people by defending gradual reform from above, integrating gender and the body, and calling for a transnational approach. Critics contend that Richter makes Imperial Germany appear improbably democratic and the Third Reich less totalitarian. This debate raises three questions we would like to explore in the roundtable:

Has the time come for a rethinking of the dominant master narratives of nineteenth and twentieth century German history?

What should a more balanced interpretation of the development of democracy in Germany look like?

What could such an interpretation contribute to the current challenges of populism, sexism, and xenophobia?

The aim of the discussion is to explore the limits and possibilities of a more balanced interpretation of the long 19th century for the scholarly and public rethinking of modern German history.

HEDWIG RICHTER Is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich. Her wide-ranging research interests include the history of democracy and dictatorship, nineteenth- and twentieth-century Germany, and gender in history. Her most recent publications include: Demokratie. Eine deutsche Affäre (2020); Moderne Wahlen: Eine Geschichte der Demokratie in Preußen und den USA im 19. Jahrhundert (2017); and the edited volume Frauenwahlrecht: Die Demokratisierung der Demokratie in Deutschland und Europa (ed. with Kerstin Wolff, 2017).


CHRISTIAN JANSEN  I  Professor of Modern and Contemporary History  I  University of Trier, Department of History

SYLVIA SCHRAUT  I  Professor Emerita of Modern History  I  University of the Bundeswehr, Munich, Department of History

OLIVER F.R. HAARDT  I  Junior Research Fellow  I  University of Cambridge, Magdalene College



October 22, 2021
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
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