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James Hawes, The Shortest History of Germany

Lincoln Allison, emeritus reader in politics, University of Warwick, is reading James Hawes’ The Shortest History of Germany (Old Street Publishing, 2017)

I was given this book in a pub by a friend who had just finished it: brushing up on German history with a quick summary seemed an excellent idea.

Except that it is by no means (only) a quick summary, but a challenging and even disturbing essay of 50,000 words on the nature of German identity. The Germany of modern history, Hawes argues, has been the formation of “East Elbian”, Prussian, protestant, Juncker elements whose aspirations to eastwards expansion have proved disastrous for Germany as for others. There was always an alternative identity, westward-looking and creative and commercial in its energies. Now, with re-unification and Berlin as the capital it can be said that Prussia has spoken from beyond the grave.

Short histories will never replace long ones, but they have their role and this is a good one.

Lincoln Allison November 2017

(Published as “What I’m Reading” in Times Higher Education.)