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National Monuments and Nationalism in 19th Century Germany


Hans A. Pohlsander

No century in modern European history has built monuments with more enthusiasm than the 19th. Of the hundreds of monuments erected, those which sprang from a nation-wide initiative and addressed themselves to a nation, rather than part of a nation, we may call national monuments. Nelson’s Column in London or the Arc de Triomphe in Paris are obvious examples. In Germany the 19th century witnessed a veritable flood of monuments, many of which rank as national monuments. These reflected and contributed to a developing sense of national identity and the search for national unity; they also document an unsuccessful effort to create a «genuinely German» style. They constitute a historical record, quite apart from aesthetic appeal or ideological message. As this historical record is examined, German national monuments of the 19th century are described and interpreted against the background of the nationalism which gave birth to them.


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Preface 7


Preface In 1968 German historian Thomas Nipperdey published a ground-breaking article under the title “Nationalidee und Nationaldenkmal in Deutschland im 19. Jahrhundert.” With this article he forcefully called attention to the value of monuments as records of history and particularly to the contri- bution which a study of German national monuments can make to an understanding of German nationalism as it developed throughout the 19th century. The next major effort in this field was made in 1972 by Hans-Ernst Mittig and Volker Plagemann with their volume on Denkmäler im 19. Jahrhundert: Deutung und Kritik. More recently, in 1996, Reinhard Alings has brought forth his admirable volume on Monument und Nation: Das Bild vom Nationalstaat im Medium Denkmal: Zum Verhältnis von Nation und Staat im deutschen Kaiserreich, 1871–1918. I am not aware of a compa- rable work on the earlier decades of the century. Beyond that there is an abundance of literature on individual monuments or on smaller groupings of monuments. Here Sieglinde Seele’s Lexikon der Bismarck-Denkmäler (2005) deserves special mention. Much has been written both in German and in English on modern German history and, more specifically, on German nationalism in the 19th century, but very little literature in English is available on the monuments. This book, therefore, hopes to be of service to those who might have an interest in the subject but read German only with difficulty or not all. It is not meant to be an exhaustive study of German nationalism, but rather...

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