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Germany: A Nation in Its Time: Before, During, and After Nationalism, 1500-2000

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Germany: A Nation in Its Time: Before, During, and After Nationalism, 1500-2000

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An epic in the tradition of Jonathan Spence’s The Search for Modern China and Jill Lepore’s These Truths, Helmut Walser Smith’s sterling work promises to redefine our perception of German history. For nearly a century, conventional historians have depicted Germany as a rabidly nationalist land, born in a sea of aggression, its nineteenth-century ascent accompanied by militarism and brought to a murderous apex in the Third Reich. Not so, asserts Smith, who, beginning in 1500, reveals early and even surprisingly pacific conceptions of the nation, and allows us to see the Nazis’ extreme form of nationalism not as the dark culmination point of German history, but rather as an essential episode in Germany’s centuries-long history of continually conceiving the nation in radically different ways. Whether chronicling the Thirty Years War, the German Enlightenment of Goethe and Schiller, the Weimar Republic, the Holocaust, or the era of Angela Merkel, Smith has created a new standard for the twenty-first-century.

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