Germany, 1914-1933: Politics, Society and Culture

February 24, 2011

Author: Matthew Stibbe

Edition: First

Publisher: Pearson Longman

Pages: 288

Price: £16.99

ISBN 9781405801362

The general analysis of the history of the Weimar Republic (1919-33) is dominated by two approaches: one that highlights distinctive periods from its post-First World War origins up until its slow demise, triggered by the Wall Street crash in 1929; the other concentrates on distinctive themes - such as cultural advances or the role of women. Germany, 1914-1933: Politics, Society and Culture by Matthew Stibbe, reader in history at Sheffield Hallam University, employs both approaches - and here the role of the First World War serves to illuminate not only political developments but cultural topics too.

The individual chapters mirror the book's overall approach. The first three focus on various aspects of the First World War and consider both the political establishment and the realities of daily life confronting the home front and the fighting front. The chapter on political and psychological consequences of the war deals with the war's legacy, acknowledges the Republic's achievements and pays particular attention to George Mosse's argument that German politics were characterised by "brutalisation".

"Economy and society in the 1920s" highlights the fate that confronted the poor, the middle and the upper classes in the cities and provinces. The discussion of the Republic's end illuminates the workings of left- and right-wing forces and the systemic failures the democracy was plagued with. Stibbe's conclusion evaluates (dis)continuities and myths that are attached to the Weimar Republic.

The importance of the war also runs through the chapter on Weimar culture, which includes a discussion of the leisure industry that began to serve the masses in the 1920s, and the predominance in that industry of sex, sexuality and misogyny. Here, as elsewhere, the author introduces the relevant research, highlighting various interpretations.

It is commendable that Stibbe includes older studies such as Peter Gay's 1968 work Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider, which has lost none of its interpretative appeal and importance. This chapter is a good example of what emerges as one of the study's strengths: it is inclusive, breaking down the barriers between historical, economic, political and cultural developments, and provides a rounded and convincing overall picture.

The chapter entitled "Weimar culture" is also the home of a section concerned with the role of Jewish communities and individuals in Weimar Germany - thereby considering not only their great importance in the Republic's intellectual scene, but also German society's intrinsic anti-Semitism as a phenomenon that was not dictated just by politics but by culture, too.

The text includes a number of additional features that are helpful for students: images, a chronology, one map and a glossary, as well as footnotes at the end of each chapter, a bibliography and an index.

Who is it for? Undergraduate history and modern languages students with culture and history-based options will find this very useful, as will A-level students of history.

Presentation: Clear, concise, thought-provoking.

Would you recommend it? This topical introduction works very well in setting the scene, explaining different approaches and stimulating further in-depth study.

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