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Mark Hewitson's current research


a) The People’s Wars: German Images and Experiences of Conflict, 1792-1918

Wars have played a fundamental part in modern German history. Although infrequent, conflicts involving German states have usually been extensive and often catastrophic, constituting turning-points for Europe as a whole. The Napoleonic wars, or ‘wars of liberation’, the wars of unification, the First World War, and the Second World War decisively altered the distribution of power and relations between states on the Continent, and affected the construction and stability of a series of German regimes. This book explores how such conflicts were experienced by soldiers and civilians during wartime, and how they were subsequently imagined and understood during peacetime, from Clausewitz and Kleist to Jünger and Adorno. Without such an understanding, it is difficult to make sense of the dramatic shifts characterising the politics of Germany and Europe over the past two centuries. This study argues that the ease – or reluctance – with which Germans went to war, and the far-reaching consequences of such wars on domestic politics, were related to long-term transformations in contemporaries’ conceptualisation of conflict. The book is the first of two volumes - the other is entitled The Violence of War: Germany, 1914-1968 - and will be published by Oxford University Press in 2014.

b) Birth of a Nation: Germany, 1848-1888

This is a three-volume project examining the role of revolutionary, liberal nationalism in the formation and consolidation of a German nation-state. The study argues that many of the principal elements of national debate in Germany derived from the practical political and constitutional questions faced by liberals during and after the revolution of 1848-49. A surprising number of liberal proposals were incorporated into the defining political structure of the Kaiserreich, which in turn had significant consequences for the debates and institutions of the Weimar Republic. By viewing nationalism as a form of politics, the volumes aim to question historians’ emphasis on a supposedly late unification of Germany ‘from above’, the weakness of political parties and liberalism, and the existence of a flawed system of government. The volumes are designed to be self-contained and will be published separately:
1. A German Revolution, 1848-49
2. Revolutionary Nation, 1848-1866 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
3. German Unification, 1866-1888

c) The Decline of the West: German Conceptions of Europe and the Occident, 1880-1930

This is a project funded by the British Academy. It examines German ideas of the west and the western powers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first part of the study - on changing images of a western political axis and common western civilization - is based on popular books, journals, cartoons, paintings and films which refer to the west or, collectively, to the western states. The second part - on the extent and significance of the idea of the west in Germany - uses press, radio and newsreel reportage of Britain, France and the United States in their own right in order to find out whether such individual reports coincided with broader depictions of the west as a whole. From these sources, it is also possible to determine whether different parties favoured competing images of the western powers. The overall aim of this research is to investigate transformations of political and cultural identity in Germany during an era of changing means of communication, new types of government, shifting alliances and a destructive world war.

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