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PREFACE MY INTEREST in Germany arose out of the Second World War. Those who lived through that terrible conflict will remember the sense of excitement which accompanied the news of invasions and campaigns on distant continents. And they will also recall the battle of words in which countless books and magazines described to a curious America an enemy nation which within the lifetime of a single generation had recovered from political disaster to achieve political domination. No state had ever come so close to the mastery of Europe, no state was ever forced to such a calamitous surrender. Its rise began less than a century ago, when a land of pleasant landscapes and romantic ruins boldly transformed its economy, reorganized its political system, and constructed a military machine of unrivaled efficiency. But, unable to satisfy its civic aspirations within the liberal tradition, it came to place increasing reliance on will-o'-the-wisp autocratic principles which led it deeper and deeper into a morass of authoritarianism to catastrophe. To study German history is to witness the unfolding of a national tragedy, a tragedy of a people stumbling mesmerized into the abyss. The revolutionary events of I 848 attracted my special attention . For here Central Europe was exposed to influences and forces long familiar to western states. Here the ideals of freedom and unity inspired a political movement which briefly overcame the tradition of conservatism. And here liberalism suffered a defeat from which it never recovered. As Mr. A.J.P. Taylor puts it, "German history reached its turningpoint and failed to turn." Yet how differently things might have turned out had Heinrich von Gagern become the architect of German unity instead of Otto von Bismarck. Would a parliamentary system of government have embraced so blindly a policy of blood and iron? Would democratic statesmen have taken the fatal road to Sarajevo? Would a public [ vii ] PREFACE opinion nurtured on freedom have tolerated the Third Reich? The failure of the Revolution strengthened ideas and practices which led Europe to the holocaust. The penalty for the mistakes of 1848 was paid not in 1849, but in 1918, in 1933, and in 1945. An examination of the causes and results of the Revolution thus seemed to me an important undertaking. But once I came to grips with it, I began to discover unexpected difficulties . First of all, I soon realized that an understanding of the political events of 1848 involved an investigation of the economic and social forces which drove the masses of Germany to insurrection. Secondly, these economic and social forces themselves could be properly evaluated only in the light of developments originating in the Restoration and culminating in the German Empire. It became apparent that the Revolution was the expression not only of ideological forces like nationalism and liberalism, but also of deep-seated popular dissatisfactions engendered by the transition from agrarian manorialism to industrial capitalism. Indeed, throughout the first half of the nineteenth century politics in Central Europe were profoundly affected by a painful social adjustment to new economic conditions. While parliamentarians and businessmen fought the policies of princes and landowners, the lower classes were engaged in a life-and-death struggle against the consequences of industrialization. And their influence on the direction of national growth was of paramount importance. My purpose is to analyze that influence. The stirring political events of the years between Metternich and Bismarck are familiar in story and history. But outside the palaces and the legislatures, outside the universities and the government offices stretched overcrowded fields and teeming slums where the masses earned their daily bread. For the uprooted guildsman , the unemployed journeyman, the lackland peasant, and the agricultural laborer the conflict between liberal and conservative , between nationalist and particularist was of little [ viii ] PREFACE interest. Their major concern was the endless fight for survival , and in ideology they looked only for relief from want. During the Restoration they pleaded their cause before established authority. Then, embittered by thirty years of disappointment , they turned to parliamentarianism. And at last, after bourgeois constitutionalists had failed them, they threw their support to a patriarchal legitimism of social welfare. Their efforts to ward off economic disaster had a vital effect on political life for more than fifty years, until the final triumph of the Industrial Revolution destroyed the precapitalistic world of independent artisans and small farmers. I have tried to re-create that world. The task, difficult at best, would have been altogether impossible without the generous assistance...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400882755
Related ISBN
9780691007557
MARC Record
OCLC
966782625
Pages
360
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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