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Defining Germany

Defining Germany

The 1848 Frankfurt Parliamentarians and National Identity

Brian E. Vick

ISBN 9780674009110

Publication date: 11/15/2002

In a unique blend of political, intellectual, and cultural history, Brian Vick explores the world of German nationalism during the first half of the nineteenth century. Vick first presents an original investigation of German conceptions of nationhood in these decades before moving on to analyze the efforts of deputies at the Frankfurt Constituent National Assembly to construct a German national state based on the ethnically diverse German Confederation. He examines debates over fundamental issues that included citizenship qualifications, minority linguistic rights, Jewish emancipation, and territorial disputes, and offers valuable insights into nineteenth-century liberal opinion on the Jewish Question, language policy, and ideas of race.

Contrary to the often invoked dichotomy between cultural and political types of nationalism, in which the German case is usually seen as prototypical of the xenophobic, exclusionary cultural form, this study reveals how German nationalists at Frankfurt interwove cultural and political strands of the national ideal so finely as to sanction equal citizenship status in the proposed state for both the German-Jewish minority and the non-German-speaking nationalities within its boundaries. Yet deputies also contentiously defined Germany's borders so as to incorporate the latter, often unwilling groups, thereby hoping to dominate them both culturally and politically. Conflict was thus as much a part of this "culture of nationhood" as inclusion.


  • A richly contextual account that breaks down many of the received teleologies regarding the formation of German nationalism. Brian Vick examines a broad range of opinion among major and minor thinkers as well as parliamentarians of the Frankfurt assembly, producing a detailed picture of the political culture of the German middle class. The overall effect of the book is to emphasize the plasticity of nationalism and to re-embed the German case within a wider European framework. This makes a major contribution to the debate on liberalism and nationalism, furthering a more differentiated understanding of their aspirations and weaknesses.

    —Konrad H. Jarausch, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


  • Brian E. Vick is Associate Professor of History at Emory University.

Book Details

  • 302 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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