HARVARD HISTORICAL STUDIES
Cover: News from Germany: The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900–1945, from Harvard University PressCover: News from Germany in HARDCOVER

Harvard Historical Studies 190

News from Germany

The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900–1945

A timely book: if we are concerned about governments manipulating the news across borders in the present, we need to understand how they did this in the past… News From Germany provides much-needed historical depth to the current debate about media power and the age of ‘surveillance capitalism.’ No one would suspect today’s media and internet giants of following anything like the Third Reich’s murderous, totalitarian strategies. Yet Tworek’s well-researched analysis has contemporary resonance. The Nazis’ priority, Goebbels explained, was not to indoctrinate, but to entertain the masses—and gain as much information about them as possible.—Jan Rüger, Financial Times

Tworek reveals how officials in the Weimar government, believing they were acting in the best interests of democracy, created structures to oversee and regulate news supply. This led to policies, such as restricting political advocacy from the radio, intended to forestall inflaming partisan passions. Ironically, it was the state’s tight control over the news supply that allowed the Nazis to swiftly take over the country’s communications channels and remake them to serve their interests.The Washington Post

Riveting… From 1900 to 1945, reveals historian Heidi Tworek, Germany strove mightily to achieve world power through news agencies, spoken radio and wireless, urged on by figures from Weimar Republic foreign minister Gustav Stresemann to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. A chillingly timely cautionary tale, demonstrating that once elites destroy democratic institutions, a free press cannot prevent further disintegration.—Barbara Kiser, Nature

A major contribution to our understanding of modern European—and indeed global—history. Tworek underscores the dangers that democratic regimes confront when elites lose faith in democratic institutions—a lesson for our own troubled times.—Richard John, author of Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications

As Professor Tworek shows us in this brilliant new book, battles over ‘fake news’—or, as she rightly terms it, information warfare—have a long history. By illuminating earlier attempts to turn words into weapons, she helps us better understand the challenges that we face today.—Mary Elise Sarotte, author of The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall

To help us understand the media, Tworek employs some strikingly apt distinctions: between published and public opinion, between the news system and the news vehicle, between the production of news and the art and science of its control. At the end she points out something so simple and brilliant: ‘It’s surprisingly hard to make money from news.’ True! Those trying to understand our crisis in journalism today should start with this book.—Jay Rosen, New York University and PressThink (pressthink.org)

A riveting and beautifully written account, which combines a history of technology and the media with political narrative, that reveals the largely unknown story of the centrality of communications in Germany’s grasp for world power in the first half of the twentieth century.—Harold James, author of Making the European Monetary Union

Information War, the weaponization of information, Putin, trolls, ISIS, Trump…the vast spread of today’s malign influence campaigns can seem dizzying and confusingly new. However it’s not the first time this has happened, and to understand the underlying issues one needs to see how the competition over the communications space has played out before. Tworek’s book is an expert and readable guide to the wars of information hegemony in the early twentieth century, and one reads it not only to understand the past, but to grasp the present.—Peter Pomerantsev, author of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia

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