I don't care that Hawes isn't an academic historian - neither is Andrew Marr - but this is back of the envelope, pub rant stuff from a hundred pages onward. Oct 28, Ioannis Papagiannis rated it really liked it. Finally understood what Prussia was. After all these years of seeing it appearing and disappearing in European history maps. It is safe to say this author is no big fan of it. Germany has always been a divided country I bought this book in the airport on my way home from Berlin because I was interested in German history and this seemed like a good place to start.
And I was not wrong about that. It is a great place to start because it is so short and condensed. There were definitely times when I found myself think 'what about this' or 'what about that' and these things were never adressed or answered. But it dind't ruin the book for or my understanding of the subject.
The Shortest History of Germany – A Book Review
These were simply things I found interesting and wanted to know more about. My favourite part of this book was actually these thesis that James Hawes puts forward, that Germany is, in essense, a divided country. East and West Germany was not a product of the Cold War, it has always been divided like this. Of course, Germany has always consisted of many smaller states, but what Hawes here says is that even at this time, there was a difference between eastern and western states. The defining line here was the river Elbe, and this has been the dividing factor since Ceasar's time.
That part of the book I found really fascinating and it sort of shone a new light on German history for me. The one thing I felt was lacking from this book was a 'suggested reading' section or bibliography. When your aim is to boil a really big subject down into a page book, you have to provide a list of other books for your reather to dive into after reading this. That is at least my opinion. Had there been a suggested reading list I would have given this 5 stars. Will you help me? May 27, Alice rated it liked it. As a reference text for sorting out dates and chronology over the span of approximately 2, years in a mere pages, I think it does a pretty good job.
Jul 07, Miguel Pinto rated it it was amazing. Clearly written, not boring it focus on fact without putting you to sleep. This is not an history book, it is propaganda. It is based on some crazy idea of the author and I am wondering how could a publisher decided that it was worthy. I gave up after a while because there seemed to be no point in keep on reading rubbish, Thanks Netgalley for the preview. Apr 22, Stanislav Stanchev rated it really liked it Shelves: ir-and-history. I am impressed with how much James Hawes has accomplished in just pages of image-rich and small-format pages.
To me, the book has three layers on which it can be appreciated: First, the reader is served an engaging and accessible tale of 2, years of German history. I particularly enjoyed the many maps and the interspersed etymological facts such as the English pound Sterling being derived from Easterling, referring to the reliable money of the Hansa merchants on the German Baltic Coast.
S I am impressed with how much James Hawes has accomplished in just pages of image-rich and small-format pages. Second, the author supplements his historiography with succinct analyses of critical junctures that shaped the course of this history. These analytical points are frequently condensed into simple, parsimonious equations as illustrated below , ripe for contention and discussion. The author traces the significant intra-German west-east differences and tensions in terms of religion, culture, economy and the attitude towards the state in the period Thus, he convincingly argues that Germany was divided already before the post-WW2 iron curtain partitioning by the Allies.
Hawes naturally points out that the European Union had its beginnings in exactly this sort of neo-Carolingian geographical setup. Though it can seem eyebrow-raising at first, Hawes is not alone to present this sort of analysis: That the east-west divide cuts across Europe and across Germany has also been eloquently formulated by Ivan Krastev along with a good piece on the difference between western and eastern conservatism , among others. Using these pronouns is of course very awkward for me with my eastern genes and birthplace and western passport and coming-of-age.
That some borders — like the Roman limes or the river Elbe — are destined to remain permanent? Even Samuel Huntington was less pessimistic, at least drawing the inescapable civilizational fault line further east. It is pertinent to ask if Europe really would have been in a better geopolitical and economic state if Germany had not been re unified and if the EU had not been enlarged to the east. And though counterfactuals are very difficult to present and evaluate, I remain convinced that Europe as a whole has benefited from looking beyond the Elbe. Because of the EU, many states in Eastern Europe e.
And the tensions between centre and periphery are felt everywhere. Sharp, short and sweet? In the end, the concise format and parsimonious causal arguments of The Shortest History of Germany are both its greatest strengths and its biggest shortcomings. The main point is driven with force and precision already from Tacitus and all the way to Merkel.
I very much appreciated this approach. It made the book feel less like a tedious political science master thesis and more like an impactful essay. It is up to the reader to ask the critical questions and to discuss rather than outright accept all of the arguments and conclusions. I learned just as much from his points as from the questions he prompted me to ask for instance, it is not quite certain that Sterling is derived from Hansa traders, as the Oxford Dictionary explicitly states. Taking all of the above into consideration, I can highly recommend The Shortest History of Germany for anyone interested in European history, society and politics.
It is a remarkable feat to produce something so accessible, so comprehensive and so thought-provoking that can easily be read in a single afternoon. Dec 02, Kirsty rated it did not like it Shelves: december Whilst in Munich with my boyfriend in February of this year, I mentioned that I'd love to learn more about German history.
I have a sound grasp of it from the Weimar Republic up until the fall of the Berlin Wall, and have studied the period between and intensively, but I knew very little about earlier eras. James Hawes' The Shortest History of Germany therefore sounded as though it would be perfect to fill in those gaps. It rings alarm bells for me when history books do not include a bi Whilst in Munich with my boyfriend in February of this year, I mentioned that I'd love to learn more about German history.
It rings alarm bells for me when history books do not include a bibliography or list of sources, and this omits both entirely. There are no footnotes to denote where a quote has been taken from, and sometimes things are quoted - in italics! Had I noticed this before purchasing The Shortest History of Germany , it would have gone straight back onto the shelf. The placing of text, maps, and diagrams here is so awkward, and makes for an unpleasant reading experience.
Every pictorial source has been placed into the main body of text, sometimes randomly and without commentary, and therefore some of the text has been rendered into a column. I really did not enjoy the format, and think it would been easier to read, and more accessible, had all of the non-textual sources been grouped together on glossy paper, something most other history books include as a matter of course. This is not my only qualm in this respect, because many of these sources were poor in quality, and therefore the text was blurred. Most of them added very little to the book.
The way in which the quotes were not embedded in the main body of text, but appeared randomly in greyscale boxes - again, with barely a source to denote where they had been found - was annoying and unnecessary. I did not enjoy Hawes' writing style at all, and did not appreciate the constant references which he tried to draw between particular elements of German history and the present day. This made it feel even fluffier than a history book with no appendix or bibliography already feels.
Whilst The Shortest History of Germany has a relatively linear structure, the way in which it has been partitioned into sections is odd. Hawes' commentary felt as though it was all over the place due to the way in which what he includes here has both been set out and handled. I did read it all the way through, but only because it is such a short book; on reflection, I wish I hadn't bothered. The book, as one might expect, is incredibly brief, and not at all comprehensive. Far more attention was focused upon the twentieth-century than anything else, and whilst I can understand this to a point, it made the whole feel highly uneven.
It also became far more biased as time went on, and his tone felt patronising at points. I'd like to say that I learnt a lot from this book, but as there is no concrete evidence to show what Hawes had read - if anything! If it had been submitted as even an undergraduate thesis, I doubt it would have received a very good mark, with the unnecessary omission of the bibliography, and its quite clumsy writing at times.
It feels almost as though Hawes has chosen to include so many charts, graphs, maps, and newspaper clippings - many of which are barely legible - in order to detract from his often skewed perspectives and cursory mentions of really rather important things. There are many short books which I have read that effectively give the history of a particular topic in succinct and immersive ways, and which also include a comprehensive list of sources for further reading.
The omission of such an important thing here was a mistake. In consequence, I will never read anything of Hawes' again, as I am unsure whether I can trust what he includes. Mar 24, Rosie rated it liked it. I had very mixed thoughts on this book. On the one hand, he's drawn the history together very well in that he shows its continuity.
This makes a much more readable and compelling history than - as so often happens - it being treated as separate events that are isolated from one another. However, Hawes clearly has his own biases that crop up throughout the book. In an early map of Europe 'In the Proto-Beginning', xi he labels northern Germany 'Proto Germans' and the Mediterranean, specifically I had very mixed thoughts on this book. I wasn't sure if I was being overly critical but civilisation seems a particularly loaded term. This seems to be part of his wider bias towards West Germany. It becomes clear in the last few pages where he talks of Germany's future and says that 'Merkel must hold firm and recall the Roman limes; Charlemagne's renaissance; the Golden Age of medieval Germany; the south western realms which fought in vain against Prussia in ; the hapless southern and western Germans shackled by Bismarck to war against Russia; the doomed southern and western Germans who never voted for Hitler but got him all the same; and Adenauer's late, lamented West Germany It must now act and it must now be embraced, as what it was always meant to be: a mightyland at the very heart of the West.
I would not say 'The Shortest History of Germany' is impartial by any means - and credit where it's due, I've not seen anywhere claim it would be - but it casts a shadow on much of the rest of the work. When I saw this book, I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the history of Germany. Disappointment set in almost from the moment I opened the book.
Non-existent documentation, an overly familiar writing style, and blatant political bias plagued the account. In a small book such as this, one expects superficial treatment; however, the author's biases seem to drive what he glosses over and what he treats more in-depth. The author needs to return to writing fiction and refrain from non-fic When I saw this book, I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the history of Germany.
The author needs to return to writing fiction and refrain from non-fiction unless he plans to document his work and ignore his own biases. I received an advance electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review. The book's index was not included in the version I read. Oct 29, Radiantflux rated it liked it Shelves: history , europe , germany. Interesting polemical essay, arguing that the recent rise of neo-nazism in East Germany is nothing new, and that there are really two Germanys, one east and one west of the Elbe, that have existed since Roman times.
I am not sure I buy all the arguments, but an enjoyable and provocative read. View 2 comments. Oct 14, Peter Castine rated it it was ok. Was going to give this only one star… but then I reminded myself that Hawes is primarily an author of fiction. As a work of historical fiction, the book gets a nudge upwards.
Even then, the strategies used to make the desired point are anything but subtle. If we are to take the book at the face value of its title, I understand that to keep 2, years of history short it's going to be necessary to simplify, smooth over details, and leave things out. But still, the book deliberately skips over eno Was going to give this only one star… but then I reminded myself that Hawes is primarily an author of fiction.
But still, the book deliberately skips over enormous bits of important history, and always points that would inconveniently get in the way of Hawes' thesis of two Germanys that don't belong together in opposition to Willy Brandt's famous comment "that which belongs together will grow [back] together. Hawes repeatedly confuses the natural boundary of the Elba river as a "fault line," but it is nothing of the sort. Yes, there are nuances between the East and West, but there are also nuances between North and South, as well as many further subtle regional variations, but if anything fewer differences than between north and south of the Tyne in Great Britain never mind the regional differences in the US.
I wonder is Hawes would make analogous claims that Britain north and south of the Tyne should be made into two different countries at least public opinion in Scotland would be much closer to a toss-up on that than in Germany. Ditto for east and west of the Irish sea, or west of Bristol, or even north of the Trent. The book's problems start in the first chapter with the claim of Julius Cesar essentially "discovering" Germany, despite the fact that the Germanic tribes already had numerous ties in trade with the Mediterranean a claim rather like the notion that Columbus "discovered" America.
The last chapter roughly from the 30 Years War to current times is rife with omissions, and notably anything that would weaken the notion of "good" Catholic Germans in the West and South and "bad" Lutheran Germans in the East is left out: no mention of the schism in the Lutheran church during the —45 period, with one half denouncing Naziism, no mention of Nazi support with the Catholic church both admittedly difficult topics in need of nuanced handling, but to not mention either while claiming blanket support from the one side is simply bad history.
The list could go on and on, but perhaps this gives an idea of just how much spin is used to support a flimsy argument. Perhaps the one positive point about Hawes' thesis that Germany should have its borders end at the east at the Elbe without even hinting at what should become of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Thuringia is that it might serve as a counterbalance to the few voices from the far right calling for a return to pre-war borders.
But both ideas are equally delusional in contemporary Europe. Jun 24, AnnaG rated it it was amazing Shelves: mind-expander , non-fiction , , history , favorites , travel. This is a swoop over 2, years of history that can be read in a couple of hours. It gives an interesting insight into the history of Germany. Some parts are brushed over rather lightly making it hard to understand exactly what is going on, but with the brevity, you don't get bogged down in the detail. The theory advanced that modern Germany is really a fusion of two separate cultures that have kept experiencing different developmental pressures is interesting and not one I'd heard before.
Whil This is a swoop over 2, years of history that can be read in a couple of hours. Whilst taking it's central premise with a pinch of salt, I do see this as an interesting case study showing how regions that have been through constant war and have porous and ill-defined borders such as East Elbia have very different political priorities than the relatively more peaceful areas.
This high-level view shows how this can persist over centuries with continual reinforcement. As an example - were the Junkers and the cultural effects there-of just a symptom of the need for military strength in a region with the geography of East Elbia? Do you get analogous structures in places with similar geography e. Cossacks in Russia? Oct 11, Paul Stevenson rated it it was ok. To some extent, that is really true of all histories, especially pop histories.
Especially short ones. It started off promisingly enough, sketching out a picture of the Roman interactions with the peoples of Germania, and proceeding from there, keeping in mind the boundaries at the Roman time as a template through which to remember what passed before.
By the time it gets near the present day, the idea of the east-west boundaries that existed at Roman times remains key to the author's thoughts, but now, with a dread lurch in my stomach, I realise that Hawes's argument includes a racial stereotyping that should long have stopped being voiced -- that those Slavs from the East are just in-built too different from the much better people from the West who are capable of "Western Civilisation", whatever that is Hawes never says.
It's actually a long book to come up with a trite conclusions that humans are not one race and some "races" are inferior and unchangeable.
Well, there's that and the suggestion that protestants and catholics split along similar lines too with catholics being the goodies. How did the publishers manage to get positive quotes for the cover? Well, The Spectator, The Oldie, and some selected academics, okay. The best they could find from the Economist was "A must-read" which could mean many things.
But Philip Pullman Oh, Philip. Oct 30, Belinda Carvalho rated it did not like it. I got off to quite a bad start with this. I bought it as a Kindle edition, I genuinely thought it was going to be a short bite-sized book that I could use to brush up on my Germany history. Unfortunatley this wasn't to be , as this book is compeletely revisionist and falls into an opinion-based view on real events that have been put through James Hawes mind an emerge bearing little resemblance to reality and actual history. Have you ever Welllllllllllllllllllllll Have you ever read the historical sections on the royals that the Mail on Sunday does?
This is the approach that has been taken in this entire book. That's not to say that there weren't interesting sections, interesting facts or that it isn't an overall entertaining read in parts, it's just not correct and the way it has been titled and marketed is particularly dangerous for readers who don't know anything about Germany and may not know that this is not correct. I frequently found myself wondering what is the story with the publishing house that put this out?
The writer has a thesis.. West germans are the 'good Germans'. Germany definitely has issues but this analysis is compeltely false. Jul 15, Kevin Gibbons rated it did not like it. This book is dishonest history. The main argument is based on a distinction between cultural "West Germans" who are descended from those tribes which were under the power of the Roman Empire, and "East Germans" who were never 'civilized'.
This distinction is a fantasy, based on some idealized and, indeed, sterilized idea of what the Roman Empire was. Rather than the source of all democratic and liberal thought, the Roman Empire is more accurately characterized by its "state-worship" and "scar- This book is dishonest history. Rather than the source of all democratic and liberal thought, the Roman Empire is more accurately characterized by its "state-worship" and "scar-faced militarism", the exact descriptors Hawes uses to describe the non-Romanized "East Elbians", than its commitment to liberal ideals.
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If Hawes was right that the cultural monolith of the German People is properly conceived of as two distinct peoples, then in actuality the West Germans ought to be the ones with a militaristic, autocratic streak not the Easterners. But this is not the case. Hawes, lacking any realistic study of the romans, is therefore forced to make the wildest inferences to support his claim. One has to wonder why Hawes is willing to go to these rhetorical lengths to defend such an obviously weak thesis, given that he does seem to possess a sweeping command of the relevant names, dates, and events.
In the end though, all one can do is wonder. It's a country that gives a strong impression of unity and shared purpose, with its richer western population having poured trillions into the coffers of their eastern neighbours over the past 30 years to pursue an ideal of reunification. Sitting at the heart of the European Union, Germany has shown moral leadership over the refugee crisis, and although its approach to enforcing austerity on weaker eurozone members has been criticised, it is increasingly regarded post-Trump as the guardian of a liberal, democratic world order.
This short history upsets some of the above preconceptions by demonstrating that for much of its history, Germany has not been united at all. In fact, he argues, there have always been two different Germanys pulling against each other: one west-facing and closer to 'civilisation', the other wilder, east-facing, more rural and more dangerous. The Knights, bolstered by their connections with the powerful Hanseatic League of merchants, chose in to reject the Catholic Church and embrace the teachings of Luther - though as with Henry VIII, the decision wasn't made entirely on spiritual grounds.
Prussia's militaristic streak continued down the centuries. By the midth century, it was dominated by the aristocratic Junkers, who were big fans of going round dressed in military uniform and lording it over their serfs yes, they were still allowed to have serfs. By contrast, the western half of Germany was closer to Rome and the Pope.
However, the glory days didn't last forever. Following the devastating Thirty Years War, it broke into innumerable statelets, and was dominated by the French during the 18th century, leaving Prussia able to present itself as the 'true Germany'. The die was cast when the British, seeking a bulwark against French expansion, gave a chunk of the Rhineland to Prussia in seen by Hawes as one of the most fateful miscalculations in history.
This industrialised, populous region provided wealth for the Prussian army, but old, East Elbian Prussia still called the shots, crushing a liberal revolution in and eventually seizing control of all Germany by force. By , Bismarck had created a German Empire encompassing the Rhineland, Prussia, many of the smaller German states, Alsace-Lorraine and considerable chunks of what is now Poland.
The author excels at tracing what he sees as the two Germanys through centuries of history. His argument culminates in the claim that more authoritarian forces in the eastern part of the country are still exerting a malign and disproportionate influence over its politics. Any book of this length odd pages that aims to tell the story of an entire nation is making a heroic effort.
Hawes devotes over half of the book to the last years, meaning that the earlier sections feel a little compressed in places. Yet the book is unfailingly readable, enlivened by maps and diagrams, and the compelling thesis of 'the impossible double country' ties it together. I found it a very useful corrective to my ignorance, filling in some of the many gaps in my knowledge of Germany and Europe. Apr 24, Hristian Trendafilov rated it really liked it. I found this quite interesting. I really liked how history was traced from the beginning ie Bronze Age, pre Roman encounters all the way to the Present.
It is interesting because then you can see certain themes emerge. I've noticed this when I've traced other region's history in total and I found surprising coincidences. So the author argues there's an overlapping theme of West Germany vs East Germany. The rich against the powerful. So there is an opinion stated throughout the book.
So I canno I found this quite interesting. So I cannot say it's unbiased. But I cant say it's boring too. I found this approach very refreshing. True, some parts did feel rushed and more detail could have been added. Yes, a counter argument would have been good. Yes, a counter argument would have contributed to completeness.
But then that would have disallowed the clear tracking of the main theses the author comes forth with. It's a well enough and engaging enough history in good sizeable to digest chunks. I'd defo consider it a worthy read. This is an excellent book. An easy to read but fully informative History of Germany. Amazing how often History can repeat itself with different people in control. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to learn the History of the world we live in.
Check out my review at my blog using the link below! Mar 08, Stephen rated it really liked it. Amazing coverage of years in just over pages. Good to just get the most important points in one go. Most negative reviews hone in on the fact that this is just a poorly justified thesis that East Germany is culturally different from the rest of Germany because it was never fully romanised.
I kinda agree with this, especially the last pages just really tried to hammer home this opinion. One thing I did like was small pieces of etymological detail for example, the origin of the word st Amazing coverage of years in just over pages. One thing I did like was small pieces of etymological detail for example, the origin of the word sterling in relation to the Pound.
Overall, I would recommend this as a good overview and to get an idea of the history of Germany and to possibly find a more narrow area of interest to read more deeply about. Structured in a clear and wide-ranging manner - necessary due to covering a couple of thousand years in less than pages - but Hawes manages it well, and makes good use of text, images, maps and box-outs.
This is a good book for introducing someone with limited knowledge of German history to the plethora of events that have occurred in the nation. There are some periods or events in history that many have some knowledge of: the Reformation, and both world wars; but there are others that aren't traditionally covered in education that covered in this small volume.
Having read reviews on Goodreads prior to reading Hawes' short history, I took some of his personal comments and emphasis with a pinch of salt. There is a definite emphasis on the East Elbian influence in the country and Hawes does focus in on the region being on the wrong side of history. If you want a book to act as an introduction to Germany then it is perfect, but if you want a legitimate source for unbiased research then perhaps this isn't the book for you. I enjoyed reading about Martin Luther, Prussia and the twentieth century. I had little-to-none knowledge of the history of Prussia - in the UK, most European history taught in schools focuses on the Second World War.
So, by having plenty of pages dedicated to the figures, events and politics of Prussia, I have been able to fill in a gap of knowledge that I had. The release of the paperback edition coincided quite well for me, as I am off on a trip to Berlin this month, so I have learned a bit more about the country I am visiting.
Hopefully I can put some of this newly-acquired knowledge to good use when visiting places like the Bundestag, Charlottenburg Palace and Checkpoint Charlie. Apr 29, Laura rated it really liked it. A great book about a very interesting topic. This is one of the books that show that history, unlike many of us experienced in school, doesn't have to be dry and boring. It's an entertaining read that taught me about the bigger power struggles in Europe over centuries, but also about my own family history. Does it go in to a lot of detail?
Is it unbiased? Is that an issue? This is not a history book in the classical sense of the word. It is not a regurgitation of facts that we have he A great book about a very interesting topic. It is not a regurgitation of facts that we have heard many times before. As the book goes on it becomes clear that the reader is being subjected to a poorly constructed barrage of lies-by-omission, error and ideological nonsense.
A view which totally fails to appreciate that Marxism took off in a big way after World War I because he was, in fact, right about so many things. I was more or less prepared for this particular bit of nonsense, as his view of Marx was heavily insinuated in his earlier discussion of Hegel. Rather than address the painful schism that ripped through the German working class after WWI, which resulted in the Social Democratic government hiring mercenaries to violently suppress their own people, he simply shrugs his shoulders and ignores it, blaming incitement by communists for the whole debacle.
The only mention of the great German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg is in a picture caption — her ideas are ignored and her brutal murder is entirely omitted. The stench of his fascist semi-apologism becomes almost too much to bear as the book continues, and I was tempted to simply give up several times, despite it being a short and very basic text. How like modern Polish far right revisionism this sounds.
As I mentioned above, the writing at times borders on almost anti-semitic. The clearest example being when he dismisses the post-war East German government as a prefabricated puppet government installed by Moscow. Maybe those East Germans who heroically purged their society of slav and jew hatred were the wrong kind of jews? Hawes more or less skips the GDR and the cold war as an irrelevant aberration. Strange, as this book is so much a product of the cold war that it could have been written by the CIA.
The Shortest History of Germany by James Hawes- My Book Review
Whether this is because he knows next to nothing about East German society, or because he actively wants to wipe it out of the history books is unclear. Perhaps the only thing I agreed with in this whole sorry segment is that process by which reunification was undertaken was borderline criminal. However, while I see the economic terrorism and cultural purges of East German civil society as being the issue at hand including the totally unnecessary dismantling of its world class health system , Hawes objects to his beloved West Germany being saddled with an inferior society to subsidise.
Iconic image of the Freikorps mercenaries executing a defiant young communist in Guess who James Hawes thinks are the good guys in this scene? You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email.
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