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There can be little doubt that West German society underwent significant change in the two decades after the end of World War II caused in part by the influence of the United States in a period of often fierce competition and conflict with the Soviet bloc and its societal model. The degrees of social change and American hegemonic pressure, which varied from issue to issue, are reflected in the contributions to this section. They show that in some instances the transformations were quite dramatic, whereas other areas of society saw a type of reconstruction that restored what had existed before the rise of the Nazi dictatorship but did not recast it.
This introduction grapples with the question of restoration or reform in the western parts of Germany after the Nazi dictatorship and total war, on the one hand, and the American impact on German society during the two decades after 1945, on the other. I am concerned with the country's basic social structure as it emerged from the rubble of the “German catastrophe” after 1945 and try to address complex problems of social change and of influences that the United States, the hegemonic power of the West, may have exerted.
Through his research and teaching, John Röhl has made a major contribution to our knowledge and understanding of the Wilhelmine period and his achievements are rightly being honoured with this collection of essays by his friends and students. However, the sixty-fifth birthday of an eminent scholar who has tilled the field of the history of the German Empire for some forty years, beginning with his Cambridge doctoral thesis and reaching its latest, though by no means final culmination point in 2001 with the publication of the second volume of his biography of Wilhelm II, covering the years 1888 to 1900, is also a good moment to take stock again of where we are in this field.
This is the purpose of this chapter which, I hope, will also resolve a confusion that may have arisen in the minds of some readers with regard to its subtitle. To be sure, the history of Wilhelmine Germany as history does not have a present and future, only a past. But the history of that period as historiography does have a present and future. Even if historians do not like to look ahead, preferring to leave prediction to the social scientists, I will pluck up all my courage to offer at least a few speculations and hopes about where the field might be going, especially with respect to the decade before 1914 which will be at the centre of Röhl's volume iii.
However, there is the constraint of a strict word limit.
This rather brief essay represents an attempt to raise a problem relating to the direction that much of recent research on Imperial Germany has taken. The deliberations that follow emerge from a renewed and quite extensive reading of the secondary literature on the history of the German Empire that I undertook in connection with my contribution to the 1806–1918 volume of the 10th edition of Gebhardt's Handbuch der Deutschen Geschichte, edited by Jürgen Kocka. Although my research interests had moved into other fields of German and European history following my work on the sociopolitical history of the Wilhelmian period, I confess that, like so many fellow historians, I continue to be fascinated by those decades before 1914. So, even if I have not been back to the archives, I have been trying to follow the no doubt rich “post-Bielefeld” output of what are by now at least two consecutive generations of younger scholars in this field.
This essay is concerned with the role of the “big” foundations in the United States during the “American Century” and with the ways in which their activities related to the projection of the country's political, economic, and cultural power around the globe. In order to provide some fresh empirical backup for the more general arguments about the subject, central parts of what follows focus on the work of the Ford Foundation, which from 1948 onward grew to become the largest philanthropic organization in the world, spending millions of dollars every year on international projects.
Because the major expansion of American foundation activity did not occur until after the end of World War II, however, the topic also raises the question as to when the “American Century” in fact began if seen through the lens of the historian of corporate capitalism and of culture. Whatever the time frame of the political historian, certainly from the perspective of cultural and business history a very plausible case can be made that, broadly speaking, the year 1900 must be the starting point. It was at the turn of the century that Europe – then still the power center of the world – began to perceive the United States as the new world power of the future not merely in terms of political and military potential but also – and indeed most particularly so – in terms of industrial-technological and cultural power and influence.
This chapter addresses the questions of how far a link can be established between the armaments policies of the Bismarckian empire of 1871 and efforts to create a unified nation, and how far the identification with that nation was reflected in Imperial Germany's preparations for war. It is concerned with the impact of what has been called Rüstungsnationalismus (arms-based nationalism) on society and politics before 1914.
Although the liberals of central Europe had worked quite hard in the decades prior to the founding of the German Empire to generate a German national consciousness based on a common language, historical and cultural experiences, and geography, they still were far from having achieved widespread popular identification with a German nation-state when Otto von Bismarck succeeded in uniting Germany under Prussian leadership in 1871. However one may judge his achievements, no one was more aware than the first Reich chancellor himself that much still had to be done to bring about a solid identification with the new Reich among the 40 million people who now lived within its borders.
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