Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2013
Ere Babylon was dust,
The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child,
Met his own image walking in the garden.Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbou
Like Shelley's Magus Zoroaster, European travelers to the United States may have met their own image, if not that of the Other. The same was true for Americans who visited the old continent or expressed their private thoughts about it. Do images and perceptions of another country consist of accurate observations that mirror the reality of the perceived object? Or do those perceptions reflect the subject's own psyche, prejudices, intentions, and actions? These are the major questions that inform this book. The last century of German and American relations has witnessed a close relationship emerging from the great antagonism between the two powers during the era of the world wars. The deep mutual fascination that has developed from this changing relationship finds its antecedents in the German immigration that started in the late seventeenth century and became a mass movement in the middle of the nineteenth. Interest in the other country's constitutional development and its federal system figures as another point of engagement. The history of German-American relations offers rich material for the study of German and American mutual images and group perceptions. Exploring them will in turn allow us to map patterns of communication that have powerfully shaped the evolution of German-American relations in general. The analysis of German and American mutual images thus constitutes an important chapter in the burgeoning history of transnational perceptions.