Rethinking modern German history: critical social history as a transatlantic enterprise, 1945-1989 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Stelzel, Philipp
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • My dissertation Rethinking Modern German History: Critical Social History as a Transatlantic Enterprise, 1945-1989 analyzes the intellectual exchange between German and American historians from the end of World War II to the 1980s. Several factors fostered the development of this scholarly community: growing American interest in Germany (a result of both National Socialism and the Cold War); a small but increasingly influential cohort of émigré historians researching and teaching in the United States; and the appeal of American academia to West German historians of different generations, but primarily to those born between 1930 and 1940. Within this transatlantic intellectual community, I am particularly concerned with a group of West German social historians known as the Bielefeld School who proposed to re-conceptualize history as Historical Social Science (Historische Sozialwissenschaft). Adherents of Historical Social Science in the 1960s and early 1970s also strove for a critical analysis of the roots of National Socialism. Their challenge of the West German historical profession was therefore both interpretive and methodological. My dissertation aims to revise the extant historiography in two main areas: First, in contrast to the prevailing interpretation--which views American historians of modern Germany as a monolithic group of left-liberal scholars--I emphasize their methodological, interpretive, and political breadth. Second, I question some of the predominant assumptions about the so-called Bielefeld School, in particular the supposedly high degree to which their interpretations of modern German history conformed with those of their American colleagues. Instead, I argue that the American connection, which the Bielefeld School's protagonists emphasized repeatedly, served a strategic purpose: it pitted their new, critical, and internationalized historiographical project against a parochial and old-fashioned West German historical profession. Ultimately, my dissertation not only investigates an important chapter of post-World War II transatlantic intellectual history, but also explores the political dimensions of historiography and aims to provoke historians to greater self-consciousness about the nature of their work.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of the Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of History."
  • Jarausch, Konrad Hugo
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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