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The University of North Carolina Press
The Nation as a Local Metaphor: Wurttemberg, Imperial Germany, and National Memory, 1871-1918 / Edition 1

The Nation as a Local Metaphor: Wurttemberg, Imperial Germany, and National Memory, 1871-1918 / Edition 1

by Alon Confino
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All nations make themselves up as they go along, but not all make themselves up in the same way. In this study, Alon Confino explores how Germans turned national and argues that they imagined the nation as an extension of their local place.

In 1871, the work of political unification had been completed, but Germany remained a patchwork of regions with different histories and traditions. Germans had to construct a national memory to reconcile the peculiarities of the region and the totality of the nation. This identity project, examined by Confino as it evolved in the southwestern state of Württemberg, oscillated between failure and success. The national holiday of Sedan Day failed in the 1870s and 1880s to symbolically commingle localness and nationhood. Later, the idea of the Heimat, or homeland, did prove capable of representing interchangeably the locality, the region, and the nation in a distinct national narrative and in visual images.

The German nationhood project was successful, argues Confino, because Germans made the nation into an everyday, local experience through a variety of cultural forms, including museums, school textbooks, popular poems, travel guides, posters, and postcards. But it was not unique. Confino situates German nationhood within the larger context of modernity, and in doing so he raises broader questions about how people in the modern world use the past in the construction of identity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807846650
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 10/27/1997
Edition description: 1
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 1,225,341
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.78(d)

About the Author

Alon Confino is assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents


1. Thinking about German Nationhood, 1871-1918
Thinking the Nation
Thinking Germany
Collective Memory
German National Memory, 1871
Württemberg, 1871

Part I. Germany and Württemberg: An Uncomfortable Coexistence in Sedan Day
2. The Nation in the Locality
The Abdication of the State
Württemberg: Who Celebrated the Holiday, Where, and What Did It Mean?
The Celebration: Bequeathing Local and National Memories
The Pedagogical Holiday: National Wine in Local Bottles
3. Sedan Day: A Memory for All the Germans?
Society, Politics, and the Holiday
Exclusion and the Appropriation of the Nation
Rethinking German History before and after 1871: Birth of a Nation
Feeling Swabian or Feeling German?
Local Land, National Land: A Nation of Two Germanies?
4. An Unfulfilled National Community
Opposition: A National Holiday without a Nation
The 1890s and the End of Sedan Day

Part II. Germany and Württemberg: A Nation of Heimats
5. A System of Knowledge and Sensibilities
Heimat History: "Vivid, Conceivable, Popular"
Heimat Nature: Poeticalness and Practicality
Heimat Ethnography: Commemorating the Good Old Days
Heimat and Modernity: Progress and Loss
6. A National Lexicon
One, Two, Three… A Thousand German Heimats
The Word and the Organization
Heimat: The Bourgeois Homeland
Heimat Museums: A National History of Local and Everyday Life
History and Memory
7. The Nation in the Mind
Cityscape, Regionscape, Nationscape
Homo Germanicus
The German Heimat: Illo Tempora
Old Wine in New Bottles—Again?
Space I: Nature and Landscape
Space II: The Heimat Hometown
The Nation as a Mental Property
Afterword: Heimat, Germany, and Europe

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

[A] stimulating study. . . . Gives new insight into the culture of imperial Germany as well as the wider interpretation of European nationalism.—American Historical Review

An important contribution to the scholarship on German nationalism. It is a highly original and innovative analysis of the institutional links that allowed for the attachment to the Heimat to merge with the enthusiastic adhesion to the nation.—Saul Friedlander, University of California, Los Angeles

By showing how German identity was constructed from the bottom up, using local loyalties as its basic building blocks, Alon Confino gives us a wholly new and convincing view of that nation's history. His exploration of the multiple meanings of Heimat is a brilliant contribution to the growing literature on collective memory.—John Gillis, Rutgers University

[An] excellent study. . . . Such a study requires innovative thinking as well as recourse to and creative use of unusual sources so as to get at material that will reconstruct a mentality of a given era. And so Confino did all these things, and he did them well. . . . Confino's study is not merely history. It is more than history. It is a sort of political sociology that confirms the positive contributions that still can be made by the best in the academy.—European Legacy

Anyone interested in nationalism must read this book. . . . A skillful guide through the thicket of nationalist practices.—Virginia Quarterly Review

Well-written, lavishly illustrated, and meticulously documented.—Choice

Offers an important and well-researched analysis.—German Quarterly

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