Germany before Unification

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy

Table of Contents

Mar. 2nd 2011

Mar. 3rd 2011

To summarize our discussion : strictly speaking, before 1871 there has not been a German state in history. The concept of nationalism and a nation state emerged in the era of Enlightenment, the French Revolution and Napoleon. A German nationality, on the other hand, goes much further back in history, to the 9th century.
Modern German historiography developed in the aforementioned era of Enlightenment, French Revolution and Napoleon. Historians were part of the intellectual movement rejecting the political situation in which Germany was split into a large number of principalities, and envisioned one unified German nation state.
These historians faced two problems : Who is a German, and who is not, and how to treat historical political entities which ruled much, if not all of Germany, such as the (Holy Roman) Empire (of German Nation).

If you want to take on this topic, you need to establish :
(a) a timeline of important historical periods in German history. I suggest that you differentiate Germanics (which would include Anglo-Saxons, Goths, Vikings) from (Catholic) Germans, and begin your timeline with Charlemagne.
(b) such a project only makes sense if you go into German-language sources. As such qualify :
(I) school textbooks for history class. They indicate what view was politically dominent at this or that period (f.ex. in the Kaiser's days, in Nazi Germany or in the Communist GDR). (II) academic handbooks, such as Gebhardt's Handbuch der Deutschen Geschichte; they do not represent any individual's view, but rather what academic historians agreed upon at the time of publication. Search, Google Books for keywords : Handbuch + Geschichte, or Gebhardt Handbuch. Editions from c.1910 onward exist.

(III) historical encyclopedia articles. See here :,
(IV) individual historical accounts
Do not fear having to read texts in German, or in Gothic font. Reading Gothic font one can learn in half an hour. For such a project one has to learn what key terms to look for, to isolate paragraphs or sentences which are important, to try translate these with the help of a translation engine and to convert this translation into a text which makes sense.
For the time prior to 1870, what is posted on Google Books should suffice. For publications after 1870, I recommend to purchase a few selected titles as base for your resource.
Your task would be to put together a list of sources which either are accessible already or which you regard necessary for your project (a working bibliography).