'What is a German's fatherland?', asked Ernst Moritz Arndt at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This has arguably been the central question of modern German history. Germans did not have a united fatherland until 1871, and, thereafter, major political events in 1918, 1933, 1945, 1968 and 1989 ensured that the answers to Arndt's question proliferated and diverged with breath-taking speed.
Germany explains the diverse ways in which national identity has been constructed over more than three centuries. It focuses on the plurality of contested definitions of 'Germanness'. The themes covered include the struggles between democratic and non-democratic inventions of the nation, the construction of the racial nation under Nazism, economic definitions of the nation, foreigners and 'Germanness', the nation as a 'community of memory', the gendering of the national discourse, the federal nature of German nationalism and the impact of war on the construction of a German national identity. This is a fundamental reappraisal of Germany's history from a perspective available only now that the dust from the demolished Berlin Wall is settling in a reunited Germany.
Stefan Berger is Professor of Social History and Director of the Institute of Social Movements and the House for the History of the Ruhr at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.He is the author of numerous books, including Nationalizing the Past (2015) and Germany: Inventing the Nation (2004) and the editor of A Companion to Nineteenth-Century Europe: 1789-1914 (2009). He is, along with Kevin Passmore and Heiko Feldner, one of the Series Editors for Bloomsbury's successful student book series, Writing History.