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German Nationalism and Religious Conflict Hardcover – January 9, 1995

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Editorial Reviews


"Smith describes a familiar narrative in a provocative and novel way. . . . Fruitfully using works in cultural studies, as well as the recent historiography of the politics of religion, Smith presents a finely textured account of Catholic-Protestant difference."--Choice

From the Inside Flap

"Fluent, full of spark and verve, and very enjoyable to read. Historians and political scientists concerned with modern Europe generally, historians and sociologists of religion, those interested in nationalism and state formation--this book has something to offer them all."--David Blackburn, Harvard University


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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Legacy Library
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 9, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691036241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691036243
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,843,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Karch on April 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is intended primarily for an academic audience, and is probably too dry for any but the most dedicated readers of German history. That said, Smith makes a vital contribution to the field. Starting from the Kulturkampf (clash of civilizations) of the 1870s, Smith argues that this battle waged by Bismarck and German Liberals against Catholics was really just one episode in a larger struggle for national integration waged along religious lines. Tracing the long-term history of Protestant-Catholic conflict in Germany from the 1870s until World War I, Smith concludes that the divisions created by these battles between Protestants and Catholics ultimately mediated how Germans of different faiths related to their nation. Overall, this is an important, original study of the nexus of religion and modern politics that also fits into recent trends in deconstructing German national identity.
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This is an academic work which explores various issues pertaining to the formation of a single nation out of a country historically divided into opposing religious camps. In 1870, the German state was formed after Prussia's successful campaigns against Catholic France and Catholic Austria. The "small German" state that was formed contained a population that was 2/3 Protestant and 1/3 Catholic. The Catholic/Protestant division was defined by history to be intense and antithetical. One of the many useful insights that the book provides is a map at the frontispiece that shows the division of Germany by Protestant/Catholic population density. The map is fascinating in showing how heavily segregated Germany in 1870 was, to put the information in modern American terms, it would be as if America was a checkerboard pattern of Oklahomas (90% Protestant) and New Mexicos (90% Catholics), with the New Mexicos found mostly at the periphery. Of course, this is not surprising on reflection; 200 years of the principle of "cuius regio, eius religio" would be bound to have that effect.

However, the map shows part of the problem that Bismarck faced in creating a unified Reich. The other part involved the history of mutual confessional suspicion and the fact that nearby foreign powers, and the largest unassimilated minority - the Poles - were all Catholics. It seems not unsurprising that Bismarck would have viewed the large Catholic minority, with its "ultramontane" allegiance to a foreign power, as a potential destabilizing Fifth Column. Breaking the power of the Catholic Church, or breaking the allegiance of Catholics to Rome, would seem to be an obvious policy for Bismarck, as it has been for every state builder in the 20th Century.
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