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Reading Berlin 1900 Hardcover – April 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Berlin was transformed from the courtly seat of an arriviste principality into a bustling modern city. The court of the Hohenzollerns that dominated the city in the 1880s had, by the 1910s, become just one colorful aspect of a varied and pulsating metropolis. These two books deal in differing ways with this transformation. LaForgue offers the brief eyewitness account of a French poet in the employ of the court of the 1880s. He reflects a cultured Frenchman's critical assessment of court functions and the beginnings of metropolitan life. Fritzsche (history, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) uses theories of reading as well as analysis of the varied and flourishing popular press and novels of the early 1900s to form a picture of a complex society on the eve of an epoch that would be dominated by Germany. Taken together, these two books form a fascinating picture of the evolving metropolis. Both books are well written and accessible to the serious reader. LaForgue's sensitivity as a poet and the felicity of this translation make his account especially pleasurable for general readers. Fritzsche's book is aimed at an academic audience but is well organized, clear, interesting, and reasonably jargon-free as well as being the first to take this kind of approach to dealing with Berlin. Both deserve to be in larger collections of European history or literature.?Barbara L. Walden, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Fritzsche...does a nice job of reconstructing the city of words that Ullstein and other publishers reared in the newspaper district on the Kochstrasse. (Anthony Grafton New York Review of Books)

Peter Fritzsche's book engages in marvelous explorations of interactions between turn-of-the-century Berlin, the deluge of contemporary texts about it, and the metropolitan personality that grew in its frenzied environment...Not only an acute observer of urban texts, he draws extensively on current theory about spectatorship, cultural history, and urban studies, demonstrating, as with his earlier books, an admirable ability to think widely about an emergent mass society...This book, and the word-city it explores, will produce a plurality of readings that disorganize and reorganize urban phenomena and their relation to German history. Its major strengths lie in the profusion of Fritzsche's ideas about the German metropolis and in the exhilarating instruction he gives to historians about learning better to use their eyes and imaginations. (Katherine Roper American Historical Review)

In Reading Berlin, Peter Fritzsche admirably captures the sense of dizzying change, excitement, despair, titillation, and disgust which accompanied Berlin's emergence as a self-proclaimed Weltstadt in the years before World War One. His decision to focus his study on the newspaper culture of Wilhelmine Berlin is salutory, for the city's mass-circulation press gives him a window onto the processes by which the city was perceived, interpreted and represented by its denizens. (Warren Breckman Journal of Social History)

There is no shortage of studies by cultural historians addressing the rapid and unique development of Berlin from a medium-sized Prussian residence to a world-class metropolis during the period between 1871 and the First World War. Among these, Peter Fritzsche's Reading Berlin ranks as one of the most intriguing and, in my opinion, one of the best. Fritzsche does not write a cultural history of the city--he lets the city write it, and he reads the city as a text. The source for this text is the newspaper page, that is, the popular press--the mass-circulation papers...[and] Peter Fritzsche uses the collage of newspaper impressions to create a valid picture of Wilhelmine Berlin...Reading Berlin is an excellent book. It is very well written, and it reflects an enormous knowledge--not only of historical details but also of the literature and arts of the time. The book's fourteen illustrations are well chosen and are not the standard fare of 'Kaisers Deutschland.' The notes are thorough and should be of help to anyone wanting to engage in further research on the subject or on Berlin around in general. Reading Berlin can be recommended to scholars and to the general public, to historians as well as Germanists, indeed, to anyone with a serious interest in urban culture and the urban experience. (Gerhard Weiss Journal of Modern History)

Reading Berlin marks an important step forward in charting responses to the modern city...In inquiring into the actual perceptions of turn-of-the-century Berliners and how they understood themselves and their city, Fritzsche's sensitive and thoroughgoing exploration of the `word city' of metropolitan newspapers is especially apt. (John Bingham Canadian Journal of History)

[Reading Berlin has] an argument that, together with Fritzsche's quotations from the inherently lively sources with which he deals, makes a fresh and stimulating contribution to our understanding of metropolitan life. (Andrew Lees Culture in Modern Germany)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674748816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674748811
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,954,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Yaakov Ben Shalom on October 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
Fritzsche examines how newspapers in turn-of-the-century Berlin were integral to urban life. Newspapers shaped their readers' understanding of the city as the city grew too large for any one person to know it all. Newspapers acted as guides to the city for newcomers (where to find jobs, where to find apartments) and guides to the city for the working class and lower-middle class (where to go on the weekend, how to act on a streetcar). The newspapers reported on the urban spectacle (scandals and suicides, performances in the theater and prostitutes on the street). But newspapers also created the urban spectacle by announcing and reporting events such as automobile races, zeppelin flights, and department store grand openings. At these events, social classes mixed. Through this mixing and by reading the same newspapers, an urban community with similar likes and dislikes--informed by newspapers' editorializing--formed.

Reading Berlin 1900 presents a fascinating topic, but it is not always a great read. Makes no bones about it: This is an academic cultural history. There is no shortage of cumbersome prose and postmodern theory. Additionally, it helps if the reader is already familiar with the layout of Berlin and knows some basic German and French.
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