When the Berlin Wall came down, historians found themselves unexpectedly challenged to reassess the nature of the German Democratic Republic.
The period since the transformational changes of 1989-90 has seen feverish activity in the archives, as historians have sought to deepen understanding of how the regime functioned and to move beyond earlier views inescapably conditioned by Cold War antagonisms.
No historical consensus has emerge and the controversy about the GDR is undiminished, in part because of the continuing importance of interpretations of the GDR's history to German political culture. The proliferation of published research has shifted the contours of debate and given rise to new issues, not always in clear-cut fashion. This study of the East German dictatorship is the first detailed mapping of the area, identifying key interpretational issues, describing the evolution of different approaches to them, and providing the author's own evaluation. A wide range of themes is covered, from state/society relations to the role of opposition to the GDR's place in the longer sweep of German history, and central aspects of the regime's foundation, internal organization, social and economic system, collapse, and 'after-life' receive close attention.