From Bismarck to Goebbels: Biography and German History 1870–1945 - 30 credits (HS1829)
Module Tutor: Toby Thacker
German history between 1870 and 1945 has often been imagined as dominated by ‘great men’, significant individuals who single-handedly shaped the course of events. This module will examine the ways in which some of these individuals have been represented in biographical writing, examining the potential and problems of this historical mode. It will focus on the political career of Bismarck, the ‘Iron Chancellor’ often credited with forging German unity in 1871, and on the life and career of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister, described on the front cover of a recent German magazine as ‘the man who made Hitler’. The module will be framed by contextual sessions devoted to the development of biography, and will also present a series of case studies in differing biographical modes, two devoted to collective studies of early Nazi supporters (one primarily psychoanalytic in methodology, one sociological), and two looking at the biographical representation of great German composers between 1870 and 1945. The course is underpinned by the study of a wide range of primary sources and an analysis of the problems associated with them.
Dr Toby Thacker research interest focus on propaganda and culture in Germany, citizenship and identity in twentieth century German, and writing biographies. His recent study, Joseph Goebbels: Life and Death (2009), is the first to be written since the entire set of Goebbels’ diaries has been published and offers important new contentions and insights.
Preliminary Reading for this module:
Fritz Stern, Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder and the Building of the German Empire (New York: Knopf, 1977)
Edgar Feuchtwanger, Bismarck (London and New York: Routledge, 2002)
Robert Gerwarth, The Bismarck Myth: Weimar Germany and the Legacy of the Iron Chancellor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)
Bruce Waller, Bismarck (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997)
Toby Thacker, Joseph Goebbels: Life and Death (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)
Peter Fritzsche, Life and Death in the Third Reich (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2008)
Theodore Abel (ed.), Why Hitler Came into Power ( Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1986)
Dietrich Orlow, A History of the Nazi Party (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1971), 2 volumes
Barbara Caine, Biography and History (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)