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Unit information: Transnational Nation: Germany 1840–1990 in 2020/21

Unit name Transnational Nation: Germany 1840–1990
Unit code GERM20047
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Davies
Open unit status Not open

Open, subject to sufficient knowledge of German (at least A-Level or equivalent)



School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


From the first, failed attempt to unify the German-speaking lands in 1848 to Germany’s formation as the state we know today, Germans have always sought to understand who they are by looking not just inwards, but across the globe. Germans, like their fellow Europeans, were curious about cultures that were different from their own; they travelled abroad as fleeing persecution and in search of better lives, and as researchers, missionaries and colonists. ‘German’ literature has been translated into other languages and ‘foreign’ literatures have been ever-present in German culture; the arrival of outsiders in Germany has been felt as both an opportunity and a threat. The key moments at which German nationhood has been defined have always also been moments where Germans have met, in reality and in the imagination, with other cultures. Germany cannot be understood in national terms alone; encounters across its borders have always been essential to its identity. This unit analyses the political and cultural history of German transnationalism in five short periods, with each placing a distinctive theme in focus: exile and emigration beginning in the 1840s; colonialism in Imperial Germany to 1914; the legacy of colonialism in the Weimar Republic; Allied occupation after World War Two; and the immigration of the ‘Gastarbeiter’ to West Germany from the 1960s onwards. We will study the historical developments in each of these segments and work in detail on textual sources, including literary works, that deepen and complicate our understanding of each period. The unit aims to develop a rich historical and cultural knowledge; to foster an informed, questioning attitude to the legacy of ‘the global’ in Germany’s history and, by extension, more widely; and to equip its participants to analyse issues that remain acute in German society today.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who complete the unit successfully will be able to:

1. demonstrate knowledge of the transnational dimension of Germany’s modern history

2. retrieve aspects of that history independently from a range of textual media, and interpret such media critically and in detail

3. apply key critical concepts surrounding ‘the transnational’ and ‘the global’ to historical developments, at a level of complexity appropriate to Level 5

4. construct a sustained, structured, written analysis in response to set questions

5. work collaboratively to present arguments in oral form, using appropriate visual aids and supporting documentation

6. formulate their findings in language that is accurate and appropriate to the task, to a high standard of presentation

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Details

1) A group wiki page, including elements of spoken audio or video (group mark of 25%). Testing ILOs 1-3, 5 and 6.

2) A 2,500-word essay (75%). Testing ILOs 1-4 and 6.

Reading and References

David Blackbourn, The Fontana History of Germany 1780-1918 (London: Fontana, 1997), esp. chapters 2, 4 and 9 Transnational German Studies, ed. by Rebecca Braun and Ben Schofield (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, forthcoming 2019) Sandra Richter, Eine Weltgeschichte der deutschsprachigen Literatur (Munich: Bertelsmann, 2017) Winfried Speitkamp, Deutsche Kolonialgeschichte (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2014) Steven Vertovec, Transnationalism (London: Routledge, 2009)