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Politics Economics and Culture in Cold War Germany (Module)

Module description

After its total defeat in World War II, a divided Germany developed differing forms of socio-political organizations in an attempt to find a sustainable response to the challenges posed by modern industrial society. While the East experimented with state socialism, the West implemented a liberal democracy. Yet despite their political division, the two German states remained deeply interconnected through economic linkages, a shared cultural heritage, and similar ambitions to redefine their nationhood and global position. This seminar explores their special relationship against the backdrop of the global Cold War. Topics include political consolidation, East and West European integration, consumption and identity, the role of the Churches, social movements and dissent, immigration, holocaust memory and foreign policy, and reunification. It engages critically with the attempts of both German states to deal with their problematic history, and the way history was used to legitimize the different regimes. In addition, the course discusses the extent to which economic success formed the bedrock of political viability in both German states. Over the course of the semester, students will discuss primary sources and secondary historical accounts that trace Germany’s evolution from a pawn in Soviet-American relations to a major player of European political and economic integration at the end of the Cold War.

By studying Germany’s increasing regional involvement in questions of European peace and socio-economic development, this class provides an alternative perspective to scholarly debates about the stability of the postwar order in Europe. We especially examine perspectives that measure political stability with the help of concepts of socio-cultural modernization and dependencies.

Core texts

  • Kettenacker, Lothar, Germany since 1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997)
  • Jarausch, Konrad, After Hitler: Recivilizing Germans, 1945-1995 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Nicholls, Anthony J. The Bonn Republic: West German Democracy, 1945-90. London: Longmans, 1997. 
  • Fulbrook, Mary. Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside the GDR 1949-1989. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. 
  • Schissler, Hanna (ed.), The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany 1945 – 1968 (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2001)
  • Ross, C., The East German Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives in the Interpretation of the GDR (London, Arnold, 2002)
  • Banchoff, Thomas, The German Problem Transformed (Michigan University Press, Ann Arbour, 1999)

*Please note that module information is indicative and may change from year to year.


Staff information

Dr Katrin Schreiter

Teaching pattern

Two hours per week

Indicative teaching schedule

Week 1: The German Cold War and Its Historiography
Week 2: State Building – Nation Building: The Political Division of Germany
Week 3: Creating a Socialist German Society
Week 4: Democratizing Adenauer’s Germany
Week 5: Cold War Culture Wars
Week 6: Defending the State: Dissent, Reform and Reaction
Week 7: Post War Migratory Movements
Week 8: Germany in a Cold War World
Week 9: The Fall of the GDR, and the End of the “Old” Federal Republic
Week 10: The End of History?

Module assessment - more information

Group Project (15%), One x 2,500 Word Essay (85%)

Key information

Module code 5AAOB203

Credit level 5

Assessment coursework

Credit value 15

Semester Semester 2 (spring)

Study abroad module Yes