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The Quest for the Lost Nation

The Quest for the Lost Nation: Writing History in Germany and Japan in the American Century

Sebastian Conrad
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    The Quest for the Lost Nation
    Book Description:

    Highly praised when published in Germany,The Quest for the Lost Nationis a brilliant chronicle of Germany's and Japan's struggles to reclaim a defeated national past. Sebastian Conrad compares the ways German and Japanese scholars revised national history after World War II in the shadows of fascism, surrender, and American occupation. Defeat in 1945 marked the death of the national past in both countries, yet, as Conrad proves, historians did not abandon national perspectives during reconstruction. Quite the opposite-the nation remained hidden at the center of texts as scholars tried to make sense of the past and searched for fragments of the nation they had lost. By situating both countries in the Cold War, Conrad shows that the focus on the nation can be understood only within a transnational context.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94581-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    “There can be no doubt,” German historian Hermann Heimpel declared in 1959, “that the era of a historical perspective based purely on the nation-state has come to an end. Historical studies must take a leap into the planetary future, even when examining the past.”¹ The epoch in which the nation and the nation-state were the self-evident and privileged points of departure for an understanding of the past finally—and irreversibly—appeared to be over. Heimpel was not alone in his judgment. It seemed as if the end of the Third Reich, military defeat, and the division of Germany had made...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Mapping Postwar Historiography in Germany and Japan
    (pp. 14-30)

    While the development of West German and Japanese historiography in the 1950s has only rarely been studied as a topic in its own right, there is a broad consensus among historians on its significance. And attribution of this significance could not be more diverse. In the Federal Republic, the historiography of the 1950s is treated as a sort of appendix, as the last gasp of a dying historiographical model. The crumbling traditions of historism were merely continued, it is held, without being infused with new life. The hegemony of political history remained unchallenged; history continued to be state oriented and...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Origin of the Nation: Bismarck, Meiji Ishin, and the Subject of History
    (pp. 31-77)

    In retrospect, West German historiography of the early postwar years (until around 1960) appears to many observers as a relatively homogeneous and uneventful field. Hardly any discussions were publicly conducted about the appropriate interpretation of German history. This “dearth of controversy” was a characteristic of 1950s historiography.¹ Even the hundredth anniversary of the Revolution of 1848, a few years after the end of the war, did not lead to extended discussions about its status in the course of German history. The only exception in this regard was the debate on Bismarck’s unification of the Reich, prompting participation of a wide...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Nation as Victim: Writing the History of National Socialism and Japanese Fascism
    (pp. 78-122)

    Compared with the intensive debates on the nation-state and modernity in the nineteenth century, the discussion over the history of the recent past—particularly in Germany—was characterized by what philosopher Hermann Lübbe called “a certain silence.” Today there is a general consensus that a critical debate over the history of the Third Reich and a scholarly examination of German guilt barely got off the ground in the early postwar years. For this reason, scholars speak of the 1950s in terms of the “repression” of the National Socialist era.¹ Even in Japan, discussions during the same period on the criminal...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Invention of Contemporary History
    (pp. 123-170)

    The preoccupation with the recent past was not a question of hermeneutics, of discursive regularities and strategies of interpretation, alone. At the same time, the confrontation with the “dark chapters” of history was interwoven with institutional structures and was determined by the parameters of a specific methodology for contemporary history research. This “method,” as I argue in this chapter, was by no means a neutral instrument designed to ensure a close approximation of reality. Instead, the methodology and axiomatic assumptions of contemporary historians were deeply and in complex ways integrated into the sociopolitical context of their development and formulation. The...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Temporalization of Space: Germany and Japan between East and West
    (pp. 171-234)

    Ienaga Saburōm , historian at the Pedagogical University (Kyōmiku daigaku) in Tokyo, opened hisNew History of Japan,published in 1947, with a color reproduction of a world map from the seventeenth century. In the period of the Tokugawa Shogunate “the Japanese people directed its gaze at the world for the very first time,”¹ Ienaga explained, simultaneously intimating the need to return to this perspective in the postwar period. His placement of the world map at such a prominent place suggested that now Japanese history, too, could be viewed from no other perspective than that of world history. The situation...

  9. CHAPTER SIX History and Memory: Germany and Japan, 1945–2000
    (pp. 235-262)

    Early postwar historiography in West Germany and Japan developed on the premise that a thorough revision of previous historical interpretations was unavoidable. After the caesura of 1945, generally experienced as a catastrophe in both countries, it seemed as if not only the immediate past but also the entire history of the nation would have to be fundamentally reframed. The preceding chapters argue, however, that in both countries the nation remained at the center of historical interpretation. Even though transnational and universalistic approaches emerged at the forefront after 1945, in historians’ practice the paradigm of national history remained firmly in place....

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 263-302)
    (pp. 303-376)
    (pp. 377-378)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 379-392)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 393-393)