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Liberal Imperialism in Germany

Liberal Imperialism in Germany: Expansionism and Nationalism, 1848-1884

Matthew P. Fitzpatrick
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Liberal Imperialism in Germany
    Book Description:

    In a work based on new archival, press, and literary sources, the author revises the picture of German imperialism as being the brainchild of a Machiavellian Bismarck or the "conservative revolutionaries" of the twentieth century. Instead, Fitzpatrick argues for the liberal origins of German imperialism, by demonstrating the links between nationalism and expansionism in a study that surveys the half century of imperialist agitation and activity leading up to the official founding of Germany's colonial empire in 1884.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-052-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    In the provocative conclusion to his 1944 Raleigh Lecture on the events of 1848, Sir Lewis Namier commented that, save for the self-justificatory mythologizing of latter-day liberals, and the timely intervention of the forces of political reaction, the expansionist desires of the Frankfurt Assembly of 1848 might have properly served as a template for the NSDAP. Citing the Russian radical Alexander Herzen, Namier claimed that “the first free word uttered after centuries of silence,” by Germany’s liberals, “was in opposition to the weak and oppressed nationalities.”¹

    Namier was, of course, discussing Central Europe, and in particular the treatment of the...

  7. Part I: A Liberal Empire for a Liberal Nation

    • Chapter 1 National Unification and Overseas Expansion at the Frankfurt National Assembly, 1848–1849
      (pp. 27-49)

      Contrary to the idea that imperialism was a late nineteenth century deviation from liberalism’s true ideals,¹ German liberals had, by 1848, reached a broad consensus that expansionism was an integral part of liberal foreign policy and of liberal national identity. Competing with conservative, Catholic, and socialist envisionings of Germany, the liberals of the 1848 period drew upon the heterogeneous imperialist theoretics of the previous two decades in order to assemble an imperialist foreign policy agenda, as a form of demarcation between themselves and the advocates of competing meta-narratives of German statehood.

      That this demarcation was necessary was a result of...

    • Chapter 2 Mythopoesis—Imperialism as Nationalism
      (pp. 50-72)

      As the Frankfurt Assembly’s President Heinrich von Gagern had remarked to Johann Tellkampf, books, treatises, and pamphlets relating to the topic of the German nation abroad had abounded for the twenty years previous to theNationalversammlung. The liberal press had also taken an interest in imperial affairs, as had German poets, songwriters, and writers of political tracts.¹ Sometimes, as was the case with Ernst Moritz Arndt and Georg Herwegh,² the poets and the politicians were one and the same. However, unlike in the realm of nationalist politics, the creation of textual treatments of German liberal imperialism continued unabated, despite the...

  8. Part II: Liberal Imperialism in the “Post-Liberal” Era

    • Chapter 3 Informal Empire and Private Sector Imperialism, 1849–1884
      (pp. 75-100)

      The period between the liberal ascendancy of 1848/49 and national unification in 1871 was an era which saw tremendous political instability, both in terms of the diplomatic and military clashes between the various German states, Denmark, and France, and in terms of the political suppression and, at least at a “national” level, political marginalization of Germany’s liberals. Given the political uncertainties that confronted German liberals in the mid nineteenth century, it is understandable that they feared for the future of their project for a united Germany. For many, the frustration that stemmed from Prussia’s abnegation of a leadership role in...

    • Chapter 4 Bürgerlich Agency and the World of the Verein 1849–1884
      (pp. 101-115)

      Complementing the liberal civil society and private sector associations agitating exclusively for empire and expansion was the enthusiasm of liberal Germans for a national navy to support global trade and secure Germany’s position as a first rank power evinced by other organizations in pre-unification Germany that were not solely dedicated to promoting expansionism. Foremost amongst these was theNationalverein,thekleindeutsch, nationalist-liberal association whose role as the voice of the German middle classes was broadly recognized and whose political agitation on the German states had far from negligible effects.¹ Independent of the state yet sure of their historical necessity in...

    • Chapter 5 Bismarck and the Sociopolitical Context of the Colonial “Umschwung”
      (pp. 116-132)

      In the years prior to 1884, Bismarck had taken every opportunity to declare his opposition to a German policy of colonial imperialism as well as to exhibit his animosity towards the notion of Germany as a naval power. In 1881, Bismarck declared, “As long as I am chancellor, we will not pursue a colonial policy. We have a fleet that cannot sail … and we should not possess any vulnerable spots in distant parts of the world, that would fall prey to the French as soon as it gets going.” Colonies for Germany were, according to Bismarck, “exactly like a...

  9. Part III: The Texts of Imperialism

    • Chapter 6 Expansionist Agitation after 1849
      (pp. 135-159)

      As imperialist commercial praxis continued unabated during the post–1848/49 era, imperialist agitation through a variety of textual forms also flourished. Whether via overtly propagandistic pamphleteering, the dissemination of imperialist themes through the liberal popular press, the positive treatment of imperialist themes in scholarly journals or through the burgeoning genre of the imperialist novel, liberal readers came to imbibe more and more material that situated German nationals as imperialists. Although the various textual forms, by reason of their context, audience, and purpose, differed in their presentation of alterity and of Germans’ relationship with it, what remained surprisingly static was the...

    • Chapter 7 Geography and Anthropology in the Service of Imperialism
      (pp. 160-176)

      In terms of scholarly literature dealing with the extra-European world, Ernst Jacob, in his 1938 collection of documentary material relating to German colonialism, listed the flurry of research devoted merely to Africa, asserting that between 1800 and 1884, around two hundred studies were published.¹ Such works were in a long tradition of scientific research of many potentially useful overseas lands that had its roots in theVormärzera.² Although some professed an overtly agitational, pro-imperialist agenda, much of the research was less obviously “committed” research, and therefore far more subtle in the assertion of a pro-imperialist position. Yet the furthering...

    • Chapter 8 Popular Culture and the Transmission of Imperialist Values
      (pp. 177-204)

      Significantly, colonial imperialism was not merely the province of political pamphleteers or the practitioners of “high politics,” and the colonial project manifested itself in several arenas of popular culture, ranging from newspapers to novels. However, perhaps due to the very nature of these texts and their distance from high politics or official culture, this form of cultural production and transmission, signaling liberal German society’s willingness to participate in imperialist undertakings, has been ignored or, at best, understated.

      As with the scientific contents of Justus Perthes’Mittheilungen,popular culture representations of the non-European world should be viewed as part of the...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 205-211)

    In discussing the nexus between nineteenth century German liberalism, nationalism, and imperialism, two fundamental questions emerge. Firstly, what evidence exists that will not only demonstrate the existence of such a linkage, but will also demonstrate its longevity and its necessity? Secondly, if this nexus existed, what forces drove and sustained it?That is, what historical forces and pressures necessitated it?

    To the first question, the narration of the numerous and continuous attempts by German liberals to conflate the three concepts should suffice as an answer. From theVormärztheorizing of Friedrich List, Hermann Blumenau, Hans Christoph von Gagern, and Johann Sturz,...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 212-233)
  12. Index
    (pp. 234-237)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 238-238)