The Course of German History: A Survey of the Development of by A.J.P. Taylor

By A.J.P. Taylor

Probably the most recognized and debatable works by way of most likely the top profile historian of the 20th century.

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But the Germans received these benefits without any exertion of their own; and every liberal institution actually increased their dependence upon ‘authority’. These great reforms were liberal, but they were French. A startling consequence followed. French interference in Germany stirred into patriotism the natural resentment against the interference of strangers. Most educated Germans (themselves a tiny class) welcomed the benefits imposed by the French; a few, however, began to parade a German nationalism, the sole quality of which was hostility to French rule.

There could be no further question of national unification; the only question was whether the Emperor could succeed in unifying Germany, without popular support, solely by means of military conquest. Thus at the very beginning of modern history Germany was offered the chance of unity, not on the basis of common effort, but only after a common experience of defeat. For thirty years Charles V struggled to establish Imperial authority over the German princes, not in alliance with any German feeling, but solely with non-German military resources; Germany was to be conquered, not united.

The Reich was artificially stabilized at a medieval level of confusion and weakness. Within the framework of Westphalia, the Emperor could never become more than a titulary dignitary. On the other hand, the Peace of Westphalia marked a great victory for the house of Habsburg in their family possession: the Emperor was recognized as a great European power, not in virtue of his overlordship in Germany, but as ruler of the Austrian lands, of Bohemia, and of Hungary. Westphalia was the first international act to admit that the Habsburgs had something great, apart from their high title: in other words, it recognized the existence (though not the name) of ‘Austria’ as something distinct from Germany and so added a new element to the tangles of the German problem.

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