German Home Towns: Community, State, and General Estate, 1648-1871 / Edition 1

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German Home Towns is a social biography of the hometown Bürger from the end of the seventeenth to the beginning of the twentieth centuries. After his opening chapters on the political, social, and economic basis of town life, Mack Walker traces a painful process of decline that, while occasionally slowed or diverted, leads inexorably toward death and, in the twentieth century, transfiguration. Along the way, he addresses such topics as local government, corporate economies, and communal society. Equally important, he illuminates familiar aspects of German history in compelling ways, including the workings of the Holy Roman Empire, the Napoleonic reforms, and the revolution of 1848.

Finally, Walker examines German liberalism's underlying problem, which was to define a meaning of freedom that would make sense to both the "movers and doers" at the center and the citizens of the home towns. In the book's final chapter, Walker traces the historical extinction of the towns and their transformation into ideology. From the memory of the towns, he argues, comes Germans' "ubiquitous yearning for organic wholeness," which was to have its most sinister expression in National Socialism's false promise of a racial community.

A path-breaking work of scholarship when it was first published in 1971, German Home Towns remains an influential and engaging account of German history, filled with interesting ideas and striking insights—on cameralism, the baroque, Biedermeier culture, legal history and much more. In addition to the inner workings of community life, this book includes discussions of political theorists like Justi and Hegel, historians like Savigny and Eichhorn, philologists like Grimm. Walker is also alert to powerful long-term trends—the rise of bureaucratic states, the impact of population growth, the expansion of markets—and no less sensitive to the textures of everyday life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"German Home Towns certainly illuminates habits of life in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which were as distinctively German as the peasant world of Grimm's Fairy Tales."—Times Literary Supplement

"German Home Towns is a book of the first importance. . . . It is a compelling illustration of what can be achieved by historians who abandon over-cropped Prussia and Austria in favor of the still unexploited regions of the 'Third Germany.'"—English Historical Review

"This book breaks important new ground. . . . Walker's model provides a useful kind of framework for what should hopefully be the next stage of German urban history: a recognition, through comparison, of urban diversity and an appreciation of this diversity within the broader concept of cultural cohesiveness."—Comparative Studies in Society and History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801485084
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2014
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 487
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface to the 1998 Paperback Edition by James J. Sheehan


Part One: The Home Towns

Chapter 1. The Incubator
European politics and the Holy Roman Empire
Protection of the powerless
The German constitution and the home towns
The conditions of community

Chapter 2. The Civic Community
Constitutions: Their sources and forms
Constitutions: Internal structure
Constitutions: Government and citizenry
Infirmities and remedies

Chapter 3. Guilds
The guild economy
The Imperial Trades Edict of 1731
Guild and home town
Guild moralism and the integrated personality

Chapter 4. Walls, Webs, and Citizens
The varieties of political experience
Movers and doers
Stability, equality, and democracy
The citizen's right

Part Two. Meeting with the State

Chapter 5. Cameralism and Community
Harmony. diversity, and the theoretical contradictions of cameralism
Practical evasions of logical consequences
Johann Justi and the police power
The common weal, community, and Justus Möser

Chapter 6. Napoleonic Power in Germany
From administration to reform
Breaking up the Incubator
Breaking down membership
The consequences of confrontation

Chapter 7. Weissenburg, 1780–1825
The free town
Town Into territory
The Bavarian town

Chapter 8. Community Identified
Home towns as the German Adam: Karl Friedrich Eichhorn
Old constitutions for new
Who shall say who belongs?

Part Three. Meeting with the General Estate

Chapter 9. Undermining the Walls
The subterfuge of liberal bureaucracy
Infiltration, 1821–1825
Hand to hand

Chapter 10. Biedermeier
The Thirties: Self-government, the trades, and the Biedermeier division
Nature, the home town, and Biedermeier culture
Raising the tension: Population and economy
The social problem: Outsiders and poverty
Home Law

Chapter 11. Eighteen Forty-Eight
Inevitability and uncertainty
The view from the Paulskirche
Self-government and German unity
Back in the states
Hometownsmen and Kleinbürger

Chapter 12. Death and Transfiguration
Destruction of the environment
Community and society
Community and politics

Appendix: The Imperial Trades Edict of 1731
Abbreviations and Citations

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