The aim of this sweeping new history of Germany is to examine the whole of the German experience instead of dwelling on the dark aberration of the Third Reich. Ozment (ancient & modern history, Harvard) has authored several important works on German history, but this new book may stand as his chief legacy. In a concise and readable manner, he surveys 2000 years of German civilization, from ancient and barbarian times through the present, highlighting key political and cultural personalities along the way to add life to what could have been just a dry overview. A central theme for Ozment is that "Germans have embraced ideals of order and authority without totalitarianism, and pursued freedom and equality without liberal democracy." Their historical experience has made them more wary of anarchy rather than tyranny, and so they have relied on "good order" and discipline to guide their politics throughout the centuries. Ozment regards the Weimar Republic and National Socialism periods as "novel experiments" that must be viewed in light of the long course of German history. Both provocative and accessible, this work will have wide appeal. The final chapter, "The Composite German," which covers Germany since World War II, would be ideal for comparative government courses at the college level. Recommended for most libraries. Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"Can a more than 2000-year-old civilization be defined by its last 150 years?" The answer here appears to be a qualified yes. German history stretches into deep antiquity, writes Ozment (History/Harvard Univ.; Ancestors, 2001, etc.), though it properly fragments into tribal subcategories: the history of the Ostrogoths is not necessarily that of the Franks, the latter the subject of an uncomfortable truth-namely, that France and Germany share common ancestors in a "common barbarian past." (A French scholar who pointed this out was sentenced to jail time in his homeland.) Why, then, do the French not speak German? Perhaps because, as Ozment observes, "By the standards of the ancient world, the Germanic tribes were magnanimous in triumph, allowing Roman language, law, government, and religion-Roman Christianity-to shape medieval Europe." Ozment's survey of German history packs a vast amount of information into a comparatively few number of pages, and it hits on all the expected high points: Charlemagne's empire, the Reformation, Frederick the Great's enlightened regime, the Bismarckian union of duchies, principalities, and free states to form modern Germany, while giving plenty of weight to the darker episodes, particularly the 12-year rule of Hitler. Can all of these historical data, and particularly those of more recent vintage, be used to construct a psychobiography of the German people, as so many have tried to do before? Ozment initially resists the idea, writing, "Germans are among the most difficult Europeans to fathom and the one European people without whom the story of that civilization cannot intelligibly be told." Yet by the end of this well-told overview, he is comfortable inwriting that the "present-day German is five persons in one, three of whom remain ineradicably German" and in hazarding the opinion that Germans of the future will be, if the past is a reliable guide, less given to individualism and more inclined to order, leading to "a tighter democracy by comparison with that of today." A useful and welcome survey, though some may take issue with Ozment's generalizations. Agency: Writer's Representatives