German History Society conference programme available now

The programme for the German History Society annual conference, at the University of Leicester between 13 and 15 September 2018, is now available via the GHS website.

There are too many standout sessions and papers to spotlight here, but I am particularly looking forward to Peter Wilson’s keynote about new research approaches to the Thirty Years’ War. Wilson’s work, The Thirty Years War: Europe‘s Tragedy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), is, in my opinion, the most complete and impressive history of that conflict, and one of the many reasons why some of my own research is drifting in that direction (watch this space!) Other than this, it will of course be fantastic to see my colleague, mentor, and friend Matthew Fitzpatrick again, and to follow his exciting new work in the understanding of German imperial policy and its relationship to the colonies. Matt’s musings on his research can be followed at his fantastic blog, which I encourage everyone to follow.

German history is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, as historians try to move away from the overwhelming focus on the dozen years of National Socialism, and once more begin publishing on the centuries of history that the country and region have experienced. The GHS conference will be a wonderful confluence of minds. If you’re in the general vicinity of Leicester in September, why not come have a gander?

Symposium, Universität Passau, 8 June 2018

On 26 May 1818, the Bavarian King Maximilian I Joseph granted his state a liberal constitution. This was a ground-breaking moment in the history of Bavaria and in southern Germany, and was part of a process of ‘compulsory constitutionalism’ that followed the German Restoration after the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna. This year is the bicentenary of this momentous occasion and, to that end, the Universität Passau — in particular the Faculty of Law — is hosting a symposium, entitled “Die Bayerische Verfassung von 1818”, to take place on 8 June 2018.

My own research has focused not on Bavaria, but rather on its western neighbour, the Kingdom of Württemberg. Because of this, I will be giving a paper at this symposium, entitled “Die Württemberger Verfassung 1819 als Kulminationspunkt südwestdeutscher Verfassungsidentität” (“The Württemberg Constitution of 1819 as the Culminating Point of Southwest German Constitutional Identity”), in which I will discuss the basis of the Württemberg equivalent, which passed in the following year, and its role in constructing or bolstering a form of communal identity.

I am fortunate to be taking part along with some of the great constitutional and legal historians of Europe, including Prof. Dr. Fabian Wittreck (Münster), Prof. Dr. Luigi Lacchè (Macerata), Prof. Dr. Sebastian Martens (Passau), Prof. Dr. Bettina Noltenius (Passau), and Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Dietmar Willoweit (Würzburg), among others.

The day promises to be a fascinating exchange of ideas, with relevance not just to the specifics of the 1818 constitution, but indeed to the idea(l) of constitutionalism and the identification of a community of belonging.

German History Society conference, Leicester, September 2018

I will be speaking at the German History Society annual conference, being held this year at the University of Leicester between 13 and 15 September 2018. I’m appearing on a panel along with Dr. Anna Ross (University of Warwick) and Dr. Jean-Michel Johnston (University of Oxford), the panel topic being State and Society after 1848. My paper is entitled “The Myth of the Ultraösterreichischern: Particularism and Patriotism in Württemberg and the South after 1848″, and the abstract is below:

Southern German Mittelstaaten played prominent roles during the 1848 revolutions, and many of the key revolutionary protagonists hailed from these states. In spite of this, with some exceptions the south German states are typically ignored in the aftermath of the failure of the revolutionary project. In the standard narrative, 1848 stands as a ‘last hurrah’ of Mittelstaat autonomy; what followed, particularly after the post-1849 reaction, was best characterised by a mixture of servitude and obsequiousness, with most states reaffirming their commitment to an Austrian-led Germany. 1848 is thus the moment of rupture between the Metternich era and a more sympathetic rapprochement between Vienna, Stuttgart, Munich, and Karlsruhe.

This reading, however, ignores the complexities of Mittelstaat politics, and assumes that a correlation of southern states siding with Austria in German disputes implies a causation of fealty. In reality, the revolutions and their aftermath provided a catalyst for a gradual distancing of the Mittelstaaten from Austrian policy, and a souring of attitudes towards Vienna. Using the Kingdom of Württemberg as a case study, this paper demonstrates that, far from demonstrating so-called ‘ultra-Austrian tendencies’, between 1849 and 1866 the southern states manipulated their relationships with the Habsburg Empire to their own ends. Far from the end of Metternich signifying a new, positive era in Austro-German relations, between the end of the Frankfurt Assembly and the triumph of the Prussian army at Königgrätz diplomatic ties in the centre of Europe were strained, fractious, and frequently and cynically exploited.

The German History Society is a fantastic professional academic organisation, and is responsible for the publication of the journal German History, as well as a series of monographs (Studies in German History) in conjunction with Oxford University Press. Anyone with an interest in German history in general would be well advised to see if they can put together a trip to Leicester in September!