Europe in the Nineteenth Century

California State University, Sacramento
Departments of History 
College of Arts and Letters

Fall 2000






George S. Craft                                                                                         Fall 2000
             Math/History 131: 278-6400 (I have voice mail)
           E-mail: gcraft@csus.edu


This course will conduct a comparative study of the development of France and Germany in the 19th century, roughly from the Congress of Vienna (1815) to the outbreak of World War I. It starts from the assumption that both countries belong to a common civilization, and yet have important differences due to their distinct national traditions. The conventional wisdom is that they are very different (economy, political traditions, etc.). We will test this generalization. 

Some specific questions: 

What were the similarities and differences in the economies of the two countries? Was the German economy really much more advanced by the end of the century? If so, how do you account for the difference? 

What were the differences in the two countries’ political traditions (a parliamentary democracy with a weak executive; and a mixed political system with important elements of traditional privilege and authoritarianism)? How does one account for the differences? 

What were the different impacts of the French Revolution on the two countries? 

Why were revolutionary forces more powerful in France than in Germany in the late 18th and 19th centuries? Why did the revolutionary impulse die out in France after 1870? 

Describe precisely the process of national unification in Germany in the 1860’s. What was the impact of this process on the German political tradition and on international relations? 

After so many constitutional experiments, why did France finally settle on a republic in the 1870’s? Might one describe the 3rd Republic a “success” in the years before World War I? 

What were the real events behind the scenes in the Dreyfus Affair (1894-99) in France?  What was its political impact? 

What was the impact of Bismarck’ s political system and of his leadership on the German political community? How did the operation of the system change in the Wilhelminian days? Was Germany in a serious crisis on the eve of World War I? 

What are the relative responsibilities of the two nations for the outbreak of World War I? 

What happened to Germany in these hundred years?  How did you get from a nation of philosophers and poets to her sad record in the 20th century? 



The following books are assigned for the course: 

Gordon Wright. France in Modern Times.  A classic text on the history of France since the 18th century that has been revised many times. Very judicious and balanced analyses from an outstandingly clear mind. 

David Blackbourne, The Long Nineteenth Century: A History of Germany, 1780-1918. A new (1998) text on Germany that is well written and places political developments in social and economic context. 

W. N. Medlicott, Bismarck and Modern Germany. A sensible, clear and insightful short treatment of Bismarck, his career and his impact on Germany. Since this book is out of print, it will be available in photocopied format. 

Theodor Fontane, Effi Briest (1894).  A classic German novel set in the upper reaches of German society (Hamburg, Pomerania, Berlin) at the end of the 19th century.  Written in the realist style.  Very sad.  Good for studying the German upper classes and for a late look at “good” Germany. 

Michael Burns, France and the Dreyfus Affair: A Documentary History.  Good brief, colorful and reasonably analytical account of the Dreyfus Affair with many primary documents included. 

You will receive dittoed handouts of additional material, especially source materials (contemporary documents) and excerpts from recent monographs. There may be some audio­visual materials (e.g., a selection of Punch cartoons in the mid-l9th century).   


The course will follow a lecture-discussion format. The course is carefully structured, all appearances to the contrary. You will be given specific reading assignments which you will be expected to complete on time. As most of the learning will occur in class, I expect you to attend class regularly, and even if you don’t participate frequently in discussions, you should be “wrestling” with the material in some way. 

To encourage student participation in class discussions, I will divide the class into “discussion specialist” teams of two students. I will assign specific topics and readings to the teams in the course of the semester. You will not be expected to make presentations in class or lead class discussions; but I expect the assigned specialists to have completed the assigned reading, to be well-informed on the subject matter, to respond to questions posed by the instructor, to provide additional insights and alternative interpretations, to recount piquant stories about historical personalities, etc.   


There will be three exams spaced at roughly equal intervals through the semester: 

Exam #1 -- approximately Friday, September 29.
            Exam #2 -- approximately Monday, November 6.
            Exam #3 -- Monday, December 11, 10:15 am (this exam will not be comprehensive). 

            Each exam will consist of two parts:  

-- Scantron test: 50+ questions taken on a Scantron Form 882. The questions will be straightforward and based almost entirely on material covered in class. You will receive numerous sample questions to study before the test. 

-- Essay: a take-home thought essay chosen from a list of suggested questions distributed about two weeks before the exam. You will be asked to analyze and interpret an historical issue discussed in class. The essay should be about 1000 words. I prefer it typed; if you are unable to type it, I will accept handwritten essays on one side of the page, double-spaced, and neatly written. This essay will be due about a week after the test.  For further information on these essays, consult the instruction sheet on “Thought Papers” that I will distribute. 

You will thus have six grades, each of which will count equally in the computation of your grade. 

I consider attendance in class an extremely important part of the learning process. I will take attendance most days. If your attendance record is below about 85% (about 5 in 6), your final grade may be penalized. You may lose from a fractional grade point (e.g., B to B-) up to a whole point (e.g., C to D) for poor attendance.   

READING ASSIGNMENTS  (Approximate beginning dates in parentheses): 

Europe before 1815  (August 30)
 France from the Revolution to the Restoration                                      Wright 41-83

             Germany -- in the late 18th century                                                      Blackbourne,
   Prologue, 1-44
             -- Response to Napoleon                                                     Black, 47-90


1815-1848 (September 8)

            France -- Political developments: the Restoration                                   Wright, chs. 9 & 10

                                    and the July Monarchy 

Germany in Restoration and Vormärz Period                                         Black, 91-137                  

 The Revolutions of 1848 (September 18)

             France -- When France sneezes, Europe catches a cold.                      Wright, ch. 11 

Germany -- Was it a failure?                                                                 Black 138-173

1848-1875 – “The Era of Liberalism” (September 25)
France --          Economy and Society                                                   Wright, chs. 13 & 14

                        Louis Napoleon’s Second Empire, 1852-70                 Wright, ch. 12 

Germany --      Economy and Society (short)                                        Black, 175-224 

The Crimean War – impact on Central Europe 

Reaction (1850’s) and Unification (1862-71) under Bismarck:               Black, 225-259

            Prussia conquers Germany!  Defeat Austria (1866)                               Medlicott, Part I

            and then France (1870-71) (October 6)                                                Wright, ch. 16  


            What is different about Europe after 1870? (October 23) 

Economics (October 25)

France -- Economy: French economy “retard”              Wright, chs. 21 & 22

-- Society: triumph of the bourgeoisie 

The German Economy — burgeoning and high tech                   Black, 313-350 

The 1870’s and 1880’s

             France — The founding and consolidation of the                       Wright, Ch. 18

                                    Third Republic: its institutions. (November 1)                                   

                         Germany Under Bismarck, 1871-1890. (November 6)             Black, 259-69

                                                                                                             Medlicott, Pt. II 

             Fontane, Effi Briest  (November 13)                                      Effi Briest                

             The Dreyfus Affair in France (1894-99) (November 20)                      Wright, chs. 19 & 20                          The facts of the case; why?                                                      Burns, France and                           Its meaning – for France and for the world.                                        Dreyfus Affair

 Wilhelminian Germany, 1890-1918 (November 29)                                         Black, 351-399

             Evolution of prewar German society                                         Black, 400-441

Wilhelm II; was Germany in crisis in 1914? 

The Coming of War To what extent was Germany responsible            Wright, ch. 24

             for World War I? (December 6)                                              Black, 441-460


Send problems, comments or suggestions to: gcraft@csus.edu
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