British obsession with German history

201311The financial crisis, and Germany’s subsequent role as a reluctant ‘saviour of the eurozone’, has  given rise to a renewed discussion of the country’s historical role in Europe. In the UK, this debate has borne especially strange fruit. At the beginning of the crisis, the supposed ‘national trauma’ of the Weimar hyperinflation has been used to explain Germany’s alleged reluctance to enter a more active role. Now the tone has changed to a fear of a too powerful Germany: the Daily Mail recently predicted another war started by Germany, while the cover of the current edition of the New Statesman talks of a ‘German problem’, depicting Angela Merkel and Helmut Kohl alongside Bismarck and Hitler. In the accompanying article, historian Brendan Simms describes the long way towards German democracy, all the way from the 15th century, but goes on to argue that  it only took the last five years to put it all in danger again.

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