In many ways, the story of Germany in the 20th century is really the story of the 20th Century as a whole. Germany lies at the center of communism and capitalism, of militarism and consumerism, of nationalism and fascism, of two World Wars and the Cold War. Moreover, the emergence of a new, reunified Germany after 1989 set forth an optimistic view for a global 21st Century. While that optimism may have faded, Germany’s role in the world has not. As Angela Merkel’s 16 years as Chancellor come to a conclusion in 2021, she is widely considered to have taken the mantle as leader of the free world: unthinkable thirty years before.
This course looks at contemporary German politics, but with historical context. First, we briefly explore the tumult of German history in the 19th and 20th centuries, to understand many of the historical dynamics that shape German political institutions, policies, and culture. Then we look at German political institutions and policy domains, to understand contemporary politics and policymaking in Europe’s largest economy and strongest power.