Monday, 30 April 2007

A little serious history

As I have been reading more about the German migrant experience, I have realised how little I know about German history. My current task is to rectify that without getting too distracted from my other research.

By chance I was able to pick up a German history book for $1 at our local library’s annual sale. I was thrilled with my “take” -- $20 for 22 books and I got to feel good by supporting the library.

The book I found was The Fontana History of Germany, 1780 to 1918: The Long Nineteenth Century by David Blackbourn which covers the very period in which I am interested. Blackbourn is a historian who is currently director of The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University. Academic credentials aside, the blurb talks about his interest in social, political and cultural change examined through study of “migration, housing, diet, crime and medicine” and calls it a “powerful and original book…essential for anyone interested in modern German history.”

I am pleased that it is a “serious” history, but it does mean that it is a bit of a dry read, rhapsodies of the blurb notwithstanding.

I am in the middle of a section on the economic and social transformation of Germany between 1849 and 1880. Coming up is an explanation of the factors influencing the massive migrations of the later part of the nineteenth century. This should give me some insight into the lives of the Jaeckels before they left Germany and the social conditions of the times. Reports on my progress will follow.

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