Module Catalogue 2020/21

HIS2241 : The History of Modern Germany, 1806 until today

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Daniel Siemens
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This course provides a survey of German history in the nineteenth and twentieth century, from the end of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ in 1806 to the so-called ‘Berlin Republic’ of today. It is at the same time a political, social and cultural history of German speaking central Europe that takes the multiple identities of many parts of the region into account.
The course aims at enabling students to understand the turning points in Germany's history (1806, 1815, 1848, 1870/71, 1918-19, 1933, 1945-49, 1989-90) and to connect the different periods between them. Students will likewise be introduced to the complexity of historical structures and events in their political, social and economic aspects and foundations. Furthermore, exemplary controversies of the historiography on Germany will be discussed.
Focusing on specific themes will allow you to make comparisons over time and to understand how and why modern German history was so often complicated, painful and unstable.
The module thus aims:
• To encourage students to examine modern German history from a variety of different perspectives
• To explore primary sources and to integrate them into one’s argument
• To encourage students to think about the contingency of history and in an interdisciplinary way
• To advise students to think comparatively and to draw parallels to the history of other European empires and nations states
• To question some of our societal understandings of important concepts such as that of identity and national belonging
• To provide an opportunity to acquire a sound general knowledge of the subject, reading widely and critically in the primary and secondary literature associated with it and to develop the capacity for independent study. It is not the least aim of the course to encourage students to think critically and to develop their own research questions

Outline Of Syllabus

Many students who choose this course are probably interested in the Nazi period, and in particular in the Holocaust. Of course, we will look at the reasons for the destruction of democracy, the appeal of Nazism, and its ultimate reign of terror and genocide. However, Germany in the last two centuries was far more than the Nazi dictatorship. Therefore, this course will to a large extent deal with Germany prior to the Nazis as well as with the two German successor states that emerged from the ruins of World War II, the capitalist Federal Republic of Germany (FDR) and the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR). While respecting the chronology of historical events and processes, the course is developed around a number of recurring themes such as religion, democracy, mass culture, migration and mobility, and class. We will furthermore elaborate the importance of a critical analysis of the existing secondary literature and explore how the ‘shattered past’ is used in Germany’s society, culture and politics.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

You will learn about some of the most significant aspects of modern German history, dealing – among other things – with questions of religion, democracy, mass culture, migration and mobility, identity, gender and class. Based on this knowledge, you will be able to critically assess the exiting positions in the field and will be encouraged to develop your own research agenda. You will also become familiar with some of the current historiographical debates in modern European history, which will enable you to transfer these skills to other seminars and modules in the future. On a more general note, the module will help you to think critically of the ‘organic’ nature of nation states, its boundaries and supposedly national characteristics. You will also become acquainted with the lives of many extraordinary as well as ‘ordinary’ women and men and will be able to understand their very divers life choices, decisions, hopes and fears.
In short, you will gain:
• An in-depth knowledge of key ideas and developments in modern Central Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
• The knowledge of how to use divers primary sources such as songs, newspapers and feature film for historical analysis
• A solid understanding of important historiographical debates concerning the history of the German Reich, the Weimar Republic, National Socialism and the FDR/GDR
• A critical understanding of how and why the historical past shapes the political culture of Germany until today

Intended Skill Outcomes

• Development of the ability to formulate and answer historical questions
• Development of capacity for independent study and critical judgement and of the ability to respond promptly, cogently and clearly to new and unexpected questions arising from this study
• Development of the ability to utilise and synthesise diverse methodologies and approaches used in different academic disciplines
• Ability to work with others and to defend your own point of view
• Ability to discuss observations with peers and to link these to academic literature
• Ability to reflect on learning in the field and to measure your own learning gains

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:001/3 guided independent study
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading551:0055:001/3 guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery22:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study541:0054:001/3 guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are designed to help students understand key events and processes of modern German history as well as make them aware of the historiographical debates in the field, so that they are put in the position to critically engage with the readings assigned to this module. Comparative and transnational perspectives are particularly encouraged, which should allow them to situate the history of modern Germany in the wider European context.

Seminars will allow students to reflect on the lectures and to discuss key aspects of this module by critically analysing selected primary and secondary sources in small groups. Seminar discussions will improve the students’ oral presentation skills and their problem-solving capacities. There will also be a drop-in surgery to help them review their essay plans.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1352A75N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M252000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2020/21 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2021/22 entry will be published here in early-April 2021. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.