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The Course of German History

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James Joll attempts to unearth the deep roots of modern Germany.

The study of foreign history presents particular problems, and nowhere more than in the case of Germany. Yet German history has a curious attraction: the more so because of its impact on our lives. The spectacle of the physical and moral collapse of a highly organized society in 1945 was an unforgettable one, and must have drawn many people, as it did the present writer, into an attempt at historical explanation. It was not only the Third Reich which had collapsed; many of the foundations of the Bismarckian Empire had crumbled. The industrial centres of Germany were at a standstill. The territorial divisions between the traditional states of Germany were being replaced by the boundaries between the lines of advance of the victorious Allied armies; vast areas in the East were being cut off and their populations expelled. If anything could be called the end of an epoch, it seemed to be this.

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