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A major new series from the makers of "A History of the World in 100 Objects," exploring the fascinating and complex history of Germany from the origins of the Holy Roman Empire right up to the present day. Written and presented by Neil MacGregor, it is produced by BBC Radio 4, in partnership with the British Museum. Whilst Germany s past is too often seen through the prism A major new series from the makers of "A History of the World in 100 Objects," exploring the fascinating and complex history of Germany from the origins of the Holy Roman Empire right up to the present day. Written and presented by Neil MacGregor, it is produced by BBC Radio 4, in partnership with the British Museum. Whilst Germany s past is too often seen through the prism of the two World Wars, this series investigates a wider six hundred-year-old history of the nation through its objects. It examines the key moments that have defined Germany s past its great, world-changing achievements and its devastating tragedies and it explores the profound influence that Germany s history, culture, and inventiveness have had across Europe. The objects featured in the radio series range from large sculptures to small individual artifacts and items that are prosaic, iconic, and symbolic. Each has a story to tell and a memory to invoke."


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A major new series from the makers of "A History of the World in 100 Objects," exploring the fascinating and complex history of Germany from the origins of the Holy Roman Empire right up to the present day. Written and presented by Neil MacGregor, it is produced by BBC Radio 4, in partnership with the British Museum. Whilst Germany s past is too often seen through the prism A major new series from the makers of "A History of the World in 100 Objects," exploring the fascinating and complex history of Germany from the origins of the Holy Roman Empire right up to the present day. Written and presented by Neil MacGregor, it is produced by BBC Radio 4, in partnership with the British Museum. Whilst Germany s past is too often seen through the prism of the two World Wars, this series investigates a wider six hundred-year-old history of the nation through its objects. It examines the key moments that have defined Germany s past its great, world-changing achievements and its devastating tragedies and it explores the profound influence that Germany s history, culture, and inventiveness have had across Europe. The objects featured in the radio series range from large sculptures to small individual artifacts and items that are prosaic, iconic, and symbolic. Each has a story to tell and a memory to invoke."

30 review for Germany: Memories of a Nation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ilse

    Every moment spent reading this, was worthwhile. The thematic approach of MacGregor is highly entertaining and his lucid and witty prose is a delight to read. Instead of attempting comprehensiveness, Macgregor stitches a colorful patchwork quilt out of 30 intriguing and incisive miniature essays, illustrating masterfully Germany’s complex and fraught cultural history. The book is a remarkable encomium to modern Germany and the sensible way it gets on with his troubling past, contextualizing and Every moment spent reading this, was worthwhile. The thematic approach of MacGregor is highly entertaining and his lucid and witty prose is a delight to read. Instead of attempting comprehensiveness, Macgregor stitches a colorful patchwork quilt out of 30 intriguing and incisive miniature essays, illustrating masterfully Germany’s complex and fraught cultural history. The book is a remarkable encomium to modern Germany and the sensible way it gets on with his troubling past, contextualizing and cross-connecting brilliantly typically German matters like sausages with highlights of German culture by idiosyncratically chosen (sometimes apparently trivial) objects, artefacts, monuments. and key figures like Luther and Goethe. MacGregor convincingly demonstrates his point that there is more to Germany than the wars and the obscene Nazi horror, without sweeping its encumbered past under the carpet. I admit my inadequate knowledge on Germany is a hotchpotch of shattered fragments and outlines, for the greater part limited to the 19th and 20th century (most of the time I was asleep at school, until our history lessons reached the 19th century). The book didn’t help much to clear that perennial chaos. MacGregor is a great storyteller, but like Germany’s history itself, his book does not supply a coherent framework. Given the complexity of German history however, It would not be fair or reasonable to expect that reading a single book would suffice. Obviously one could discuss MacGregor’s choices, e.g. that he is treating the apexes of the German cultural heritage, music, literature (apart from Goethe) and philosophy, as a Cinderella. Whatever, what is the point of deploring the apparent omissions and grumping on the topics an author did not include in a book? Our illusive longing for the ultimate, comprehensive book that makes all other redundant? By the way, let’s take another promising book on the subject, Frits Boterman’s doorstopper Cultuur als macht: Cultuurgeschiedenis van Duitsland, 1800-heden which is - unlike Macgregor’s - elaborately annotated (with Germanophone sources too): it largely skips music likewise (according to my partner who has just read it). Most captivating and poignant are MacGregor’s observations on the profound and disconcerting self-reflectiveness of German art and literature regarding the suffering brought by the world wars and the Third Reich. The meditative work of Käthe Kollwitz mourning her fallen son, the paintings of Anselm Kiefer inspired by Paul Celan’s Death Fugue, the Hovering Angel by Ernst Barlach are all immensely powerful works of art inspired by and echoing the darkest pages in Germany’s history, perhaps even better than words can. MacGregor’s reflections on the impact of Luther on the German language, the third official language of my country are insightful too: For 500 years, all great German writers –Goethe, Nietzsche, Brecht, Mann, - have honed their language on, and against, Luther’s. Luther didn’t just catch the way ordinary German people spoke, he also shaped the way they would speak. In the hands of story tellers over the following centuries, and in the pages of Goethe, Luther’s German became one of the great literary languages of the world.. Also the tale about the communist Bauhaus artist Franz Ehrlich and the subversive touch he smuggled into the well-known Jedem das Seine (“To each what they are due”) motto he had to design for the gate into the hell of Buchenwald where he was imprisoned, is memorable and recalls the eternal questions on the problematic juxtaposition of Germany’s traditional high cultural and humanistic standards, symbolized by Goethe’s and Schiller’s Weimar, and Nazi barbarism. This Janus-faced Germany, Germany as “Jekyll & Hyde” (Sebastian Haffner) which continues to fascinate is not really discussed thoroughly in this book, but of course there is plenty of other literature that does. I bear in mind the intricate connection Jorge Semprún, the Spanish former communist and minister of culture, revealed between Goethe and the Buchenwald horror in his autobiographical account on his internment in Buchenwald Quel beau dimanche !, intermingling fictionalized conversations with a Goethe observing the death camp with the ones noted down by Eckermann. As MacGregor implicitly traces back the origins of the derailment of German nationalism to the French and of course Napoleon, I was wondering if this is a typical British reflex (Napoleon, that villain!). Probably, Christopher Clark’s Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 would be a great next read. Ruminating on my personal lengthy journey of coming closer to Germany, I cannot discern if this book, with its palpable admiration for German culture and optimistic, positive attitude towards the present country, could affect one’s opinion and attitude on Germany fundamentally, or could merely reach its goal when it can reinforce some constructive seeds on the idea of Germany already present in the reader. I can imagine there still is a sense of sensitivity on all things German to some Europeans, particularly those living in the countries that were occupied, still feeling somewhat uncomfortable and ambivalent with Germany and its past nowadays, due to war memories. For me neither, it was a coup de foudre with Germany. Frankly, it took a long time to surmount my petty and immature preconceptions on German culture. At the end of primary school, I had this period of fanatically reading on the wars and the Holocaust. In my rebellious teens, apart from a fascination for the Berlin underground scene, bands like Einstürzende Neubauten and the book and film about Christiane F. ,Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (largely inspired by friends who swore I could act as her lookalike), the idea of Germany was not very appealing – it stood for terror in the past and insipidness in the present (The heavy food. The schmalzy songs on the German television. The syrupy Christmas songs by Roy Black my mother played). Generally, I happen to fall in love with a country by reading its literature. The first “serious” German author I attempted to read at 17, was Gunter Grass, which killed my appetite for German literature for a long time. This was a false start. Getting older, I even more associated German culture with highly hermetic thinking and artistic expression, recalling getting an exhausting headache coming home from work by listening courteously to my spouse who was in the mood for talking about Heidegger or playing –aargh- a Mahler Symphony while cooking (at home, mixed with all the household noises, Mahler’s symphonies sound to me like a stampede by a herd of elephants - alright, I was and probably still am an ignorant philistine, at least in some respects; however, one of my philosophy professors spoke about Mahler’s music as ‘convoluted moaning’ :-)). A second and more rewarding entrance to the country went through art, visiting Documenta in Kassel, the Sculpture Project in Münster, which is held every 10 years, and Berlin’s museums. However, this artistic trip being highly internationally orientated, I could barely allege I have tasted some of the essence of Germany then. Anyway, encountering this fascinating visage of modern Germany broadened my awareness - I was very happy to get in touch with German expressionist painting. At last I came to read and greatly appreciate Mann, and postwar German literature like Sebald, Wolf, and Böll. Recently, I embarked on Döblin, Kästner and Fallada, and was enthralled. I became a Bach and Beethoven aficionada and attended some Wagner opera’s, even named our daughter Senta after the heroine in The Flying Dutchman. So very slowly Germany’s allure grew, essentially through literature and music. Matters can change! Praiseworthy food for thought, stimulating further reading and helpful to understand current events in Germany, like Dresden buying back a Kirchner painting seized by the Nazis as ‘degenerated art’, on the news only a few days ago. January 28, 2016

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Years ago when yet another hour of Hitler programming chugged on to the TV screen I'd wonder if perhaps we could have a documentary on Biedermeier era furniture just to suggest that there could be something else German that might interest the wider world than just the Third Reich. MacGregor's radio series, is in a similar style as his earlier History of the World in a Hundred Objects, making objects the starting point of a wider enquiry, may be part of a tentative thawing in the British concepti Years ago when yet another hour of Hitler programming chugged on to the TV screen I'd wonder if perhaps we could have a documentary on Biedermeier era furniture just to suggest that there could be something else German that might interest the wider world than just the Third Reich. MacGregor's radio series, is in a similar style as his earlier History of the World in a Hundred Objects, making objects the starting point of a wider enquiry, may be part of a tentative thawing in the British conception of Germany, one of several signs that the pendulum is swinging back towards the mid nineteenth century view of Germany as the home of positive inspiration, even if it is not given over to Biedermeier design but more generally to a series of topics from German cultural history. The radio series (view spoiler)[ http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/... (hide spoiler)] has now been decanted into book form. I'm still dubious about it as a book. At first glance each chapter looked to be a word for word transcriptions of the radio series, but looking again, there definitely has been some has been some editing. Each fifteen minute radio episode has been transformed into a correspondingly short chapter. The book is lavishly illustrated, with each of the thirty chapter given over to a different theme ranging from Bauhaus to Walhalla (view spoiler)[not to be confused with Valhalla, the home of the Norse gods, which remains closed to the visiting public (hide spoiler)] via renaissance lime wood sculpture (for the complete list see the spoiler above). I found that reading the chapters of this book, each as brief as the radio programmes, was less satisfactory than listening to them. I don't know if this is because MacGregor's language and presentation is really better suited to radio than to writing, or if I am simply more critical of the written word and accepting of speech, or if I am in a more critical state of mind at present. But why be narrow minded about it - all these things and more can be true. Some reviewers have given this book a five star rating. I think bearing in mind the breath of the selection of topics a case can be made for this. In terms of scope it would be hard to beat this as a one volume set of essays on German cultural history. At the same time the thirty topics selected are idiosyncratic, I suspected given the chapter on coins of the Holy Roman Empire that what MacGregor could lay his hands on for the exhibition at the British museum was the decisive issue. There is nothing for example on music, Goethe is the only writer to get in, while artists are better served (Durer, Kollwitz, Bauhaus, Barlach). MacGregor's book isn't a work of original scholarship - in this it reminds me very strongly of Freakonomics in which the authors essentially presented titbits from sociology journals with a bit of editorial comment. This was great in that most of us don't have access to libraries full of academic journals, but the authors' spin on the original story was not always worth while. Similarly MacGregor here, possibly in a hang over from the radio format, rounds off every chapter to a neat conclusion but these can sound trite and don't always reflect the richness of the discussion in the chapter. The bibliography tells it's own story about this book (view spoiler)[ some student practises live on, apparently even after the degree is confirmed (hide spoiler)] . All of the books listed are in English, very few of them are in translation. So MacGregor is apparently largely basing his knowledge of Germany on Anglophone writers. The bibliographies for some chapters name two or even only one book. The snippets we are being fed, as tasty as they are, can have but a single source(or sauce) in some cases. This could be an intellectually respectable Reader's Digest that you can dip in and out of. It could pleasantly flavour a trip to Germany, or inform some other German related reading (view spoiler)[ or music listening, or theatre visiting (hide spoiler)] without ruining your appetite or consuming all your time. Maybe this is the literary equivalent of a street corner sausage and in the German context that is not necessarily a bad thing. Memories of a Nation is messy and perhaps embracing messiness is the best thing to do in a cultural history of Germany. The first problem is one of definition - what is and what is not Germany: Strasbourg, Kalingrad (Königsberg) and Prague are in this book while Vienna and Zurich are out. Also whose memories are these? A nation does not have a memory while the collective memory within a nation can be contested. There might be dominant narratives and forgotten voices. The stories we tell about ourselves change. One of the themes here is the multitude of different people's memories and impressions. Things are remembered for different reasons by different groups, or deliberately not memorialised as in the case of the refugee handcart. Implicitly the sense I get is of the diversity of memories and of acts, occasionally intentional, that create a sense of nation. These can overlap, reinforcing each other, or feed off each other - a curious example is that the nineteenth century in Germany was apparently a great age of reforestation (view spoiler)[ the other example of a re-enforcing feedback loop that slops into consciousness is beer - Tacitus wrote that the Germans drank beer, therefore drinking beer is German and Germanness can be displayed through bierhalls and tankards and brew-culture (hide spoiler)] . Fluidity extends beyond any boundaries that MacGregor tries to impose upon himself in other ways too, the relentless editing and altering that the Brothers Grimm imposed on the stories they collected - changing mothers into step-mothers and stripping out references to pregnancy as well as to pre-marital sexuality (view spoiler)[ since in the world of Victorian values no true mother desires the death of her children and despite the existence of many of us apparently life consists of only two states: chastity and wedlock (hide spoiler)] shows as much as competing Franco-German claims over Charlemagne that culture has its own boundaries that happily ignores the lines drawn on maps. Overall the book is the inverse of a mosaic. Each tiny piece is a complete and colourful picture that doesn't come together into a coherent whole, instead forming a massy blob made up of Bismarck, Luther, Bavarian beer brewing regulations and Volkswagen Beatles. In the context of British awareness of Germany this is a significant book, but Macgregor doesn't display here the skill necessary to make this a significant contribution to cultural history outside of that context.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Gustafson

    A nation's culture molds every citizen's inward soul whether or not they agree with what it expresses. Like it or not, those various ingredients of culture also fashion a nation's outward history. Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum since 2002, has loaded his painter's brush from the broad palette of German culture with vivid colors from Charles the Great (Charlemagne) to Chancellor Angela Merkel, blending together an almost cubist portrait of the German soul under the title, "Germ A nation's culture molds every citizen's inward soul whether or not they agree with what it expresses. Like it or not, those various ingredients of culture also fashion a nation's outward history. Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum since 2002, has loaded his painter's brush from the broad palette of German culture with vivid colors from Charles the Great (Charlemagne) to Chancellor Angela Merkel, blending together an almost cubist portrait of the German soul under the title, "Germany - Memories of a Nation." Some may argue MacGregor's omissions, but he has thrown together enough eccentric pigments from literature, theatre, art, music, architecture, beer, sausages, the Gutenberg printing press to Volkswagens and and the graphic art of emergency currency notes, splashing them across a broad canvas of time, to captivate most any discerning audience. This is a breezy, informative, compelling read. Just when I thought it was going to take a wrong turn with the chapter on Bismark and devolve into an historical tract cobbled together by a rank outsider, Mr. MacGregor dragged me back inside the interior soul of Germany with the very next chapter on the artist, Käthe Kollwitz. Käthe Kollwitz is probably best known for her sculpture of two grieving parents in the military cemetery at Roggevelde, Belgian. They are separate sculptures of a mother and father kneeling in grief next to, but oblivious to, one another. Each is too consumed with their own personal agony to be aware of anyone or anything else. Her other well-known work is a Pietà located in the Neue Wache. It is the National Memorial to the Victims of War and Dictatorship. In contrast to Michaelangelo's masterpiece, Kollwitz's humble mother seems to be protecting the corpse of her dead son from any further assault by drawing it closer towards herself. I have stood before Michaelangleo's Pietà, appropriately, after the conclusion of an Easter Mass. It did not speak to me with anything near the brute force of Kollwitz's Pietà. Käthe Kollwitz was reaching deep inside her own wounded heart with this moving sculpture. Her son was too young to enlist during WWI without parental permission. Käthe pleaded with her husband until he agreed to give the boy consent to enlist. He was killed a few months later. Although I may complain about the omission of Weimar giants such as George Grosz and Otto Dix, the chapter on Käthe Kollwitz alone, is worth the price of admission. I especially recommend this book as an intellectual guidebook for any Americans making their first trip to Germany.

  4. 5 out of 5

    E. G.

    Introduction: Monuments and memories --Germany: Memories of a Nation Illustrations and Photographic Credits Bibliography Acknowledgements Index

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    ...Volkswagen, Adidas, Puma, Mercedes, Lufthansa. logo itself is a German invention, Albrecht Durer (defining artist of Germany), porcelain factory in Dresden, metal craftsmanship, Nuremberg opera and master singers, clock-watches, Black Forest cuckoo clocks, daimler and benz first working motor cars, Hall of Mirors at Versailles, Kaiser Wilhelm I, Chancellor of the German Empire...Bismarck, sculptor...Kathe Kollwitz, First World War, Hitler, Nazi regime, purging the degenerate, racial purity (A ...Volkswagen, Adidas, Puma, Mercedes, Lufthansa. logo itself is a German invention, Albrecht Durer (defining artist of Germany), porcelain factory in Dresden, metal craftsmanship, Nuremberg opera and master singers, clock-watches, Black Forest cuckoo clocks, daimler and benz first working motor cars, Hall of Mirors at Versailles, Kaiser Wilhelm I, Chancellor of the German Empire...Bismarck, sculptor...Kathe Kollwitz, First World War, Hitler, Nazi regime, purging the degenerate, racial purity (Aryan or Nordic), cultural anarchy, artistic Bolshevism; Marxist propaganda, Jewish-Bolshevik distortions, as models: idiots, cretins, paralytics, Goebbels, Buchenwald, Hitler's Final Solution, 'To Each What They Are Due', Elie Wiesel (Nobel Laureate), citizens from Weimar to see what had been done in their name at Buchenwald, total ethical collapse lead to murder of millions, forced migration, return of land to Poland, western border of Germany disputed, 1945 eight million Germans had been killed, priority: clear the streets (all women between 15 and 50 years of age to participate in post-war clean up), today Germany has the fastest growing Jewish population in Western Europe, now numbering several hundred thousand, most are immigrants. "From the Brandenburg Gate to the Reichstag, seat of the German Parliament. These two extraordinary buildings carry in their very stones the political history of the country." Favorites

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    This wonderful book is the end result of an exhibition held in the British Museum under Neil MacGregor's directorship. The research that went into the exhibition appeared as 12 programs on BBC 4 and finally emerged in book form, which I've had to read electronically but will keep searching for a hard copy. Kindle is hopeless for this - it is richly illustrated in colour and poor little kindle doesn't cope with that. But the kindle app on iPad meant I could at least see the images properly, and th This wonderful book is the end result of an exhibition held in the British Museum under Neil MacGregor's directorship. The research that went into the exhibition appeared as 12 programs on BBC 4 and finally emerged in book form, which I've had to read electronically but will keep searching for a hard copy. Kindle is hopeless for this - it is richly illustrated in colour and poor little kindle doesn't cope with that. But the kindle app on iPad meant I could at least see the images properly, and this is essential as the book's origins lay in an exhibition. How I wish I could have seen it. MacGregor explains that 'the exhibition set out to look at Germany's challenging history from the standpoint of the new Germany created after the fall of the Berlin Walll'. It starts out with a discussion of memorials and memories, has many fascinating chapters on arts (exemplified by eg Goethe, Durer), crafts and technology (printing, porcelain, metal work, industrial processes) and intelligently manages the political shifts and emerging nationalism of the nineteenth century to the much more familiar horrors of mid twentieth century political brutalities. Again to quote MacGregor, 'One of the central arguments of this book has been that history in Germany is concerned not only with the past but, unlike other European countries, looks forward'. So it ends with discussion of two artworks which reflect on the past and the future - Paul Klee's 'Angelus Novus' and an enigmatic portrait by Gerhard Richter of his daughter Betty. Thank you Karen for recommending it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Written by Neil MacGregor once the Director of the British Museum who happens to know a lot about Germany. Perhaps the book would be better called Monuments and Museums of Germany. Quirky composition of Germany’s history examined largely through arts and objects. Surprisingly good prose and eclectic topics such as lost capitals. We learn that Konigsberg was once a historic German city famous as the birthplace of Emmanuel Kant. The city and its surrounding enclave lie some 300 miles from Berlin a Written by Neil MacGregor once the Director of the British Museum who happens to know a lot about Germany. Perhaps the book would be better called Monuments and Museums of Germany. Quirky composition of Germany’s history examined largely through arts and objects. Surprisingly good prose and eclectic topics such as lost capitals. We learn that Konigsberg was once a historic German city famous as the birthplace of Emmanuel Kant. The city and its surrounding enclave lie some 300 miles from Berlin and more than 300 miles from Russia. After Konigsberg was virtually destroyed by RAF bombing in WWII and then Germany lost the war, the area was taken over by the Soviet Union and renamed as Kaliningrad. Kaliningrad, largely because of its access to the Baltic Sea, is still part of Russia today despite its odd geographical isolation from Russia. Some of my other favorite topics were, in no particular order, as follows: 1. Judengasse , the centuries old Jewish street in Frankfurt 2. Trummerfrau, the rubble women of Dresden and elsewhere who helped rebuild Germany after WWII 3. Buchenwald Gate 4. Bauhaus Artistry movement 5. Walhalla and the Hall of Heroes overlooking the Danube 6. Strausburg the floating city on the Rhine 7. Prague (once part of Germany) and a brief history of Kafka 4.5 stars. Highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Osiris Brackhaus

    A fascinating view on German history from a British point of view. McGregor's focus on items as touchstones for his narrative is priceless - even though the facts were mostly known to me, he managed to shed an entirely new light on events, suggesting connections that I would have never seen. A brilliant read. Some of the first chapters did read a little too positive at first, at least to me. But then again, I am German, raised in Germany, and trained to see our history in rather negative terms. A fascinating view on German history from a British point of view. McGregor's focus on items as touchstones for his narrative is priceless - even though the facts were mostly known to me, he managed to shed an entirely new light on events, suggesting connections that I would have never seen. A brilliant read. Some of the first chapters did read a little too positive at first, at least to me. But then again, I am German, raised in Germany, and trained to see our history in rather negative terms. Now that I have read the whole book and set it aside for a few days, I think McGregor did right to remind us (me) of the good things that happened here. How else could he possibly create a balanced image overall when he had to include the crimes of the Nazi Regime? So even if I do not agree with all his points and sometimes rather far-fetched connections, it was a truly thought-provoking, enriching and on top of all that a surprisingly pleasant read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cornelia Funke

    Reading a chapter for breakfast each day- morning treat! Hurrah for Neil McGregor. He enlightened me so many times by now with his books, made me see familiar things through a different lense... First world history, next Shakespeare now my home country. His thought make me so much more aware of the thoughts/ beliefs/ associations I grew up with. Thought provoking and inspiring as always- though I may differ on his thoughts about Faust:)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4: Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, begins his series examining 600 years of German history through objects, with a reflection on Germany's floating frontiers. Even if this series will continue I won't be able to follow it in the next weeks. From BBC Radio 4: Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, begins his series examining 600 years of German history through objects, with a reflection on Germany's floating frontiers. Even if this series will continue I won't be able to follow it in the next weeks.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    A fascinating and engrossing view on the history of my fatherland from an “outsider”. Very readable; recommended for history buffs as well as art lovers. Full review to follow…

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karellen

    Or a history of Germany in 25 objects. Follows the same formula as the authors history of the world. But this one is more lavishly illustrated indeed tis is a thing of rare beauty. Terribly interesting topic for one such as I who studied German history for A level. Some lesser known facts emerge - that it was mostly women who literally rebuilt Germany after the Allies had reduced it to rubble. After the German men had fucked things up. Fascinating comparison between the German attitude to Europe Or a history of Germany in 25 objects. Follows the same formula as the authors history of the world. But this one is more lavishly illustrated indeed tis is a thing of rare beauty. Terribly interesting topic for one such as I who studied German history for A level. Some lesser known facts emerge - that it was mostly women who literally rebuilt Germany after the Allies had reduced it to rubble. After the German men had fucked things up. Fascinating comparison between the German attitude to Europe which apparently derives from their familiarity with the Holy Roman Empire. Contrast that with the narrow mindedness that currently seeks to isolate the UK. It was poignant that I finished this book in the same week that saw the death of Gunter Grass. Yet sadly he doesn't feature despite being their most relevant post war writer. One is left with the feeling that the Germans are determined not to repeat the past. It's surely no accident that they are among the most Eco friendly nations. Yes they were monsters back then but having met many of today's Germans i concur with many of the authors conclusions. I dedicate this review to them : to Sonja Kristina Ralf Thomas Felix Suzanne Nathalie and the other young Germans I met and liked. The future belongs to them.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    At times a bit dry, but still wonderful.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jarvo

    There is a lot of talk about the 'cultural turn' in history, and about how we might come to a different understanding of the past if we become least logocentric, if we spent less attention to words and more to images and objects. This book is probably the best example of this that you could wish to meet. It doesn't set out to be a narrative history, instead it picks 30 or so themes each of which illuminates critical things about Germany and its past. The book is extensively illustrated, and the There is a lot of talk about the 'cultural turn' in history, and about how we might come to a different understanding of the past if we become least logocentric, if we spent less attention to words and more to images and objects. This book is probably the best example of this that you could wish to meet. It doesn't set out to be a narrative history, instead it picks 30 or so themes each of which illuminates critical things about Germany and its past. The book is extensively illustrated, and the images and words work in perfect harmony: the pictures aren't just there to illustrate the words, and the words don't just explain the images. Each is adding something the other can't. Subjects discussed range from Kant to Kafka, and include the Hanseatic league, sausages and the ethnic cleansing of Germans from Eastern Europe at the end of the second world war. Images discussed include Druer etchings, VW Beetles, objects for drinking beer from and the Buchenwald gates. Any book on German history has a singular challenge: how is it going to deal with the Holocaust? The danger is that you interpret the whole of German history as tending towards this event, or you don't say enough about it. This book may be in the latter category, but what is does offer is unfamiliar.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter Beck

    When "Germany" arrived, I was taken aback by its girth, but the captivating images and accessible text instantly pushed it to the top of my long reading list. What does it mean to be German? I thought this would have a straight-forward answer until MacGregor explained (with the help of wonderful maps) the patchwork of principalities and city-states that were melded into Germany less than 150 years ago. I consider myself "German-American," but most Germans came to the U.S. before Germany was actua When "Germany" arrived, I was taken aback by its girth, but the captivating images and accessible text instantly pushed it to the top of my long reading list. What does it mean to be German? I thought this would have a straight-forward answer until MacGregor explained (with the help of wonderful maps) the patchwork of principalities and city-states that were melded into Germany less than 150 years ago. I consider myself "German-American," but most Germans came to the U.S. before Germany was actually a country. I didn't realize that Germany is as much an "imagined community" (Benedict Anderson) as the Southeast Asian nations created by Europe in the 1800s. Of course the German identity that emerged after 1871 was shattered by two devastating wars. Instead of being the German sequel to "A History of the World in 100 Objects," MacGregor explores German identity, focusing on the key buildings/monuments, objects and quintessential artists. Even though MacGregor cannot go into great detail about individual examples, I still learned new information about even the most familiar objects. My first car was a VW Bug, but I didn't know the first ones were made by the British.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gisela Hafezparast

    Excellent and entertaining read. Learned a lot both about German history, politics past and present, culture and art. Most of which I should have learned at school in the 70s and 80s. However, as I born in 1966, history lessons at that stage was all about German guilt with regard to the 1st and 2nd world war. This book actually deals with this as well in a really excellent way. Know now why I had to go to England to learn about the great Germans!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    An immensely powerful book where the author uses art to illustrate themes in a personal history of Germany. It is a wonderful way of leading the reader through a complex and tragic journey.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gordon

    Ostensibly a history of Germany, this book has a curious origin story, being part of a three-pronged project: an exhibition at the British Museum, a BBC radio series, and the book itself. I think these three strands are probably all mutually reinforcing. Certainly the book has a very strong visual element, being lavishly illustrated in a way that is strongly complementary to the book's message, which I am sure was great aided by the museum exhibition. Similarly, the radio facet of the project pr Ostensibly a history of Germany, this book has a curious origin story, being part of a three-pronged project: an exhibition at the British Museum, a BBC radio series, and the book itself. I think these three strands are probably all mutually reinforcing. Certainly the book has a very strong visual element, being lavishly illustrated in a way that is strongly complementary to the book's message, which I am sure was great aided by the museum exhibition. Similarly, the radio facet of the project probably contributes to the episodic, story-telling nature of the book whose narrative approach makes it highly readable. The book is definitely not your conventional history, rolling chronologically down through all the centuries of Germany's many wars, kingdoms, empires, religious schisms, nationalist movements, and all the rest. It is about all those things, but it's also about art, music, language, and all the other facets of German culture. In fact, the single chapter about the art and life story of Kathe Kollwitz, a leftist German artist who fled Nazi Germany for England in the 1930's, and who lost a son in WW I and a grandson in WW II, and is today memorialized by statues throughout the country, is good enough to justify the entire book. I have visited Germany many times over the decades, studied the German language (without much to show for it), and have long been fascinated by the story of Germany's rise, fall, rise, fall and rise again -- and that story is just the last 150 years, let alone all that went before. Yet I learned a great deal from this book, and would highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in understanding the country.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    GoodReads needs a 3.5 star option.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sorin Hadârcă

    Hardly complete, but well-written and visually enriched, these German “histories” provide a very comprehensive mosaic of what it is to be German. I wish I had read it before traveling to Berlin, but now that I had not, I am, again, eager to return.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alexandru Tudorica

    A cultural, artistic and historic narrative of the German nation, from Hermann the defeater of the Roman Empire up to the present day. I have especially enjoyed the interpretation of various symbols and learned a lot about the roots of religious and political tolerance during the Holy Roman Empire period (or rather, how the lack of a powerful central authority made consistent persecution of "dangerous ideas" impossible). The Thirty Years War, the failed political reforms around 1848 and the two A cultural, artistic and historic narrative of the German nation, from Hermann the defeater of the Roman Empire up to the present day. I have especially enjoyed the interpretation of various symbols and learned a lot about the roots of religious and political tolerance during the Holy Roman Empire period (or rather, how the lack of a powerful central authority made consistent persecution of "dangerous ideas" impossible). The Thirty Years War, the failed political reforms around 1848 and the two massively destructive World Wars have left very deep scars in the German psyche, which are very much definitory today. I haven't been able to identify with my adoptive nation as a citizen would, but it certainly was a deep emotional experience.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richard Thomas

    This is an excellent and very readable account of Germany and the German people, their history, culture and economic life and times. It is in short easily read chapters which for me are models of how to cover complex issues without either condescending to the reader or simplifying the topic to the point of banality. It is a book that i will come back to to check my memory and to re-read for the pleasure of finding something new.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marian

    I liked the art history lens on German history that the author uses, highlighting paintings, artifacts, sculptures, and architectural landmarks that are emblematic of moments in Germany's history. I especially enjoyed the discussions of Gutenberg and the printing press, Dürer as artist and expert businessman, and Käthe Kollwitz on the horror and pointlessness of war. I liked the art history lens on German history that the author uses, highlighting paintings, artifacts, sculptures, and architectural landmarks that are emblematic of moments in Germany's history. I especially enjoyed the discussions of Gutenberg and the printing press, Dürer as artist and expert businessman, and Käthe Kollwitz on the horror and pointlessness of war.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Luc De Coster

    A high quality colour picture of an amber tankard in the collection of the British Museum is the start of a lesson about a city long lost for Germany but an essential part of the nation's memory: Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). The tankard was made in the 17th century in Königsberg from amber collected on the Baltic shores. Amber as a local industry, amber as a diplomatic gift, the amber room in the Romanov Palace outside St. Petersburg, ... The ornate drinking cup brings the reader Frederick I, t A high quality colour picture of an amber tankard in the collection of the British Museum is the start of a lesson about a city long lost for Germany but an essential part of the nation's memory: Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). The tankard was made in the 17th century in Königsberg from amber collected on the Baltic shores. Amber as a local industry, amber as a diplomatic gift, the amber room in the Romanov Palace outside St. Petersburg, ... The ornate drinking cup brings the reader Frederick I, the first King in Prussia, takes him to Kaliningrad Cathedral, lets him say a quick hello to Immanuel Kant, while standing on iron font sewer manhole covers with German inscriptions from 1937 in a city that is now entirely Russian. This is one of about thirty "stories" about different people, buildings, events, artefacts, images, traditions that are supposed to make up the memory of the "German nation". Bauhaus, Goethe, Luther, sausages, the Walhalla outside Regensburg, hyperinflation, Volkswagen, Dürer, Kollwitz, the crown of Charlemagne, to name just a few of the topics that serve as a starting point to tell some of Germany's history. Some cover only short periods of time, others span many centuries. The book does not have a chronological structure at all (the topics are grouped thematically), but nevertheless by the end of the book you have a good mental overview of the timelines in German history. MacGregor is a great story teller and not only provides us with plenty of historical information but also explains how each of the selected topics still resonates in the collective German psyche of today. The book is beautifully illustrated and contains many images that are "iconic" for Germans (and many times also for Europeans- and in some cases for a global audience). No matter whether you know a lot or very little about Germany, one will always find things that are ravishing. For me the best reading experience of the year.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Williesun

    4.25 stars For some reason, 2017 has stoked a non-fiction fire in me and a desire to learn more about my own country. So, of course I read a book about Germany published by a Brit? I say, yes of course. Getting to see my own country through the eyes of another country is always interesting and Neil MacGregor does so with admiration and care. This book was entertaining to read and enlightening. Of course I learned a lot about the pillars of German history in school but while we covered some parts 4.25 stars For some reason, 2017 has stoked a non-fiction fire in me and a desire to learn more about my own country. So, of course I read a book about Germany published by a Brit? I say, yes of course. Getting to see my own country through the eyes of another country is always interesting and Neil MacGregor does so with admiration and care. This book was entertaining to read and enlightening. Of course I learned a lot about the pillars of German history in school but while we covered some parts multiple times back then *cough* WW2 *cough*, we never got to some other. And frankly, some simple parts surprised me. For example the role Martin Luther played in the creation of my native language back in the 16th century. Or the reason Germans are such fighters for non-surveillance of its citizens. Not only was our population spied upon by the Nazis but also later in the GDR the Stasi was a huge apparatus and we still remember. The book featured a couple of moments like that for me. My interest in the chapters varied due to their subject but I did learn a lot, especially about the culture and arts. I do believe this is a great book and one that many people should read because it's a nice chronic of why we need to remember. Among other things, it details the way Germany was shaped throughout the centuries even before there was a Germany in the shape and form we know now. The decent from the WW1 into WW2 is not laid out as a "how could you?" towards the then German population but an explanation of how such things progress. There's not one single step that catapulted us into Nazi Germany, it was an accumulation of many small things that may seem insignificant when viewed alone but put together means one of the greatest tragedies in history. And maybe that is why I crave these books right now, because I see what is happening in the US after Trump became President. And every day I feel closer to the Weimar Republic. The US isn't the only country that's moving more to the political right, we see that in most of Europe and it scares me. Is 70 years the remembrance barrier? Anyway, I strayed from this review. This is a fantastic look at Germany through politics, arts and every day objects and it's a great place to start if you want to learn more about this country. It's easy and pleasant to read and features lots of pictures of all it discusses. However it jumps around a lot in time which is why it doesn't get 5 stars. Or among the reasons.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steven Wendell

    Good read for anyone interested in German studies. Not exactly what I was looking for, but still a good read. If your looking for a university textbook style history book of Germany this is not it. This would be an excellent read for a cultural anthropologist because I feel it delves more into the cultural development of the modern country we have today than a hardline history of it. Most of the book to me seems to covers the past three centuries well but doesn't go into much detail to earlier hi Good read for anyone interested in German studies. Not exactly what I was looking for, but still a good read. If your looking for a university textbook style history book of Germany this is not it. This would be an excellent read for a cultural anthropologist because I feel it delves more into the cultural development of the modern country we have today than a hardline history of it. Most of the book to me seems to covers the past three centuries well but doesn't go into much detail to earlier history. But as I said before if your a student of German studies this is a must read because it takes an excellent look at the modern state we have today and how it developed out of all of the political and global conflict that was centered around Germany the past century.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Excellent reuse of the concept from the authors History of the World in a 100 Objects. Provides a convincing exploration of what Germany and German meant and means and the associated implications. Perhaps a wee bit overly repetitious (Königsberg, Luther, Goethe etc.) but certainly an easy flowing read and an excellent appetiser for travel and further study

  28. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Fraser

    wel that was fuckin GOOD it’s hella important to remember the title - ‘memories of a nation’. at times the book can seem incoherent or lacking, but it is not written to eb a history or a timeline. instead it describes the memories of a collective people, looking at currency and flags, to art and architecture. genuinely a fascinating book, and incredibly illuminating and compassionate.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alena

    It's been a while since I read such really rather dry subject matter with this much enjoyment. It kept me busy for a long time. As with the exhibit, I enjoyed the view from the outside, it focused on some things that never would have occurred to me otherwise. And despite covering specific angles of German history, it was quite comprehensive and included things I really didn't know much about. History classes in school seemed to go back and forth between Romans/Greeks, French Revolution and Third It's been a while since I read such really rather dry subject matter with this much enjoyment. It kept me busy for a long time. As with the exhibit, I enjoyed the view from the outside, it focused on some things that never would have occurred to me otherwise. And despite covering specific angles of German history, it was quite comprehensive and included things I really didn't know much about. History classes in school seemed to go back and forth between Romans/Greeks, French Revolution and Third Reich. I'm sure my memory is failing me. I'm also left with things I want to go see. Anyway, very good read. I felt really smart after finishing it yesterday, at least until at the bakery I almost complained about being overcharged only to find out that I apparently can't divide 3,30 by 2. So, there's that.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bảo Ngọc

    A great book for people who love German

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