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Transnational Militarism: Political Generations of German Officers between Military Internationalism and Imperial Nation (1770-1870)

Dates:
  • Wed 25 Jun 2014 15.00 - 17.00
  Add to Calendar 2014-06-25 15:00 2014-06-25 17:00 Europe/Paris Transnational Militarism: Political Generations of German Officers between Military Internationalism and Imperial Nation (1770-1870)

The thesis questions a widely accepted truism in German military history: that the late accomplishment of the nation state hindered not only German civil society, but also the German military from discovering non-European areas as possible fields of action until the late 19th century, therefore leaving the German officer corps for a long time unaffected from imperial fantasies and inexperienced in colonial warfare. Tracing back the history of German military involvement in imperial struggles until the American revolution, it argues in contrast that the desire to measure up to forcefully expanding nations like Great Britain, France or Russia was lively among German officers not only from states with a tradition of mercenary service for other imperial powers, but also in Prussia, where fantasies of a military conquest of British India circulated already in the days of the Napoleonic occupation. Since then subsequent generations of German military officers recurringly articulated their visions of a German colonial empire, a desire which became ardent in longer periods of European peace. Especially younger, well-trained and ambitious officers from prestigious regiments saw their chance for professional distinction in imperial adventures. At a number of so far unknown occasions these men grasped their chance to participate actively in colonial campaigns of other powers. The study also discusses the reason why this trace of German military thinking and activity has been marginalized: the practical realization of imperial projects seemed to require a unified nation state, a demand which brought military officers in a dangerous political terrain and isolated the imperial fraction within the German officer corps for the bigger part of the 19th century. Nevertheless, when the Kaiserreich finally joined the club of colonial powers, the German military was not unprepared, but could look back to a century of theoretical and practical involvement in imperial affairs.


Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA DD/MM/YYYY
  Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

The thesis questions a widely accepted truism in German military history: that the late accomplishment of the nation state hindered not only German civil society, but also the German military from discovering non-European areas as possible fields of action until the late 19th century, therefore leaving the German officer corps for a long time unaffected from imperial fantasies and inexperienced in colonial warfare. Tracing back the history of German military involvement in imperial struggles until the American revolution, it argues in contrast that the desire to measure up to forcefully expanding nations like Great Britain, France or Russia was lively among German officers not only from states with a tradition of mercenary service for other imperial powers, but also in Prussia, where fantasies of a military conquest of British India circulated already in the days of the Napoleonic occupation. Since then subsequent generations of German military officers recurringly articulated their visions of a German colonial empire, a desire which became ardent in longer periods of European peace. Especially younger, well-trained and ambitious officers from prestigious regiments saw their chance for professional distinction in imperial adventures. At a number of so far unknown occasions these men grasped their chance to participate actively in colonial campaigns of other powers. The study also discusses the reason why this trace of German military thinking and activity has been marginalized: the practical realization of imperial projects seemed to require a unified nation state, a demand which brought military officers in a dangerous political terrain and isolated the imperial fraction within the German officer corps for the bigger part of the 19th century. Nevertheless, when the Kaiserreich finally joined the club of colonial powers, the German military was not unprepared, but could look back to a century of theoretical and practical involvement in imperial affairs.



Location:
Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Contact:
Kathy Wolf Fabiani - Send a mail

Supervisor:
Prof. Sebastian Conrad

Examiner:
Prof. Dirk Moses
Prof. Robert Gerwarth (University College Dublin)
Professor Ulrike Von Hirschhausen (University of Rostock)

Defendant:
Christoph Jens Kamissek (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)
 

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