Joachim Whaley

in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199693078
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732256 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of Early Modern Europe


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The traditional view that the Reich expired unmourned is inaccurate: the new sovereign German states of the German Confederation tried to extinguish the memory of the Reich, but many of its traditions endured. As the views of Humboldt make clear, the Reich had created the German nation. That was something that the Prussian-German historians sought to deny as they applauded the role of Prussia in the creation of the Second Reich (1871). After the disaster of the Third Reich, historians gradually began to reassess the significance of the first Reich, the Holy Roman Empire. Arguments that the Reich prefigured the Federal Republic, the Berlin Republic or the European Union are unhistorical. The Reich was not unlike other early modern polities: it facilitated the development of a culture of freedom, an ability to live with federal structures and a national identity, which continued to shape German history long after its dissolution.

Keywords: Humboldt; sovereign states; German Confederation; Second Reich; Third Reich; Prussia; the Federal Republic; the Berlin Republic; the EU; the Polish-Lithuanian state; Swiss Confederation; Dutch Republic; Spain; Britain

Chapter.  3200 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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