In search of founding fathers : republican historical narratives in Weimar Germany, 1918-1933 / by Eric Jefferson Bryden.
For the entirety of its short life, supporters of the Weimar Republic, Germany's first liberal democratic state, sought to defend it against their right-wing opposition's claims that the Republic and the liberal democratic ideas it rested on were foreign imports lacking roots in German history and culture. To do so, republicans endeavored to depict Weimar as heir to a myriad of political institutions, ideas, and practices in the national past, stretching from Germans' tribal roots to the end of the First World War, with a pronounced emphasis on the legacy of the constitutional and democratic-national movement of the Vormärz and the Revolution of 1848/49.Using interpretive insights gleaned from recent and classical theories of political legitimation, collective memory, and historical narration, this dissertation examines republican Geschichtsbilder and four interrelated thematic "threads" embedded within them: the cultural, the constitutional, the democratic, and the national. It analyzes how republicans promoted their own democratic definition of the nation, whose most notable achievements were cultural rather than military, at the same time that they sought to prove the "national" roots of liberal democratic ideas and practices. It also sheds light on differences between moderate and militant republican historical narratives, particularly in their respective evaluations of Germany's monarchical past and its relation to national political development. Militant republicans, organized in associations such as the Reichsbanner Schwarz Rot Gold, often attacked the monarchical tradition, both as a general institution and as embodied by individual rulers. Moderates trod more softly, in large part to avoid further alienating members of the bourgeois right from the new political order. By examining both the differences among Weimar's supporters and their common attempt to marshal Germany history for the benefit of the Republic, this project sheds light on an important, yet poorly researched, aspect of republican state-building while providing important insights into Weimar political culture as a whole.
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