The phrase fin de siecle conjures up images of artistic experimentation and political decadence. The contributors to this volume argue that Wilhelmine Germany - best kwn for its industrial and military muscle - also shared these traits. Their essays look back to the years between 1885 and 1914 to find in Germany a mixture of sociopolitical malaise and experimental exhilaration that was similar in many ways to the better-kwn cases of France and Austria. Revising the view that the German Second Reich was merely a precursor to the Third, this broad-scoped study presents pre-World War I Germany in its own fascinating and often contradictory terms. The foundations of the anti-liberal passions that would plague the Weimar Republic are evident, but Wilhelmine society also had a lighter, more playful and moderate spirit, one that was largely extinguished by the Great War. Blending social, cultural, and intellectual history, the contributors - a distinguished cross-section of older and younger scholars - trace changing German views on liberalism, penal reform, race, women, art, popular culture, and techlogy. The result is a variegated picture of an unsettled world, rich in its invations, ambitious in its undertakings, and often apocalyptic in its dreams.
Suzanne Marchand teaches European intellectual history at Louisiana State University and is the author of Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1970. David Lindenfeld is a professor of history at LSU and the author of The Transformation of Positivism: Alexius Meinong and European Thought, 1880-1920 and The Practical Imagination: The German Sciences of State in the Nineteenth Century.