German Historical Institute London:
Bibliography: Research on British History
in the Federal Republic of Germany

CLAUDIA SCHNURMANN, Vom Inselreich zur Weltmacht. Die Entwicklung des englischen Weltreichs vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag, 2001), 264 pp, DM 57,70, €29,50

ISBN 3-17-016192-X

Library shelfmark:
It would be preposterous to claim for a book of some 250 pages that it is a complete survey of English history. However, by concentrating mainly on England – though Wales, Scotland and Ireland are not completely excluded – it sets itself a few quite challenging goals. Starting with the Middle Ages it describes the crucial structures and institutions, facts and self-perceptions that made England the leading power within the British Isles in the 17th century and Great Britain the world power of the 18th and 19th centuries, deeply envied, copied, loved and hated by its neighbours, rivals, friends and foes alike. In contrast to most studies of England’s rise to global power the analysis does not adoringly indulge in the splendour of the monarchy, of a succession of more or less impressive and important kings and queens, wars, victories und conquests. To acquire some understanding of what it meant to the English people to be the citizens of a country that was aspiring to be recognized as a power in Europe and the world, it is necessary to consider the less obvious - like the history of daily life (“Alltagsgeschichte”), people’s emotions, feelings, stereotypes, fears, hopes, and ideals. Therefore special emphasis is put on cultural phenomena like religion, music, the arts, films, language, myths, and literature. For they not only help to catch something of the contemporaries’ feelings and ways of life, but also offer impressions of the richness and variety of high and low cultures in a land that in medieval times was subject to invasions, yet from the 16th century onward successfully turned the tables and began gradually to impose its own terms on Europe and later on the world.

The chapters follow a chronological order, starting with the Middle Ages as the foundation of future glory. Then early modern and later centuries are tackled when England/Great Britain gloried in a mightiness that was to be destroyed during the two world wars of the 20th century. From 1945 to 2000, Great Britain hardly came to terms with lost fame and loss of status in world affairs – strong feelings that influenced London’s attitude not only towards its former colonies and dominions but towards Europe, too.

Claudia Schnurmann

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