A Social History of Germany, 1648-1914Book - 2003
When it first appeared in 1977, A Social History of Germany 1648-1914 was one of very few studies in English that spanned the years from Germany's religious wars to the fall of her Second Empire. It was also the first to attempt to integrate in a systematic manner the autobiographical records of contemporaries in assessing the work of modern German social historians. In a manner new to German historiography, Eda Sagarra used imaginative literature as a key record of contemporaries' perceptions of social history. Thus, by integrating concrete, individual experience with larger historical processes, her work addresses itself equally to the student of Germany's literature and society.
The book is divided into two principal chronological sections. The first dates from the end of the Thirty Years War until the destruction of the Holy Roman Empire by Napoleon in 1806. In each of the two sections, separate chapters deal, on the one hand, with the social groups and classes exercising authority over the rest, the princes and their courts, the churches, the nobility, the military, and the bureaucracy, and, on the other, with the objects of their social control. These included the middle ranks of society, which in Germany were possibly even more diverse than elsewhere, the peasants, and in the age of the agrarian and industrial revolutions, the rural and urban proletariat.
Separate chapters deal with life on the margins. The condition of women is given a provocative analysis in the concluding chapter. An important feature of the book is that it understands "Germany" as encompassing, not just simply Prussia and Austria, but the whole of that territory straddling the heart of Europe where German was spoken. It documents the extraordinary richness of the regional variation of Germany, as reflected in social class, religious beliefs, habits, and values. Moreover, A Social History of Germany 1648-1914 pioneered the discussion of areas and topics rarely covered in general histories of the day, such as the role of the churches.