In This Review

German Nationalism and Religious Conflict: Culture, Ideology, Politics, 1870-1914
German Nationalism and Religious Conflict: Culture, Ideology, Politics, 1870-1914
By Helmut Walser Smith
Princeton University Press, 1995, 271 pp

An important study, widely researched, of the continuing conflict between Protestants and Catholics in unified Germany, a central but much-neglected theme of modern German history. Smith, a young American historian, describes the cultural and political expressions of this conflict to the very eve of the Great War and suggests that the confessional groups developed their own variety of national consciousness. The book is novel in substance and interpretation: Smith shows that the religious antagonisms often sprang from below and that the major Protestant organization was pushed ever-closer to a radical right-wing nationalism. He discovered that German Catholics--with Vatican support--tried to weaken Polish Catholicism. The book has obvious implications for Weimar and reminds us that one of the most important changes of post-1945 Germany has been the attenuation, almost the end, of the religious conflict. By virtue of its breadth and rich intelligence the book exemplifies the true potential of the academic monograph.