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Unit information: Socialism and the Left in Germany Since 1848 in 2015/16

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Unit name Socialism and the Left in Germany Since 1848
Unit code GERM32059
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Allinson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit considers the development of the left wing movement as a force in German politics from 1848 through to the present day. The left has invariably been a splintered force, and we shall explore the divisions between the socialist, social democratic, communist and autonomous parties and forces from their emergence in the late 19th century through the turbulent years of the Weimar Republic, the period of repression under the Third Reich, the bitter divides of the Cold War and the uneasy relationships in united Germany. The spectrum of political opinion covered is broad, ranging from the 'New Centre' approach of Gerhard Schröder’s SPD in the late 1990s to the Stalinist phase of the early GDR and the terrorism of the Red Army Faction. We shall also consider the changing social constituency of these parties and place the development of the German left into the broader European context.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to final year level. The content matter will normally include one or more of the following: literature; social, cultural or political history; linguistics; cultural studies; film, television or other media.
  • To facilitate students' engagement with a body of literature, including secondary literature, texts, including in non-print media, primary sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and development. Normally many or most of these sources will be in a language other than English and will enhance the development of their linguistic skills.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level I.
  • To equip students with the skills to undertake postgraduate study in a relevant field.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will:

  1. be knowledgable about a significant cultural, historical or linguistic subject related to the language they are studying;
  2. will have advanced skills in the selection and synthesis of relevant material;
  3. be able to evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source materials, usually in a foreign language, at an advanced level;
  4. be able to respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at an advanced level of complexity;
  5. be able to transfer these skills to other working environments, including postgraduate study.

Teaching details

1 x 2hr slot weekly.

Assessment Details

Two 3000-word essays (50%/50%) (assessing ILO's 1-5)

Reading and References

Recommended reading:

  • David Barclay and Eric D. Weitz (eds), Between reform and revolution: German socialism and communism from 1840 to 1990 (Berghahn, 1998)
  • Stefan Berger, Social democracy and the working class in nineteenth and twentieth century Germany (Longman, 2000)
  • Catherine Epstein, The last revolutionaries. German communists and their century (Harvard University Press, 2003)
  • Franz Walter, Die SPD: Vom Proletariat zur neuen Mitte (Alexander Fest, 2002)

A full reading list will be provided at the start of the unit.