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Does the History of a State Matter? Research Paper


Introduction

Each country has a unique sense of self-identity. Consequently, it is vital for any country to have a sense of self-identity, and a distinction from other states of the world. A state is identified using various factors including its geographical position, foreign policy, culture, and systems of governance among others. However, history is a central factor in the self-identity of any country. The history of any state matters because of several internal and external reasons. For example, citizens of a particular country tend to see their country’s current position in relation to its place in the past. On the other hand, the outside world tends to look at a country using the axis of history as a guide.

History can invariably affect a country’s politics, foreign policies, and even future prospects. However, the sovereignty and welfare of some states is more affected by their history than that of others. Therefore, some countries have managed to step out of the shadows of their history and create new directions for themselves. However, other states have struggled to shake off their histories without much success. This essay seeks to prove that the history of any state matters but it is not necessarily a burden to any country. The essay uses Germany and its rich history to indicate that nations have the power to rise above the constraints of their history.

The History of Germany

Germany as a country has a rich history but the unity of the country is a rare phenomenon in the past. The area that has historically been known as ‘Germania’ has mostly been made up of various states. Even the Roman Empire was unsuccessful in uniting the country. In the Medieval times, Germany did not feature as one of the dominant cultures of the time. For instance, England and France were making significant steps towards establishing new orders but the Germanic states were mostly at war with each other. The only symbol of unity for Germans at the time was the Catholic rule and the Pope. A major change came through the Protestant Reformation thereby creating the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) and new divisions between the North and the South. After 1648, the country broke into hundreds of small states that survived for almost two Centuries. Austria and Prussia were the two most dominant players in the German territory. In the late 1700s, there was pressure to unite Germany into a single nation. This goal almost materialized in 1848 but it was rejected by the King of Prussia, who would have assumed leadership of a united Germany.

The unification of Germany happened in 1871 under Emperor Wilhelm I of Prussia with the help of the ideals of Otto von Bismarck. The new Germany consisted of all the traditional territories excluding Austria. The parliament of the time was known as Reichstag, and it was voted in though male suffrage. However, the country’s overall power was yielded by the Emperor and his appointed ministers. The position of the Emperor was largely supported by landowners, merchants, the civil servants, the clergy, the financial elite, and the military. The opposition mainly came from the Socialist Party, the Catholic leadership, and other political outfits. Before the start of the World War I, the Socialist Party had gained considerable power due to its large number of representatives in the Reichstag. After the country’s defeat in World War I, Germany suffered expensive reparations that significantly weakened its global position.

The Weimar Republic (1919-33) was born thereafter and it “was established with a constitution that provided for a parliamentary democracy in which the government was ultimately responsible to the people” (Maier, 2009). The rise of Adolf Hitler reversed the gains of the Weimar Republic and interrupted Germany’s path to democracy. Hitler managed to become the chancellor and within a few years, he had managed to establish a totalitarian regime. The Hitler Germany is on record as being one of the worst regimes in the history of the world. It took the unity of various countries in the world to dethrone Hitler as the leader of Germany. After Germany’s defeat in the World War II, the country was divided into East and West. With the help of Western powers, West Germany was able to make a quick recovery after the war while the East remained impoverished. The two Germanys were later to unite after the collapse of the famous Berlin Wall.

Has the History of Germany Mattered?

Germany has come a long way from the Nazi era when outsiders were shunned, enslaved, and sometimes killed. In the year 2015, Germany was the most vocal country in championing for the rights of refugees from Turkey. Eventually, the country ended up opening its borders to more than one million refugees from Turkey. The current Germany stands in stark contrast to the Nazi regime of the 1940s and it is a testament of how nations might overcome their dark histories. After World War II, the world was not sure that Germany even had the ability to become a country again. Joseph Stalin once made a keen observation that it was difficult to rehabilitate a country such as Germany, and the country was at a great risk of vanishing as a nation and becoming a mere ‘geographic entity’ (Northnagle, 2010). On the other hand, the popular opinion after 1945 was that Germany no longer existed. For instance, even most of the German citizens who had fled the war did not continue going back to their country because in their opinion, it had been ‘finished’ during the war.

The contrast between the 1945 Germany, and the democratic country, which is now led by Angela Merkel, defies most historical patterns. As of now, Germany has no known enemies and it does not have any ongoing territorial disputes with other countries. The essence of the current Germany almost proves that the history of a state does not matter in relation to the present. However, this maneuver has also been accomplished partly by Japan, another country that almost disappeared from history. The efforts to turn around the history of Germany are only twenty-five years in the making, which makes the changes on the state’s image all the more remarkable.

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1990, there were several divisions that existed between the East and the West. The developments that have created Germany’s big break from its history are mostly recent. First, the country abandoned the use of the ‘Deutschmark’, a symbol whose use was prevalent in World War II. The unification of the 1990 also precipitated the country’s need to be included in the European League of Nations (which later became the European Union). These two selfless moves by the German state announced the presence of a ‘new’ nation among nations. The tensions that were remaining from World War II and The Cold War were also diluted by the fact that Germany was willing to work with its former enemies.

Germany is also a good example of the premise that a country’s history only matters if it is hidden and not faced by the people. After abandoning the Deutschmark, Germany’s leaders to find their national pride on the concept of ‘Bonn’. Bonn is a word that alludes to German high qualities and it can refer to anything including architecture, German-manufactured cars, and institutions. The resolve to use Bonn as the symbol of national unity has been tremendously successful because it exempts the country from the superiority contest that can be seen through symbols. In addition, the country is not dependent on myths of superiority such as the French Revolution, the independence of the United States, the British Empire, and the Italian Resistance (One World Nations, 2016).

Conclusion

As a country without a history, Germany chose to embrace its historical guilt and encompass it into its laws. For example, Article 116 of the country’s constitution automatically reinstates the citizenship of those who were displaced by the Nazis. Consequently, this has given the German people a chance to own their history collectively as opposed to pointing fingers on certain historical figures such as the Nazis. Currently, the anti-revisionism stance that has been adopted by Germany has ensured that the country has become the truest reflection of the European Union. The political stability of Germany remains to be the envy of most countries across the world. Overall, Germany stands as a testament that the only thing that matters in a nation’s history is the manner in which the said state handles it.

References

Maier, C. (2009). The unmasterable past: History, Holocaust, and German national identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Northnagle, B. (2010). The quest for the lost nation: Writing history in Germany and Japan in the American Century. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

One World Nations. (2016). Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, September 3). Does the History of a State Matter? Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/does-the-history-of-a-state-matter/

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"Does the History of a State Matter?" IvyPanda, 3 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/does-the-history-of-a-state-matter/.

1. IvyPanda. "Does the History of a State Matter?" September 3, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/does-the-history-of-a-state-matter/.


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IvyPanda. "Does the History of a State Matter?" September 3, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/does-the-history-of-a-state-matter/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Does the History of a State Matter?" September 3, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/does-the-history-of-a-state-matter/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Does the History of a State Matter'. 3 September.

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