The best books on Modern German History, recommended by Hester Vaizey

In the 20th century, Germany suffered defeat in two world wars and withstood two kinds of dictatorship. Yet today it is Europe’s strongest economy. Hester Vaizey, fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and author of Born in the GDR, selects five brilliant books on a tumultuous century.

The best books on Nineteenth Century Germany, recommended by Richard Evans

At the beginning of the 1800s, Germany was a collection of independent states. By the end, it had been unified under Prussian political leadership into one of the world’s great powers. Here, Richard Evans, Regius Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Cambridge and Provost of Gresham College in the City of London, chooses five books on 19th century Germany that illustrate how that process unfolded and what the political, economic and social consequences of it were—intended and otherwise.

The best books on The Weimar Republic, recommended by Robert Gerwarth

The Weimar Republic was not doomed to fail, says the historian Robert Gerwarth; it was, in many ways, popularly rooted and successful, and its artistic achievements remain influential to this day. Here he selects five books that illustrate the rich cultural life of the Weimar Republic, its pioneering modernism and the febrile political atmosphere that gripped it in the wake of the Great Depression.

The Best Goethe Books, recommended by David E. Wellbery

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) has been described as ‘the last true polymath to walk the earth’. A defining figure in German literature, Goethe coined the concept of world literature. And his literary and dramatic achievements are matched by his scientific work. David E. Wellbery, Professor of Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago and recipient of the Golden Goethe Medal, introduces us to the life and work of Goethe. He explores why figures such as Beethoven and Napoleon were magnetised to him, how Rousseau influenced Faust, and why Goethe’s Faust does not sell his soul to the devil.

The best books on Hannah Arendt, recommended by Samantha Rose Hill

Unimpressed by the response of philosophers to the rise of Nazism in her native Germany, Hannah Arendt rejected the notion of being a philosopher and said she was a political theorist. Samantha Rose Hill, writer and formerly assistant director of the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, talks us through Hannah Arendt’s life and work—and suggests which books to read if we want to learn more about her and her ideas.

The best books on The Thirty Years War, recommended by Peter Wilson

It was a war that devastated Europe and left more than one-fifth of the German population dead. The complex peace agreement that ended it, the Treaty of Westphalia, is still credited with establishing our modern state system. Peter Wilson, Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford University and author of the most recent general history of the war, Europe’s Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War, recommends books to read for a nuanced picture of Europe’s cataclysmic 17th-century conflict.

The best books on Angela Merkel, recommended by Tom Nuttall

For 16 years, as chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel was the most powerful woman in the world. Here Tom Nuttall, the Economist’s Berlin bureau chief, talks us through books to help us understand her time in office, and explains how her East German upbringing influenced her style of governance.