“Going All the Way” for the People? Changes in Thought and Action Concerning Governance in World War I Germany

One of the keynote speaker during Conference will be Professor Belinda Davis, Rutgers University.

“‘Going All the Way’ for the People? Changes in Thought and Action Concerning Governance in World War I Germany”

Davis Head Shot EUIHow did the conditions of the war in Germany transform notions of “serving the country” for those already charged as servants of the state, as civil servants or mid- and low- level political office holders? What were the ramifications of these individuals’ wartime struggles with their positions and attendant commitments, in terms of their views of governance and governmentality, and how in turn did transformations in their thinking affect their actions in and out of service, during the war and then after the November 1918 revolution? This conference offers the opportunity to think broadly about the notion of “intellectuals”, a very fruitful approach permitting exploration of changing thought among highly educated individuals in influential positions in and also outside of universities.This presentation pursues this approach, using archival and especially diary and memoir sources to trace the highly ambivalent and often contradictory stances these “intellectuals of government” took in the course of the war, and to consider how their attendant actions helped and hindered popular support for the war effort. It interrogates how their shifting thinking played off against a mass move among Germans toward popular sovereignty: the notion that these government figures’ role was no to protect the state against the populace, but rather to serve the populace itself. Exploration too of the emotional register of these figures’ reactions to consistently overwhelming wartime demands, reactions that ranged from besiegement and guilt to resentment and fury, offers insight into how these figures, who largely continued in the same or similar positions even after the revolution, helped shape the efficacy and legitimacy of the Weimar Republic, or lack thereof, and played a role in envisaging alternatives.

Professor Belinda Davies is author or co-editor of three books (including Home Fires Burning: Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000) and several dozen articles, on themes including popular politics; gender; history of everyday life; oral history, memory, and emotion; urban history; transnational history; policing, violence, and terror; and consumption. Davis, who serves on the Board of Editors of the “American Historical Review”, has been recipient of inter alia of a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellowship at the European University Institute, a Volkswagen Foundation Research Fellowship, and a fellowship at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center, Princeton University.


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