HIS32950 Weimar Germany

Academic Year 2023/2024

This course covers the rise and fall of Germany’s first democracy: the Weimar Republic (1918-1933). The Republic was born of a revolution that saw the parties of liberal democracy taking 75% of the vote in elections in January 1919. Within a year the constitution they created was among the most modern in the world. Women could vote equally with men regardless of age or property. Workers could negotiate wages with employers and their exploitation appeared at an end. The leaders of Germany’s gay rights movement believed that the new Republic would give them a chance to obtain legal equality and end discrimination. Within 15 years the optimism of the Republic’s beginnings was gone. Nazism replaced liberalism. Germany was transformed from an advanced prototype of modern democracy to a uniquely brutal authoritarian dictatorship. Germany’s first democratic experiment was dead.

This course examines the lessons of the Weimar Republic from the perspectives of politics and culture. It introduces students to key political situations and cultural movements in the short life of the Weimar Republic. Each week’s topic is first explored from the perspective of historical writing with a focus upon politics, elections, economics and law. Topics studied include revolution and the legacies of the First World War; economic chaos and the conservative backlash against liberalism; expressionism, modernist art and cinema, foreign policy, authoritarianism, political violence and the backlash against democracy. At the end of the course, students will have a better understanding of the challenges that faced Weimar democracy and of how politics and culture are intertwined with art and creativity. This historical understanding will help to inform analysis of the challenges facing democracies face today.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students

Will be able to analyze and evaluate conflicting historical interpretations of Modern German History

Will have acquired basic knowledge and understanding of some of the key historiographical debates about the Weimar Republic

Will have familiarized themselves with some of the most important concepts and methodological approaches to the history of art, politics and culture

Will have a fuller understanding of the rich secondary literature on the period.

Will have improved their ability to interpret primary sources

Will be able to relate the history of Weimar Germany to challenges facing contemporary democracies

Indicative Module Content:

Weekly topic list:

Week 1: creating the Republic 1: the end of the war and the revolution of 1918-19

Week 2: creating the Republic 2: 1919 the National Assembly and the Weimar Constitution

Week 3: Creating the Republic 3: international relations/foreign policy in 1919; the Versailles Treaty and the long end of the First World War

Week 4: the world upturned 1: from the Kapp Putsch to the Rathenau murder (1920-1922) – focus on political crises, political violence, revolutionary aftershocks, the murders of Erzberger/Rathenau, the Organization Consul, the law for the protection of the Republic

Week 5: the world upturned 2: 1923 (1) The French occupation of the Ruhr and the acceleration of economic crisis / end of money

Week 6: the world upturned (3): 1923 Bavaria versus Germany: separatist politics and the Beer Hall Putsch.

Week 7: the Republic stabilized 1. Weimar politics after 1923 – the Republic’s ‘Golden years’, the politics of Gustav Stresemann.

Week 8: the Republic stabilized 2: The Presidential election of 1925.

Week 9: the Republic stabilized 3: anti-Republican thought during the years of stability: Hans Grimm and a People without space (Volk ohne Raum first published in 1926)

Week 10: The end of the Weimar experiment 1. The breakdown of the Weimar coalition: the 1929 economic crisis, the end of the Muller government, the start of the Bruning Chancellorship.

Week 11: The end of the Weimar experiment 2: The end of the Bruning Chancellorship, the course of the Papen and Schleicher governments – street fighting, foreign policy, currency policy.

Week 12: Weimar after Weimar – the long life of ‘Germany’s first democracy.’ ‘Weimar’ as a site of memory and a source of political mobilization in the Third Reich, East and West-Germany, and Weimar today – a lesson against populism.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This is a 10 credit module.

Students will attend a weekly lecture, and a weekly seminar.

Students will learn by readings, in class discussion, and the completion of an in-class presentation.

The sources available for students included primary texts such as novels and political speeches, as well as film. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: 40% of the final grade is for a combined 10-15 minute presentation and 1,500 word literature analysis Unspecified n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: 20% of the final grade is for participation in class Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: 40% of the final grade is for a 4,000 word end of term paper Week 12 n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

You will receive feedback throughout the semester. This will include feedback on your contributions to in class discussions; you will receive instructions upon how to prepare for and deliver your presentation and literature review; and you will receive instructions and feedback upon how to use your presentation and literature review as a part of the preparation for your final essay.