Binding the Nation, Bounding the State: Germany and its Borders

Review article for German History Vol. 37, No. 1 (2019), examining seventeen recent publications on the borders of Germany and of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Abstract: The borders of Germany and of Europe have come under increased academic scrutiny over the last few years, as questions of mobility and migration have surged to the forefront of public interest. Most such studies remain embedded in regional historiographies, though they are increasingly informed by interdisciplinary methodological and theoretical developments. Historians of the 19th– and 20th-century French-German border emphasize transnational overlaps that arguably prefigured European cooperation, whereas studies of the Polish-German border stress the indifference and resentment generated by nationalism well into the 20th century. Histories of divided Germany during the Cold War have transnationalized interpretations of everyday life in the GDR and the FRG, while studies of Europe since 1990 have probed the meanings and anxieties connected with Schengen. Taken together, these works show how interconnected discourses of ‘Europe’ have come together from experiences with borders that have varied greatly across time and space.

Reviewed books:

  • Im Spiegel des Wassers: eine transnationale Umweltgeschichte des Oberrheins (1800–2000). By Christoph Bernhardt. Cologne: Böhlau. 2016. 569 pp. €45.00 (hardback).
  • Cartophilia: Maps and the Search for Identity in the French-German Borderland. By Catherine Tatiana Dunlop. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2015. 280 pp. $45.00 (hardback).
  • Grenzen in Europa. Edited by Michael Gehler and Andreas Pudlat. Hildesheim: Olms. 2009. 378 pp. €39.80 (paperback).
  • Polens Wilder Westen: Erzwungene Migration und die kulturelle Aneignung des Oderraums 1945–1948. By Beata Halicka. Paderborn: Schöningh. 2013. 2nd edn , 2016. 393 pp. €29.90 (hardback).
  • Divided Village: The Cold War in the German Borderlands. By Jason B. Johnson. New York: Routledge. 2017. 234 pp. £110.00 (hardback); £34.99 (paperback, published in 2018).
  • Das Ordnen von Räumen: Territorium und Lebensraum im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. By Ulrike Jureit. Hamburg: Hamburger Edition. 2012. 445 pp. €38.00 (hardback).
  • The Icon Curtain: The Cold War’s Quiet Border. By Yuliya Komska. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2015. 288 pp. $45.00 (hardback).
  • Germany’s Wild East: Constructing Poland as Colonial Space. By Kristin L. Kopp. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 2012. 270 pp. $90.00 (hardback); $34.95 (paperback, published in 2017).
  • Belonging to the Nation: Inclusion and Exclusion in the Polish-German Borderlands, 1939–1951. By Jan J. Kulczycki. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2016. 416 pp. £35.95/€45.00/$49.95 (hardback).
  • Borders and Border Regions in Europe: Changes, Challenges and Chances. Edited by Arnaud Lechevalier and Jan Wielgohs. Bielefeld: Transcript. 2013. 270 pp. €34.80/$50.00 (paperback).
  • Die wandernde Grenze: die EU, Polen und der Wandel politischer Räume, 1990–2010. By Steffi Marung. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 2013. 400 pp. €64.99 (hardback).
  • Europeanizing Contention: The Protest against ‘Fortress Europe’ in France and Germany. By Pierre Monforte. New York: Berghahn. 2014. 264 pp. £67.00/$95.00 (hardback).
  • Recovered Territory: A German-Polish Conflict over Land and Culture, 1919–89. By Peter Polak-Springer. New York: Berghahn. 2015. £100.00/$140.00 (hardback); £24.00/$34.95 (paperback, published in 2018).
  • States of Division: Border and Boundary Formation in Cold War Rural Germany. By Sagi Schaefer. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2014. 240 pp. £76.00/$100.00 (hardback).
  • Grenzland Europa: unterwegs auf einem neuen Kontinent. By Karl Schlögel. Munich: Hanser. 2013. 352 pp. €21.90 (hardback).
  • Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans made the Iron Curtain. By Edith Sheffer. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2011. 384 pp. £20.49/$26.95 (paperback, published in 2014).
  • ZwischenGrenzen: die Geschichte des Schengen-Raums aus deutschen, französischen und polnischen Perspektiven. By Angela Siebold. Paderborn: Schöningh. 2013. 376 pp. €54.00 (hardback).