Friday, 24 August 2018

Knowing the soon-to-be 'enemy': Presenting Germany to British readers in 1913-14

As previously noted, one of the books found in the Flett family's collection was:

The Germany of Today, by Charles Tower (Home University of Modern Knowledge series). First printed July 1913, reprinted August 1914.

The Home University Library of Modern Knowledge was a valued resource for self-education 
The author gives a thorough, informative and nuanced account of many aspects of German life and society, as indicated in the selected notes and quotations below. He notes that his subject was one he could expect to interest many British readers, (presumably including Scots, like the family in whose collection it was found, and Welsh, although he uses the term 'England' rather than 'Britain' almost invariably throughout):
  • p 254 Bibliographical note. "The literature dealing with Germany is now so extensive that it is possible to study most departments of German life and activity at home and abroad in excellent English works."
  • Introduction p.8 "The Germans, their ambitions, achievements, methods, men and manners, are so continuously the topic of private conversation and public debate in English-speaking countries..."
Some of what he says about England and the English by way of comparison and contrast does, however, apply particularly to that part of Britain.
  • p.143 The German [educational] system... levels all to an average, almost to a uniformity. The English system turns out some lanky weeds and some stunted growths but it also turns out some, even many, first-class plants of a kind much less frequent in Germany.
Education (Chapter VI) is perhaps the area in which he has most of interest to say, and to reveal about his own attitudes. His critique of the German system (not based on building up of character so not education in the best sense) is rooted in his observations about the country being "so overwhelmingly given up to the military hierarchy" (p.142). A certificate was required for eligibility to serve as a "volunteer" and therefore entailed shorter (compulsory) military service:
  • p.129 elementary schooling nowhere neglected, of course free; compulsory for ages 6-14. 
  • 130 literacy high. Formation of character weak in higher branches.
  • 134 Continuation. Specialisation. 143 staff, influence.
  • 146 doctrine that individual exists for the state machine.  
  • 147-148 high pressure system - short-sighted.
German Universities are criticised for being too functional, geared to future employment, "not regarded as the completion of a general education":
  • 149 "Man is a productive animal" seems to be the byword. Specific purpose; student life tending to lose social character. 
Although in the earlier part of the discussion (pp.138-) reference is made repeatedly to "(school)boys" it turns out that Tower is far from disregarding the fate of females in the education system, or elsewhere:
  • 147-8 Higher education of girls less organised and state controlled. Tendency to conform courses as boys' schools. feminine competition in public life. Drift to factory and shop work seen as something to be prevented. Household management, care of children, domestic economy.
  • p.155 The majority of German universities are now open also to women, and there are considerable numbers of unattached female auditors as well as the regular students. Strangely enough, "misogyny" amongst university lecturers, once rather common, is by no means extinct. Certain well-known lecturers, at Berlin University and elsewhere, still refuse to lecture before a mixed audience.
He also analyses attitudes to gender in society at large:
  • p.216. There is, perhaps, a pronounced survival of the "goods and chattels" treatment of German womenfolk, which strikes visitors as sometimes silly and sometimes merely barbarian.
  • - 217...but it is neither true to say that the German is essentially discourteous in his feelings towards women...nor is it prudent to draw the conclusion that except in the event of a huge social upheaval woman will never take the prominent place in the life of the nation that she has made for herself elsewhere.
Generalisations naturally abound, and there is frequent reference to stereotypes, but Tower is at pains not to accord blanket endorsement to these, and to point out that there are different sorts of German:
  • p.9 It is possible that some of the antipathy sometimes displayed is felt instinctively not for the German Empire, but the old Prussian nucleus...
  • p.14. That they might live at last in peace, might develop their own resources by mutual assistance, the State of modern Germany, led by iron-handed Prussia, came to found the modern Empire.
Nevertheless the themes of bureaucracy, and a pervasive fixation on order, orders and militarism keep coming up:
  • pp.162-3 No one who has watched the vast army of Berlin Socialist demonstrators marching out... to some one of the great parks or commons can mistake the character of the formation or the habit of mind which makes such an orderly political demonstration possible... The desired effect is produced by the leaders not by the led... There is no pretence that the demonstration is the spontaneous outburst of an infuriated populace.
  • p.214,The German people, as individuals, are characterized by a great degree, not only of sociability, but also of apparently psychological necessity for concerted or combined action in all phases of their social life... [T]here appears to be a certain distaste for the impromptu...
  • 227 There is still no more remarkable sight than a great German open-air beer garden on a summer evening... Or if a still more striking example of German orderliness and cleanliness been in required, it might be found in one of the great annual Socialist meetings under cover. 
On parties in the Reichstag
Some further selected points to give an idea of the book's scope and detail (underlining added):

Ch.II Kaiser etc.
  • p.30. Of the chief parties in the [Reichstag] House the Socialist is now the strongest... because it is the only party which adequately represents democratic opposition.
  • 43. It is against this wholly illiberal system that the Prussian Socialists are constantly protesting... (Lower House completely controlled by the rich classes) the Upper House is in reality no less reactionary. -44
  • 45...It can scarcely be doubted that far-reaching changes must come in the near future.
  • The basis of the reactionary system in Germany... is simply that the current of ideas both in the Empire and in most of the States is from the top downwards, not from the bottom upwards.-46
Ch.III Executive, Bureaucracy etc.
  • p.48...the custom to talk of Germany as a bureaucratic country. -49 but no Imperial bureaucracy.
  • p.55. In general it cannot be said that Germans feel the same objection as in England. Responsibility removed: hedged about with palissade of exasperating regulations. Not uniform, almost unnoticeable in some parts, for foreigners.
  • 56-57 Police: data collection, surveillance; whereabouts (availability for military service). Theft of ID and papers easy.  -58 almost always recruited from army. Separate police controlling activists. Powers extensive. Discourtesy and insolence towards public exceptional but victims powerless. 
  • -59 all departments of German life "inelastic"; by prescription. Inability to adapt.
  • 61 growing unpopularity, suspicion of police. Special work of watching foreigners.
Ch.IV Armed forces etc.
  • p.69 Military ethos. Costs, statistics.
  • 93-94. Paternal system of govt. National insurance, welfare includes provision in  case of workplace accident, and for working mothers, but not unemployment.
  • 96 protectorates, colonies. 97 Germans valued as colonists everywhere. 98 No place in the sun - common complaint. 
  • pp.98-99. It is possible in fact that German emigration is partly encouraged by the desire to find countries where bureaucratic organisation is less perfect, where the State is less all-important, and where the individual counts a lot more.
Ch.V Municipalities
  • p.100 mind-picture of Berlin from films as Gay City etc. 102 less concentration of intellectual, social, economic life than London. 
  • 103-5 "between state and individual" - no true communal solidarity. Towns as democratic threat.
  •  -106,107 amateurism little tolerated in public life. 
  • 108 industry, urbanisation; troops in towns.  116 night life
  • 117 housing; streets: "frequently jerry-built. Lower-class districts. 119 tram congestion 120 flats contrasted with London's "little houses": "Barrack flats".
  • 121 declining birth rate in six towns. Land speculation. 
  • 122 veto on skyscrapers. 123-4 housing agencies; inspectors inc.female.
  • 127 municipalities, firms building for workers. 128 garden city movement, from England.
Ch.VII Industry.
  • p.160 Germans generally show a marvellous capacity for being organised - whether inherent or due to military training - virtue carried at times to excess which renders it a vice.
  • 161 in the interests of the State or the capitalist.
  • 162 the German Social Democracy, probably the most astonishingly perfect political organisation the world has ever seen, would not be possible in any other country in Europe. 163. Demonstration: no noise, no conflict; for and on behalf of leaders not led.
  • p.176 German a "born grumbler", less disposed to give grumblings effective longer acutely conscious of being outraged as an individual. 
  • Reducing factory labour to level of simple obedience to rule. 177 number of employees increases, of employers does not. 
  • 178-9 Socialist Party in Reichstag has developed into a permanent opposition. 
  • 179 absurdity of Prussian feudalism and bureaucracy. 181 "organised workmen" [but again, some attention paid to women workers].
  • p.182 1911 2566 strikes involving 10,000 firms, 600,000 workmen.
Ch.VIII Agricultural
  • p 185 inelastic system of govt must be supported by conservative majority.
  • 186 ideal of complete self-sufficiency in food and support. 188 opposition to international interdependence.
  • 194 serfdom abolished in  Prussia only in 1807. 195 labour organisation has made little progress; obstruction.
  • 197 foreign seasonal labour, "sometimes semi-savage"
  • 204 cooperative societies affiliated in central unions.
Ch.IX. Castes and Classes. 
  • p.209 supremacy of the official caste; status of the uniform, esp military. 
  • 210-212 civil officialdom; grades, observances; titles, medals, decorations.
  • p.214 rules and regs for simplest functions.
  • 215 Verein. Clubs, banding together esp. males; singleton seen as unbekleidet (unclothed).
  • Position of women often discussed.
  • 217 German people only just emerging from...poverty of experience... 
  • -218 **That the German male does not on the whole regard his women folk [sic] as having missed their one true function if they are not "broad-bosomed mothers of stout sons" it would be absurd to deny, and it is no less true that the beauty of motherhood  is apt to be almost officially subordinated to the mechanical "duty" of women to provide males for the service of the State, its defence or its economic prosperity.**  
  • State system of protection for mothers; "appalling statistics of German illegitimacy". Extreme materialism. Numerical surplus of women; expansion of sphere of activity. 
  • 219 attempts to restrict employment opportunities; example of ridiculous (sexist) pamphlet.
  • p.221 no "dynasty of domestic servants"; factory etc preferred. 
  • 224 annual exodus to playgrounds of Europe. 227 beer gardens. 
  • -228 Socialist meetings. Germans in general appear to be growing more excitable, or neurasthenic... Demonstrations of public opinion. Nervous strain of modern competitive life.
  • 229 village life: great kindliness esp towards foreigners, unlike Berlin.
Ch.X. Intellectual Life 
  • p.230 Questionable if non-native qualified to expound on this… 
  • 231 Indifferentism prominent, undeniable feature of religious life. Problem of religious education; demands of free-thinkers. “Secularization of society”. Church tax, excluding declared “dissidents”.
  • 234 Intellectual, literary taste, as catholic as any other country 
  • 235 Dangerous character of much cheap literature. Association for Fighting Filth in Word and Pictures. 
  • 236 Amazing knowledge of classical lit of other countries, in original. 
  • 241 Movement to reflect times, Stimmung
  • 243 “Democratic”/”People’s Stage” most remarkable effort on part of working classes themselves; 17000 members
  • 248 Demand growing for relaxation rather than education.
  • Press – papers based in old capitals, not metropolitan centred. 
  • -249 Agency reports attached to parties and factions. Local papers adhering to government views in exchange for ads. Forcing views on public from top down; “semi-official”. 
  • -250 Losing popularity; concealed inspiration, confusion. 
  • 251 Journalism not getting social recognition. 
  • Satirical press, accusations of vulgarity, would not be tolerated by British readers. Curious spirit of reaction against mock-purism of officialdom. Engaged to attack persons not principles, gross personal tone, reactionary effect. 

The Author's Introduction is dated June 1913. When the book was reprinted in August the following year, its subject matter had become still more urgently the concern of British readers, but a quest for nuanced understanding was not generally to the fore. 

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