"Controversy and Strife" : The Development of West German Historiography from 1946-1986
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The first section of this work will outline how the German historical profession rebuilt itself in the years just following the war. It will introduce Gerhard Ritter and give a brief synopsis of his main ideas and outlook, demonstrating that they were a part of the broader orthodoxy within German historiography. From there, it will demonstrate how Ritter was able to secure a highly influential position within the profession and how his ideals broadly overlapped with the strategic interests Federal Republic of Germany. This strategic position helped institutionally entrench the conservative narrative. It will conclude with an overview of the dissent to this orthodoxy by a younger generation of historian leading neatly into the second section devoted to the "Fischer Controversy" of 1961. This second section will explore the Fischer Thesis and how its main arguments subverted and contradicted those of the earlier establishment along with how, ideologically speaking, the Fischer Thesis challenged the established narrative and methodology. It will also look into the reactions that the thesis generated on both sides of the Atlantic and the great amount of politicking surrounding the debates. It will show that the Fischer Thesis was tied in with larger cultural developments in the Federal Republic and that, with some reworking, it became more influential but did not entirely replace the former orthodoxy. The third section picks up where the second left off, charting how the Fischer thesis became more accepted eventually turning into the Bielefeld school. From this point, it will look into the major methodological and theoretical innovations of the Bielefeld School. It will also discuss how the right-wing transformed following the initial controversy and introduce the key figures that formulated their ideas. The fourth and final section covers the Historikerstreit of 1986 and the main arguments advanced by both major coalitions, showing why the right-wing arguments were unpalatable to so many and how the conservative methodology was finally discredited. The results of the Historikerstreit have left a profound impact on the future development of the German historical profession by largely alienating the right-most wing of the debates and further reinforcing the emerging dominance of the left wing. It also brought up questions of what role historians should play in public life as well along with what behavior and ideas are appropriate for historians, particularly those with high public profiles. While it would be inaccurate to say that there is one ruling orthodoxy when it comes to examining the German past, there has not been a debate with the scale or publicity of the Historikerstreit since.