NONFICTION

The Shortest History of Germany: From Julius Caesar to Angela Merkel—a Retelling for Our Times. Experiment

Mar. 2019. 256p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781615195695. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781615195701. HIST
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Hawes (director, creative writing, Oxford Brookes Univ.) states that Germany may be the last hope for the West. But to understand why this may be the case, he argues one must first understand the country's history. He quickly launches into what the title promises: a rapid-paced, thought-provoking, easy-to-digest account of German history from 500 BCE to the present. Hawes sets forth a thesis that two historic dividing lines have influenced the lands we now know as Germany. The first was a 350-mile Roman fortified border between Gaul and Germania. Hawes writes that this Roman past, and its substantially Catholic population, is noteworthy. The other line is the Elbe River, in what was known as Prussia. Hawes asks, now that the two Germanies are reunited, will Germany lean to the West or the East and what are the ramifications?
VERDICT The book lacks the footnotes and bibliography of an authoritative history but conveys the passion of someone who has thought deeply about Germany. The premise of the nation with a centuries-long East/West divide may be controversial, but Hawes's writing will appeal to readers who want a quick, sassy book that may encourage discussion or a more in-depth dive.

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