From Metternich to Merkel: The Search for German Identity


Although for 1500 years the Germans were the most numerous and prosperous nation in Europe, politics never reflected that dominance. Leaders like Metternich never wanted it to do so. The reality is that until 1866, Germany was an underpowered collection of small states. The way in which Bismarck then restructured them shaped their ambitions for three generations. It gave the Germans delusions of grandeur which flattered to deceive and which diverged from their national history.

Historians are still trying to analyse the reasons for this ruinous aberration. As a result, by 1945 Germany was shattered and divided into four zones of occupation. Post-war Germany might well have become demoralised by military defeat. Instead it reverted to its traditional values of hard work and high standards, and under a series of pragmatic Chancellors from Adenauer to Merkel, established a different but enigmatic identity during the Cold War and post-Soviet eras. “Soft power” did not come naturally to all those who had once wielded military pre-eminence.

Is the current rejection of militarism permanent or is it a temporary phase of quiescence?

Please note: this lecture series will close to enrolments at 23:59 BST on 15 October 2023.

Programme details

Lecture programme

Lectures take place on Wednesdays, from 11am–12.15pm (UK time).

Wednesday 18 October 2023
The First Reich: Germany until 1815

Wednesday 25 October 2023
Bismarck and realpolitik, 1815 – 1870

Wednesday 1 November 2023
The Second Reich: Germany 1870 – 1918

Wednesday 8 November 2023
Weimar and the Third Reich, 1919 – 1945

Wednesday 15 November 2023
Division and revision, 1945 – 1990

Wednesday 22 November 2023
Merkantilism, before and after, 1990 – 2023

How and when to watch

For those attending in person at Rewley House, registration takes place from 10.30am before the first lecture (18 October only). The lecture will last approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, followed by questions. Tea and coffee are provided in the Common Room before each lecture, from 10.30am.

For those joining us online, please join in good time before each lecture to ensure that you have no connection problems. We recommend joining 10-15 minutes before the start time. If joining from another time zone, please note that the first two lectures will take place from 11am-12.15pm BST (UTC+1), whereas the lectures from 1 November onwards will take place from 11am-12.15pm GMT (UTC).


Description Costs
Course Fee - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £155.00
Course Fee - virtual attendance £140.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr Christopher Danziger

Christopher Danziger M.A., M.Ed., was formerly Head of History at St Edward’s School, Oxford and a lecturer at the Universities of Durham and Cape Town. He has been a Tutor in the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education for over 15 years. He teaches European History, with a special interest in Napoleonic France and Romanov Russia, on both of which he has written extensively.


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.