Germany, Austria, and the Idea of the German Nation, 1871-1914

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German–Austrian relations have long been neglected by historical research, in particular as regards questions of nationalism and national identity. This essay explores Austria’s role in German national discourse between the formation of the nation-state and the outbreak of the First World War. Even after Vienna’s exclusion from German affairs in 1866/71, a certain sense of togetherness with Austrian Germandom remained, fostered by a common language, shared historical memories, and close ties in cultural and socio-economic fields. The ethno-cultural community stood in a complementary relationship to the nation-state, and national sentiments were easily mobilised whenever Austro-German political supremacy was perceived as threatened. However, it did not acquire any particular significance for official German policy towards Austria–Hungary. Demands for intervention on behalf of the German-speaking population of the Dual Monarchy or for the unification of Central European Germandom in Großdeutschland or a Germanic Mitteleuropa also found no support amongst larger sections of the population. What prevailed was a statist disposition of German society, that is the acceptance of the primacy of nation-state interests and identity over notions of völkisch solidarity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-214
Number of pages15
JournalHistory Compass
Issue number3
Early online date1 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

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