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Germany: Memories of a Nation

4.55  ·  Rating details ·  2,329 ratings  ·  288 reviews

From Neil MacGregor, the author of A History of the World in 100 Objects, this is a view of Germany like no other

Today, as the dominant economic force in Europe, Germany looms as large as ever over world affairs. But how much do we really understand about it, and how do its people understand themselves?

In this enthralling new book, Neil MacGregor guides

Kindle Edition, 553 pages
Published November 13th 2014 by Allen Lane (first published November 6th 2014)
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Ilse(on semi-hiatus)
Every moment spent reading this, was worthwhile. The thematic approach of MacGregor is highly entertaining and his lucid and witty prose is a delight to read. Instead of attempting comprehensiveness, Macgregor stitches a colorful patchwork quilt out of 30 intriguing and incisive miniature essays, illustrating masterfully Germany’s complex and fraught cultural history.

The book is a remarkable encomium to modern Germany and the sensible way it gets on with his troubling past, contextualizing and
Years ago when yet another hour of Hitler programming chugged on to the TV screen I'd wonder if perhaps we could have a documentary on Biedermeier era furniture just to suggest that there could be something else German that might interest the wider world than just the Third Reich. MacGregor's radio series, is in a similar style as his earlier History of the World in a Hundred Objects, making objects the starting point of a wider enquiry, may be part of a tentative thawing in the British concepti ...more
David Gustafson
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A nation's culture molds every citizen's inward soul whether or not they agree with what it expresses. Like it or not, those various ingredients of culture also fashion a nation's outward history.

Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum since 2002, has loaded his painter's brush from the broad palette of German culture with vivid colors from Charles the Great (Charlemagne) to Chancellor Angela Merkel, blending together an almost cubist portrait of the German soul under the title, "Germ
E. G.
Introduction: Monuments and memories

--Germany: Memories of a Nation

Illustrations and Photographic Credits
Cheryl Kennedy
...Volkswagen, Adidas, Puma, Mercedes, Lufthansa. logo itself is a German invention, Albrecht Durer (defining artist of Germany), porcelain factory in Dresden, metal craftsmanship, Nuremberg opera and master singers, clock-watches, Black Forest cuckoo clocks, daimler and benz first working motor cars, Hall of Mirors at Versailles, Kaiser Wilhelm I, Chancellor of the German Empire...Bismarck, sculptor...Kathe Kollwitz, First World War, Hitler, Nazi regime, purging the degenerate, racial purity (A ...more
Lyn Elliott
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This wonderful book is the end result of an exhibition held in the British Museum under Neil MacGregor's directorship.
The research that went into the exhibition appeared as 12 programs on BBC 4 and finally emerged in book form, which I've had to read electronically but will keep searching for a hard copy. Kindle is hopeless for this - it is richly illustrated in colour and poor little kindle doesn't cope with that. But the kindle app on iPad meant I could at least see the images properly, and th
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written by Neil MacGregor once the Director of the British Museum who happens to know a lot about Germany. Perhaps the book would be better called Monuments and Museums of Germany. Quirky composition of Germany’s history examined largely through arts and objects.

Surprisingly good prose and eclectic topics such as lost capitals.

We learn that Konigsberg was once a historic German city famous as the birthplace of Emmanuel Kant. The city and its surrounding enclave lie some 300 miles from Berlin a
Osiris Brackhaus
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A fascinating view on German history from a British point of view. McGregor's focus on items as touchstones for his narrative is priceless - even though the facts were mostly known to me, he managed to shed an entirely new light on events, suggesting connections that I would have never seen. A brilliant read.
Some of the first chapters did read a little too positive at first, at least to me. But then again, I am German, raised in Germany, and trained to see our history in rather negative terms.
Cornelia Funke
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading a chapter for breakfast each day- morning treat! Hurrah for Neil McGregor. He enlightened me so many times by now with his books, made me see familiar things through a different lense... First world history, next Shakespeare now my home country. His thought make me so much more aware of the thoughts/ beliefs/ associations I grew up with. Thought provoking and inspiring as always- though I may differ on his thoughts about Faust:)
From BBC Radio 4:
Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, begins his series examining 600 years of German history through objects, with a reflection on Germany's floating frontiers.

Even if this series will continue I won't be able to follow it in the next weeks.

A fascinating and engrossing view on the history of my fatherland from an “outsider”. Very readable; recommended for history buffs as well as art lovers. Full review to follow…
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, reviewed

Or a history of Germany in 25 objects. Follows the same formula as the authors history of the world. But this one is more lavishly illustrated indeed tis is a thing of rare beauty. Terribly interesting topic for one such as I who studied German history for A level. Some lesser known facts emerge - that it was mostly women who literally rebuilt Germany after the Allies had reduced it to rubble. After the German men had fucked things up.
Fascinating comparison between the German attitude to Europe
At times a bit dry, but still wonderful.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a lot of talk about the 'cultural turn' in history, and about how we might come to a different understanding of the past if we become least logocentric, if we spent less attention to words and more to images and objects. This book is probably the best example of this that you could wish to meet. It doesn't set out to be a narrative history, instead it picks 30 or so themes each of which illuminates critical things about Germany and its past. The book is extensively illustrated, and the ...more
Peter Beck
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, germany
When "Germany" arrived, I was taken aback by its girth, but the captivating images and accessible text instantly pushed it to the top of my long reading list.

What does it mean to be German? I thought this would have a straight-forward answer until MacGregor explained (with the help of wonderful maps) the patchwork of principalities and city-states that were melded into Germany less than 150 years ago. I consider myself "German-American," but most Germans came to the U.S. before Germany was actua
Gisela Hafezparast
Excellent and entertaining read. Learned a lot both about German history, politics past and present, culture and art. Most of which I should have learned at school in the 70s and 80s. However, as I born in 1966, history lessons at that stage was all about German guilt with regard to the 1st and 2nd world war. This book actually deals with this as well in a really excellent way. Know now why I had to go to England to learn about the great Germans!
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An immensely powerful book where the author uses art to illustrate themes in a personal history of Germany. It is a wonderful way of leading the reader through a complex and tragic journey.

Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ostensibly a history of Germany, this book has a curious origin story, being part of a three-pronged project: an exhibition at the British Museum, a BBC radio series, and the book itself. I think these three strands are probably all mutually reinforcing. Certainly the book has a very strong visual element, being lavishly illustrated in a way that is strongly complementary to the book's message, which I am sure was great aided by the museum exhibition. Similarly, the radio facet of the project pr ...more
Jun 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
GoodReads needs a 3.5 star option.
Sorin Hadârcă
Hardly complete, but well-written and visually enriched, these German “histories” provide a very comprehensive mosaic of what it is to be German. I wish I had read it before traveling to Berlin, but now that I had not, I am, again, eager to return.
Alexandru Tudorica
A cultural, artistic and historic narrative of the German nation, from Hermann the defeater of the Roman Empire up to the present day. I have especially enjoyed the interpretation of various symbols and learned a lot about the roots of religious and political tolerance during the Holy Roman Empire period (or rather, how the lack of a powerful central authority made consistent persecution of "dangerous ideas" impossible). The Thirty Years War, the failed political reforms around 1848 and the two ...more
Richard Thomas
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe
This is an excellent and very readable account of Germany and the German people, their history, culture and economic life and times. It is in short easily read chapters which for me are models of how to cover complex issues without either condescending to the reader or simplifying the topic to the point of banality. It is a book that i will come back to to check my memory and to re-read for the pleasure of finding something new.
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the art history lens on German history that the author uses, highlighting paintings, artifacts, sculptures, and architectural landmarks that are emblematic of moments in Germany's history. I especially enjoyed the discussions of Gutenberg and the printing press, Dürer as artist and expert businessman, and Käthe Kollwitz on the horror and pointlessness of war.
Luc De Coster
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, travel
A high quality colour picture of an amber tankard in the collection of the British Museum is the start of a lesson about a city long lost for Germany but an essential part of the nation's memory: Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). The tankard was made in the 17th century in Königsberg from amber collected on the Baltic shores. Amber as a local industry, amber as a diplomatic gift, the amber room in the Romanov Palace outside St. Petersburg, ... The ornate drinking cup brings the reader Frederick I, t ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
WWII being such a momentous event it can often suck out the intellectual oxygen when it comes to countries like Germany. The horror of the twelve year reign of Nazis is indeed large and not to be forgotten however Germany has over a thousand years of history and culture and it is good to know about some of highs in their culture as well the lows. Goethe, Martin Luther, Bauhaus, Gutenberg, Thomas Kempis, Heisenberg, Schroedinger and Bach are names to remember when one thinks of Germany. Perhaps t ...more
4.25 stars
For some reason, 2017 has stoked a non-fiction fire in me and a desire to learn more about my own country. So, of course I read a book about Germany published by a Brit? I say, yes of course.

Getting to see my own country through the eyes of another country is always interesting and Neil MacGregor does so with admiration and care. This book was entertaining to read and enlightening. Of course I learned a lot about the pillars of German history in school but while we covered some parts
Steven Wendell
Good read for anyone interested in German studies.

Not exactly what I was looking for, but still a good read. If your looking for a university textbook style history book of Germany this is not it. This would be an excellent read for a cultural anthropologist because I feel it delves more into the cultural development of the modern country we have today than a hardline history of it. Most of the book to me seems to covers the past three centuries well but doesn't go into much detail to earlier hi
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent reuse of the concept from the authors History of the World in a 100 Objects. Provides a convincing exploration of what Germany and German meant and means and the associated implications. Perhaps a wee bit overly repetitious (Königsberg, Luther, Goethe etc.) but certainly an easy flowing read and an excellent appetiser for travel and further study
Katherine Fraser
wel that was fuckin GOOD

it’s hella important to remember the title - ‘memories of a nation’. at times the book can seem incoherent or lacking, but it is not written to eb a history or a timeline. instead it describes the memories of a collective people, looking at currency and flags, to art and architecture. genuinely a fascinating book, and incredibly illuminating and compassionate.
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while since I read such really rather dry subject matter with this much enjoyment. It kept me busy for a long time.

As with the exhibit, I enjoyed the view from the outside, it focused on some things that never would have occurred to me otherwise. And despite covering specific angles of German history, it was quite comprehensive and included things I really didn't know much about. History classes in school seemed to go back and forth between Romans/Greeks, French Revolution and Third
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Neil MacGregor was born in Glasgow to two doctors, Alexander and Anna MacGregor. At the age of nine, he first saw Salvador Dalí's Christ of Saint John of the Cross, newly acquired by Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery, which had a profound effect on him and sparked his lifelong interest in art. MacGregor was educated at Glasgow Academy and then read modern languages at New College, Oxford, where he ...more

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18 likes · 10 comments
“In Germany, for a long time, the purpose of history was to ensure it could never happen again.” —MICHAEL STÜRMER” 3 likes
“if Americans are one nation under God, the Germans are one nation under Goethe.” 1 likes
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