Raising Germans in the Age of Empire. Youth and Colonial Culture, 1871-1914

Empire was a central reference point for Wilhelmine Germans young and old trying to define their place within a rapidly changing modern world. One critical site for working out the parameters of this relationship was the classroom, and especially in geography instruction. Geography lessons conveyed useful information and patriotic virtues; at the same time, they were used to encourage students’ interest through the obvious appeal of the unfamiliar and adventurous. But this was more than merely colonialist propaganda and must be understood within the context of pedagogical reform and mass leisure. Empire occupied and maintained a central place within German curricula because it could be put to use in ways that satisfied, on the one hand, the demands of teachers for engaging and illustrative material and, on the other, the demands of authorities for practical lessons for developing citizens capable of promoting Germany’s well-being around the globe.

Jeff Bowersox is a Lecturer in German History in the School of European Languages, Culture, and Society, University College London.