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Nation, Identity, and German "Particularities" The Case of the Ruhr, 1871-1908

Hein, Benjamin Peter (2010)
Honors Thesis (105 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Eckert, Astrid M
Committee Members: Vick, Brian ; Aue, Maximilian
Research Fields: History, European
Keywords: german; nation; ruhr; identity; germany; germanization; pole; migrant; nation-building; ruhrgebiet; industrialization; region; kaissereich; empire; reichsvereinsgesetz; herne; strike; bochum; dortmund; mine; polish; question;
Program: College Honors Program, English and History
Permanent url:


To Germans in the heavily industrializing region of the Ruhr, the creation of the German
nation in 1871 was not merely an abstract vision that needed to be dealt with on a
theoretical level, but a tangible reality that was taking a significant toll on the
socioeconomic and cultural make-up of the region. Beginning in the 1860s and 1870s,
industrialization would draw approximately 450,000 migrant workers of Polish ethnicity into the
region by World War I. To the German nationalists of the empire, this apparent
"Polonization" of the urdeutsche German "heartlands" was a cause of grave concern, and
by the 1890s, they introduced the policy of Germanization to repressively assimilate the
Polish newcomers and protect the local Deutschtum. While the plight of the Polish
migrants has been examined extensively, this study directs its attention towards the
indigenous population of the Ruhr and examines how the local Germans themselves may
have reacted to Germanization. Can we assume that being "German" automatically
translated into support for a German nationalist idea? Such a presumption favors the
theory that there was widespread consensus on what it meant to be a German nationalist.
During the late nineteenth century, however, that concept was anything but clear. This
study then seeks to investigate how natives perceived an essentially alien nationalist
policy, in what ways they challenged the measure with their own visions of a German
nation, and how they came to support it eventually.

Table of Contents

Preface / 1
Introduction / 2
I. The Ruhrgebiet During the Long Nineteenth Century: A Brief History / 10
II. Origins of the "Polish Question" and Its Meaning for the German Nation / 18
III. The "Polish Question" and Germanization in the Ruhrgebiet / 28
IV. Germanization: Its Supporters and Opponents / 45
V. Convergence Along National Lines and Insights into German "Particularities" / 67
Conclusions / 89
Bibliography / 92


application/pdf Honors Thesis 105 pages (542.1 KB) [Access copy of Honors Thesis]
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