Dr. John Williams to Have Book Reprinted in Paperback

December 2, 2013

By Liz Cachey ‘15

History Department Chair Dr. John Williams is to have his edited book Weimar Culture Revisited reprinted in paperback by Palgrave Macmillan. Originally published in hardback in 2011, the book was chosen for reprint after receiving a number of good reviews from students and professors who had used the book in their university classes.

Weimar Culture Revisited examines what some consider a fairly overlooked and politically charged period of time.

A revolutionary uprising in November 1918 overthrew Kaiser Wilhelm II and brought about the armistice on November 11 that put an end to World War I. Germany had lost the war and fallen into revolution in the process. A provisional government was established, and elections to a National Assembly took place in January 1919. The NA convened at the small town of Weimar, because the government feared that ongoing political unrest in Berlin would disrupt the process of writing the new constitution for Germany that was the NA's charge,” Williams said. “Because of that choice of venue, this system became known as the Weimar Republic. It was Germany's first attempt to install a true parliamentary democracy, and it only lasted for fourteen years before the Nazis took power and destroyed it.”

“Weaknesses stemming from the earlier, authoritarian system under Kaiser Wilhelm, as well as the damaging economic, political, and social legacies of the war itself, plagued the Weimar Republic throughout its all too brief history,” Williams said. “The Treaty of Versailles--which punished Germany by taking away its colonies and some of its European territory, reducing its military to a mere token force, and imposing a heavy reparations payment--did its part to intensify the sense of national grievance and resentment toward Great Britain, France, and the USRadical, anti-democratic political groups on both the far Right and the far Left took advantage of these popular resentments to attack the very idea of democracy.” 

Williams noted, “Weimar Culture Revisited offers a range of new scholarship on the everyday cultural developments of this period. Culture in the Weimar era provides a counterpart the ‘Roaring Twenties' in the US and elsewhere, and historians have generally looked at the subject of culture from the top down--in other words, they have focused mainly on famous, canonical texts of high culture, such as movies like ‘Metropolis’ and ‘The Blue Angel,’ literature by Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht, and cynical Expressionist works of painters like Georg Grosz and Otto Dix. There is certainly nothing wrong with focusing on famous works of Modernism, and indeed, some of the chapters in the book look at them from new perspectives.”

“However, what all the essays in the book have in common is an emphasis on more grass-roots cultural forms that may not be as famous, yet are equally if not more so important for understanding the mentalities and everyday lives of people at the time,” Williams added. “Thus there are essays on a range of more popular-cultural subjects like the spread of the mass media, popular adventure movies, attitudes toward Eastern spirituality, state-sponsored public holidays, attitudes toward sport stars, and working-class hiking groups.”

Williams realized there was a need for the book while teaching a Masters of Liberal Studies course on Weimar culture and politics here at Bradley.

“No collection of new research on Weimar had been published for about 20 years, and those publications for that reason were somewhat outdated,” Williams said. He also realized that “every aspect of the Third Reich has been exhaustively researched, while Weimar, which in fact lasted two years longer than the Third Reich, still has a lot left to be explored and evaluated.”

“Editing other people's work is certainly easier than writing your own, but it entails its own challenges,” Williams added. “My most basic approach was to help the authors overcome tendencies toward obscurity and jargon, since I always intended the book to be useful both to college students and to interested parties in the broader public. Obscure writing is the quickest way to turn readers off, and some of the essays were less clear than others and therefore needed more rewriting. “

Though the process itself was taxing, the end product was worth the work. Having one’s book reprinted by a publisher as well-known as Palgrave Macmillan is a great accomplishment.

I especially want to thank my students in the book-inspiring class, MLS 610 for being so engaged and making such great arguments,” Williams said. “Two of them, Michelle Eaton and Allison Jones, are now Bradley employees!”