James RetallackApr 20, 2022
German Social Democracy through British Eyes
A Documentary History, 1870–1914
University of Toronto Press 2022
On the eve of the First World War, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) was the largest and most powerful socialist party in the world. German Social Democracy through British Eyes: A Documentary History, 1870–1914 (U Toronto Press, 2021) examines the SPD’s rise using British diplomatic reports from Saxony, the third-largest federal state in Imperial Germany and the cradle of the socialist movement in that country.
Rather than focusing on the Anglo-German antagonism leading to the First World War, the book peers into the everyday struggles of German workers to build a political movement and emancipate themselves from the worst features of a modern capitalist system: exploitation, poverty, and injustice. The archival documents, most of which have never been published before, raise the question of how people from one nation view people from another. The documents also illuminate political systems, election practices, and anti-democratic strategies at the local and regional levels, allowing readers to test hypotheses derived only from national-level studies.
This collection of primary sources shows why, despite the inhospitable environment of German authoritarianism, Saxony and Germany were among the most important incubators of socialism.
Lea Greenberg is a scholar of German studies with a particular focus on German Jewish and Yiddish literature and culture; critical gender studies; multilingualism; and literature of the post-Yugoslav diaspora.