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Title: Liberalism and the city : the case of Frankfurt am Main, 1866-1914
Author: Palmowski, Jan
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1995
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Although in the German Empire the cities were major strongholds of political liberalism, this fact has until very recently attracted little attention from scholars preoccupied with the history of 'high politics' leading up to the two World Wars. This thesis is one of the first analyses of German liberalism at city level, and proceeds from the assumption that in a country with such a regionally and locally diverse political culture as Germany, this type of 'history from below' is a necessary precondition for any satisfactory understanding of the nature of German liberalism in general. Following the introduction, chapter two demonstrates that in Frankfurt, local government became politicised as early as the 1870s. Indeed, chapter three shows how the early experience of Frankfurt liberals in municipal politics was crucial as they defended themselves against emerging political groups during the following decades, particularly the Mittelstand and the SPD. The fourth chapter analyses the development of liberal attitudes towards municipal finance as a background to chapter five which uses the example of Frankfurt to demonstrate how crucial the issue of municipal finance was to the viability of local liberalism not just in theory, but also in practice. Chapter six considers the importance of education to local liberalism as it touched on a number of themes which were central to urban liberals' understanding of themselves, in particular the issues of local self-government and religion. The final chapter looks at the crucial area of social policy, to see to what extent local liberals were merely reactive, and to what extent they were innovative as they faced the new problems of urbanisation and industrialisation. The sophistication of liberal politics in local government, the only level of government where liberals were in the position of carrying out their policies, underlines the gravity of the problem which the lack of parliamentary government posed for liberals at the state and national level. Furthermore, the thesis points to a central dilemma, because, to be successful in Frankfurt and other regions, liberals had to respond to the particular culture at the local level, a requirement that was in direct contrast to the necessity of finding a coherent political consensus at the level of national and state politics. Even though at the local level the liberal capacity of responding to the social and political challenges of their rapidly changing environment has been proved beyond doubt, their policies, their rhetoric and their organisational lead could have only a very limited effect on German liberalism in general. The urban liberals' ideal of creating a more liberal society from 'the bottom up', through the cities, was undermined by the fact that the political future of German liberalism at the state and national level came to rest increasingly on its electoral appeal in the countryside, just at a time when urban liberal self-consciousness reached its peak.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Liberalism ; History ; Local government ; Politics and government ; Germany ; Frankfurt am Main ; 19th century ; 20th century ; Frankfurt am Main (Germany)