I work on the social, cultural and political history of Europe c. 1760 - 1939, particularly its German-speaking parts. And while my research interests relate to themes rather than particular countries or chronologies, I don't normally supervise theses that fall within the post-1945 period. Themes of special interest include citizenship; nationalism; religion; liberalism and its role in the formation of cultural norms and expectations; time and temporal rhythms; the history of towns and cities; the cultural history of economic life; historiography and theory. The question that preoccupies me at the moment is how ordinary people in the nineteenth century adapted to the acceleration of life and the standardisation of time.
Professor Zimmer is on research leave 2015-17 on a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship.
Remaking the Rhythms of Life: German Communities in the Age of the Nation State (Oxford, 2013)
Across Europe the late nineteenth century marked a period of rapid economic change, increased migration, religious conflict, and inter-state competition. In Germany, these developments were further accentuated by the creation of the imperial state in 1870-1871, and the conflicting hopes and expectations it provoked. Attempting to make sense of this turbulent period of German history, historians have frequently reverted to terms such as industrialization, urbanization, nation-formation, modernity or modernization. Using the prism of comparative urban history, Oliver Zimmer highlights the limitations of these conceptual abstractions and challenges the separation of local and national approaches to the past. He shows how men and women drew on their creative energies to instigate change at various levels.
Focusing on conflicts over the local economy and elementary schools, as well as on nationalist and religious processions, Remaking the Rhythms of Life examines how urban residents sought to regain a sense of place in a changing world - less by resisting the novel than by reconfiguring their environments in ways that reflected their sensibilities and aspirations; less by lamenting the decline of civic virtues than by creating surroundings that proved sufficiently meaningful to sustain lives. In their capacity as consumers, citizens, and members of religious or economic associations, people embarked on a multitude of journeys. As they did, larger phenomena such as religion, nationalism, and the state became intertwined with their everyday affairs and concerns.
Nationalism and Citizenship
Time and Social Rhythms
My next book is a comparative examination of time and social rhythms in the long nineteenth century. Entitled Losing Time and Temper: The Struggle over Clocks and Timetables, 1840 – 1914, this research involves extensive archival work in both England and Germany on conceptions of time, public clocks, train schedules, and railway passengers' expectations, strategies, and emotional states. Historians have commonly associated the nineteenth century, and particularly its later decades, with a homogenisation of people's sense of time. When it comes to explaining this process, the railways tend to take pride of place. As railway traffic grew in density, the ethos of the timetable began to permeate the awareness of individuals and communities. There are problems with this perspective. While recognising the impact of technological innovation, in this research I understand time as a resource that people utilized as they elaborated their lives' schedules. The result was a multiplicity of social rhythms that stood in a relationship of tension to the standardized railway time announced in public timetables. The rhythm of a railway line was thus, to a considerable extent, the product of these human elaborations. While we possess a rich if slightly repetitive literature devoted to the more intellectual and abstract aspects of time, there is a surprising dearth of studies engaging with the practical uses of time in everyday situations, which form the concern of this book. This project benefits from the recent award of a Major Research Fellowship by The Leverhulme Trust.
Die Ungeduld mit der Zeit. Britische und deutsche Bahnpassagiere im Eisenbahnzeitalter.
Scholars have often equated the potentials of modern time culture with its practical effects. Yet new possibilities created by faster trains, synchronized clocks or the regulation of passenger movements only tell us so much about how people perceive and use time in their everyday lives. When it comes to time, the place of the action matters often more than the conventions of linear time. Drawing on British and German railway passengers' experiences, this article demonstrates that the nineteenth century, usually described as a period of acceleration, was also an age of rising impatience. This widespread sense of restlessness was not primarily a reflection of national characteristics. What proved more instrumental was the acceleration and growth of railway communication: Living in "the age of progress", men and women had expected timetabled trains to render their lives more predictable. As a feature of modernity, impatience manifested itself first in Britain, where, by the 1860s, early industrialization and extensive urbanization had fostered a uniquely dense network, with trains that were travelling at faster average speeds than anywhere in the world. By the 1890s Germany’s railway network was as dense and dynamic as Britain’s, and her travelling public was as impatient as its British counterpart. Now German railway passengers too grew increasingly restless when trains failed to keep their time.
Nationalism in Europe 1918-45
Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism
Interwar Europe, and particularly its central and eastern regions, witnessed a clash between the hegemonic nationalism of so-called successor states such as Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia and the irredentist nationalism of defeated states like Hungary and Germany. The former interpreted the Wilsonian principle of national self-determination as the right of the dominant nationality to impose its culture on the minority populations living within a particular state territory. These nationalist policies caused a great deal of resentment among the populations (rather than merely the elites) of the revisionist states. While this fateful dynamic could build on pre-war ideological traditions of organic and expansionist nationalism, it was the radicalization they experienced after 1918 in a number of societies—above all Germany and Italy, but also Hungary and Romania—that rendered them a powerful device for fascist mobilization. For the leaders and supporters of fascist regimes, open threats and expansionist warfare were equally legitimate means to realize revisionist and expansionist goals.
Remaking the Rhythms of Life: German Communities in the Age of the Nation-State
Across Europe, the late nineteenth century marked a period of rapid economic growth, increased migration, cultural and technical innovation, religious conflict, and inter-state competition. In Germany, these developments were further accentuated by the creation of the imperial state in 1870/71 and the conflicting hopes and expectations it provoked within the larger public. Attempting to make sense of this turbulent period of German history, historians have frequently reverted to terms such as industrialization, urbanization, nation-formation, modernity, or modernization. Using the prism of comparative urban history, this book highlights the limitations of these conceptual abstractions and reveals the artificiality of the separation of local and national approaches to the past. It shows how men and women drew on their creative energies to instigate change at various levels. Focusing on conflicts over the local economy, elementary schools, the theatre and citizenship, and looking at nationalist and religious processions, Remaking the Rhythms of Life examines how urban residents sought to regain a sense of place in a changing world: less by resisting the novel than by reconfiguring their environments in ways that reflected their sensibilities and aspirations; less by lamenting the decline of civic virtues than by creating surroundings that proved sufficiently meaningful to sustain lives. In their capacity as consumers or citizens, members of religious or economic associations, people embarked on a multitude of journeys. As they did, larger themes such as religion, nationalism and the state became intertwined with everyday affairs and concerns.
Business & Economics
Seventh nations and nationalism debate: Joep Leerssen's National Thought in Europe: A Cultural History
Nations and Nationalism
William Whyte and Oliver Zimmer, eds, Nationalism and the Reshaping of Urban Communities in Europe, 1848–1914
European History Quarterly
Coping with deviance: Swiss nationhood in the long nineteenth century
Nations and Nationalism
This article highlights two processes that shaped Swiss nationhood in the long nineteenth century. The first concerns the competition between different nation-states and the nationalist visions these contests engendered. In a Europe dominated by the norm of the culturally and ethnically homogenous nation, the Swiss authorities, public intellectuals and various political representatives were desperate to display an image of national authenticity to the outside world. The result was a nationalism that combined voluntaristic and organic elements. In the second and main part of this article, the focus turns on citizenship; it is conceived not only as a social and legal institution, but also as a cognitive prism through which people defined their membership in the national community. Remarkably, the authority in granting national citizenship to foreign nationals remained firmly in the hands of the cantons and, above all, the Swiss municipalities. In practical terms, this meant that the Gemeinde provided the institutional and cognitive frame through which nationhood was primarily experienced, imagined and defined. While Switzerland represents a particularly strong case of a communalist polity, it should not be treated as unique. Instead, it should alert us to a potentially fertile yet little-explored area of research: what might be called the communal embededdness of the national(ist) imagination.
Nationalism and the Reshaping of Urban Communities in Europe, 1848-1914
This book brings together a distinguished group of historians to explore the previously neglected relationship between nationalism and urban history. It reveals the contrasting experiences of nationalism in different societies and milieus. It will help historians to reassess the role of nationalism both inside and outside the nation state.
Urban Economies and the National Imagination: The German South, 1860-1914
Nationalism and the Reshaping of Urban Communities in Europe, 1848-1914
If we still know rather little about how ordinary men and women experienced nationalism and the modern nation-state, this is in part because the communal embeddedness of people’s national imagination has received scant attention in a field in which many works are pitched at a highly abstract level. In the terminology of Benedict Anderson, the most influential theorist of recent decades, nations are imagined communities; what had enabled people to imagine a large and abstract community like the nation was print capitalism: a language- based revolution in the means of communication that started with the Reformation and reached its apogee in the mass-produced newspapers and novels of the nineteenth century.1
Beneath the "Culture War": Corpus Christi Processions and Mutual Accommodation in the Second German Empire
Journal of Modern History
On a sunny day in June 1897, the Augsburg councillors Kusterer, Doll, and
Martin joined the town’s main Corpus Christi procession. Given that the three
men represented the Center Party, a Catholic political party in Augsburg’s
liberal-dominated city council, their taking part in this most important of Catholic
religious feasts was by no means exceptional, as each year thousands of inhabitants
either joined the Corpus Christi procession or lined the streets as bystanders.
In the local press, both liberal and ultramontane newspapers covered the event in
the usual way, noting, among other things, that the town’s garrisoned military had
lined the route of the procession, or that “many houses” had been decorated
“with birch branches, wreaths, and images.” They also mentioned, without
further ado (and without naming names), that “three councillors” had joined
the procession. None of the newspapers covering the event reported that
anything extraordinary, let alone improper, had happened before, during, or
immediately after the procession.
As we learn from the controversy that ensued, however, what was unusual
was the three Catholic councillors’ choice of dress: that they had decided to
participate in the procession wearing their officeholders’ livery, the so-called
Amtstracht, apparently marked a departure from established custom. At the
council’s next meeting, the three men were thus promptly reminded by
Chairman Stolz that by wearing their councillors’ livery at a religious festival,
they had violated the dress code that was adopted in the late 1860s for such
occasions. A Catholic and the editor in chief of the liberal Augsburger
Abendzeitung, Stolz insisted that any councillor attending an event devoted to
a single denominational group did so in an entirely private capacity and from
hence arose the need for councillors to wear normal dress rather than the
council’s official garb. Aware that he was representing the view of the liberal
majority, Stolz concluded by asking the three Center Party members to either
play by the rules henceforth or file a motion in favor of changing them.
Nation and Religion. Von der Imagination des Nationalen zur Verarbeitung von Nationalisierungsprozessen