Images of Germany: a theory-based approach to the classification, analysis, and critique of British attitudes towards Germany, 1890-1940

MacIntyre, Duncan (1990) Images of Germany: a theory-based approach to the classification, analysis, and critique of British attitudes towards Germany, 1890-1940. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The thesis attempts to set sources broadly representative of the range of British attitudes to Germany and the Germans - from Spender, Low, Maxse and Dillon, to Bowse, Namier, Vansittart, Gollancz and Barraclough in a framework informed by multidisciplinary theory. There are five main themes: the classification of attitudes; the analysis of content; the identification of a relatively constant British self-image; the potential for attitudinal dilemmas and cognitive dissonance inherent in that self-image; national character as a concept and as a descriptor. Although dealt with in this order the themes interrelate. For example, the first phase of content analysis [chapters 4 to 8], where the emphasis is on the way in which sources differ, anticipates the discussion in chapter 10 of the differences in their approaches to the modal distribution of cultural and individual characteristics in Germany; the classificatory model proposed as an alternative to the Idealist-Realist dichotomy in chapter 2 [and 'tested' in a brief case study in chapter 3] is consistent with the definition of the self-image and facilitates discussion on cognitive dissonance.

It is proposed that a classificatory system based on an Idealist-Realist dichotomy with respective pro and anti-German sub-sets does not adequately highlight the nuances and ambiguities which often informed group or individual attitudes toward Germany. It is argued that such a system cannot readily deal with the views of realists who were ideologically neutral [i. e. not ideologically anti-German] in their definition of Germany as the enemy, of idealists who were ideologically opposed to Germany, or of others who were equivocal. An alternative model is offered in the form of partially congruent parallel continuums of competition and cooperation, travelling in opposite directions in relation to respective minimum and maximum positions.

In chapters 4 to 8 the content analysis of sources focuses on their different perceptions of Germany and the Germans: whether they made distinctions between Germans - and what form such distinctions took - or regarded them as 'all of a kind.' It is argued that underlying expressed attitudes to Germany and the Germans from the British side was a notion of self, incorporating two main components: a pragmatic component defining Britain as a material competitor in a competitive world, and an ideological component defining a package of traits and values associated with the cultural condition 'being British. ' The ideological component of the self-image was commonly validated and served as an assessment instrument for making judgements on Germans. It is argued that the intellectual and psychological need to maintain a consistent relationship between expressed attitudes and declared values, particularly when the values were central to the self-image, led to the use of dissonance reducing mechanisms.

The ways in which one national culture may reasonably be said to differ from another, and the methodological requirements for tenable cross-cultural analysis, are explored through critical consideration of the concept 'national character.' A theoretical framework is devised for the critical analysis of the views presented by the sources on the national character of the Germans. This framework relates their perception of modal structure [unimodal, bimodal, multimodal] to their level of commitment - positive or negative - to propositions on cultural homogeneity, differential sharing, the causal autonomy of situational factors, the significance of international cultural influences, the innate nature of characteristics, and concern for methodological rigour. An image of the configurations and features in the German cultural profile is formulated. Recognition of the partial and provisional nature of this image, and discussion of what it omits and lacks in terms of texture, is used to demonstrate the deficiencies of the Schwarzweissmalerei approach to Germany and the Germans.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History General and Old World > DD Germany
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Robbins, Prof. Keith
Date of Award: 1990
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:1990-38981
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2018 16:09
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 16:09

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