Erik Grimmer-Solem, professor of history and German studies, is the author of a new book, Learning Empire: Globalization and the German Quest for World Status, 1875-1919, published by Cambridge University Press.
The book “reconstructs the complex entanglements of a small but highly influential group of German scholars who worked and travelled extensively in North and South America, Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Ottoman Turkey, and Russia,” during the period of German imperialism, before the First World War, Grimmer-Solem said. “These experiences, enabled by new transcontinental railways, intercontinental steamship lines, and global telegraph networks, shaped a German liberal imperialist ideology that they helped popularize around 1900 and that influenced German naval and colonial policy.”
The book also looks at how the rise of the German far right was closely tied to this attempt at reconciling globalization with nationhood and empire. From that perspective, Grimmer-Solem said, “the development of Nazism can be seen as a metastasis of liberal imperialism, mutated as it was by war, de-globalization, and unilateral decolonization.” Learning Empire invites reflection upon modern-day challenges; as Grimmer-Solem suggests, the resurgence of the far right today “is linked to parallel processes that highlight the risks and instabilities created by global trade, travel, and communications.”
Grimmer-Solem is also the author of The Rise of Historical Economics and Social Reform in Germany, 1864-1894 (Oxford University Press, 2003), along with more than 30 other publications.