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The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific… (2010)

by Peter Watson

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4801038,257 (4.03)19
"A virtuosic cultural history of German ideas and influence, from 1750 to the present day"-- Provided by publisher.

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Firehose delivery of German Thought . Comprehensive, but just a handful of sentences for each of the hundreds of personalities, discoveries and philosophies. Breathless and unpleasant journey. Nothing at all like his "Age of Nothing" ( )
  pheditor | Oct 4, 2019 |
Stopped reading after about 300 pages, because its level of research was clearly declining as I was progressing. Tended to read like a monstrously huge undergraduate term paper. ( )
  pgiltner | Oct 30, 2017 |
An almost limitless source of information about the men and ideas that contributed to Germany's preeminence in culture, science, and the humanities ever since the middle of the eighteenth century. All the big names are here along with many others that you should know about due to their impact on our world. I find this a never-ending source of education and a resource to provide context for other reading. ( )
  jwhenderson | Aug 11, 2017 |
I would change the name to "The German Smart Guys." Men from the past 250 years getting anywhere from a paragraph to five pages each in the 900 plus pages that Watson has handed us. Literature, historiography, philology, psychology, philosophy, education, painting, sculpture, architecture, and more. Following ideas from idealism, romanticism, expressionism, dadaism, to fascism and communism and beyond.
The book starts by explaining how we non-Germans and Germans too have not paid enough attention the leadership of German thought, and then because of the book's breadth, it cannot not give enough attention to any single person or idea. More of an who's who of German thinking and feeling.
A weighty entry into the thick book shelf. ( )
  kerns222 | Aug 24, 2016 |
At first sight, the title The German Genius could mean everything and nothing. What should one expect here? A biography of an important German thinker or scientist? A look at the subtitle Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century allows further insight. Peter Watson sets out to provide a panorama of important Germans from the end of the Baroque Age to modern day Germany and the development of the notion of being German throughout the stages of history. In his book he touches upon scientific and cultural developments and the key figures who brought them about.

Watson's intention becomes quite clear when you read the introduction to the book which he titled "Blinded by the light". He argues that yes, Hitler and the Holocaust are probably what most people first think of when they think of Germany. However, there is so much more to Germany than this dark part of its history. In his conclusion, Watson writes:

"Kant, Humboldt, Marx, Clausius, Mendel, Nietzsche, Planck, Freud, Einstein, Weber, Hitler - for good or ill, can any other nation boast a collection of eleven (or even more) individuals who compare with these figures in regard to the enduring influence they have had on modern ways of thought? I suggest not." (p. 828)

The German predicament is not easy and the arguments in this book will not please everyone. It is to those who find it difficult to move beyond Hitler that The German Genius is dedicated. (p. 849)

So, what Watson tries to do is look at Germany and how its thinkers, scientists, writers, painters, architects, musicians, psychologists, etc. shaped not only a nation, but also the rest of the world. To be clear, Watson does not glorify the Germans or play down the atrocities of the National Socialists. Rather, he states, in addition to looking at Nazi Germany it is worth to look at what it meant to be German before Hitler came to power and also how Germany managed to become the nation that it is today. In that respect, Watson proposes that the social revolution of 1968 is a crucial point in Germany's history. While a new political and legal structure was imposed on Germany by the occupying powers after World War II, so Watson, the social revolution of 1968 came from inside Germany and functioned as a cut in its history. He argues further that while one should not forget Germany's past, one should also not reduce Germany to the Hitler regime.

On his way from the introduction to the conclusion of the book, Peter Watson provides a panorama of German historical figures, some famous and some less well-known. At times, I found the pace with which the author jumped from one person to the next a bit too fast. To my mind, the book is much easier to follow, when you at least roughly know all the figures, Watson talks about. Generally, it took me some time to find my way into this book, but once I got used to the structure, following Watson's thoughts was much easier, even if I did not know all of the Germans he wrote about. Personally, I found the parts about science and philosophy as well as the chapter about the effect of German thought on America the most interesting, but that is just personal preference. While I do not agree with everything Watson says, I find the book well worth reading and would recommend it to everyone interested in history and the influence of the Germans on the US, Great Britain and the rest of Europe, and not least Germany itself. Be warned though, this book is a longer project that requires perseverance. 3.5 stars. ( )
  OscarWilde87 | Aug 8, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
By 1900, nearly everyone agreed that there was something special about the Germans. Their philosophy was more profound -- to a fault. So was their music. Their scientists and engineers were clearly the best. Their soldiers were unmatched. ... ''The German Genius'' is a lengthy compilation of essential German contributions to philosophy, theology, mathematics, natural and social science and the arts since 1750. Watson enshrines a vast pantheon of creative thinkers, not dwelling very long on any of them.
added by danielx | editNY Times, Brian Ladd (Jul 23, 2013)
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By one of those profitable accidents of history, in 2004 two German brothers were living in London, each in a high-profile position of influence that enabled them, together, to make some very pointed observations about their temporary home.
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