Bibliographic data

Hohmann, Walter; Schiefer, Wilhelm: Von der deutschen Ostsiedlung bis zu den Anfängen Bismarcks. Volk und Reich der Deutschen. Geschichtsbuch für Oberschulen und Gymnasien, Kl. 7. Frankfurt am Main: Otto Salle Verlag, 2. Aufl., 1943, 45–46.

European Expansion in the Early Modern Period by Herfordt, Ewa (2018)

The second edition of this textbook, published by the Otto Salle publishing house , is designed for seventh year pupils in secondary schools and grammar schools. The selected passage is taken from the second section (‘The Dawn of a New Age’) of the largest group of themes treated in the book, entitled ‘The First German Revolution and the Counterattack’, in which the Reformation and Counterreformation are examined.

The textbook authors summarize the expeditions and their consequences along with the effects of the Crusades under the generic term ‘Broadening of Horizons’. The consequences for Europe of the discovery of new sea routes as well as of America are emphasized. Specific attention is paid to basic economic and cultural revolutions that accompanied this development: the change from barter economy to a monetary economy, the import of precious metals to Europe, the export of goods to the colonies, the exploitation of human labour via the slave trade and colonialism as well as the influences of the so-called colonial commodities and the imported plants and animals on the European lifestyle. Benefits to the development of the sciences in Europe as a result of the findings gained as a result of colonisation are also noted. The negative results of colonisation in the early modern period are also named in references to such things as ‘slave hunting’, “conquerors and plunderers” or with respect to the extermination of ‘partially’ highly developed cultures and peoples.

European expansion, and hence colonialism, is presented as a ‘methodical exploration of foreign lands’ since the middle of the fifteenth century, and as the ‘the most grandiose movement of peoples’ in terms of an extensive migration of population. European culture, as spread to the world by conquerors, plunderers and colonialists, is portrayed as having successfully connected continents that had previously existed in isolation. The Europeans are depicted as winners: the discoveries ushered in the ‘triumphal procession of Europeans and European culture across the earth’. From the point of the view of the textbook authors, the discoveries mark the decline of forms of life characteristic of the Middle Ages and the transition to a “new age’, which ushered in modernisation, internal cohesion and European supremacy in the world. The metaphor of a ‘new age’ defines the meta-narrative of this history book, which begins with the development of the Baltic region as a result of German eastern colonisation and can be understood to include the disbandment of outdated systems, the expansion of previous habitats and the implementation of expansionist tendencies leading towards national hegemony. The textbook authors back up this Eurocentric point of view by depicting European expansion in linear terms leading ‘from the German colonisation of eastern territories to the beginning of the age of Bismarck’, or, effectively, until the time when the textbook was published during the Second World War.


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  • Blänsdorf, Agnes, Lehrwerke für den Geschichtsunterricht an Höheren Schulen 1933- 1945: Autoren und Verlage unter Bedingungen des Nationalsozialismus‘, in: Lehmann, Hartmut; Oexle, Otto Gerhard et al. (eds.), Nationalsozialismus in den Kulturwissenschaften, vol. 1: Fächer, Milieus, Karrieren, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004, 273-370.
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