Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



The British image of Germany as England's "poor relation," a backward cluster of feudal states, gave way during the nineteenth century to the stereotype of England's archenemy and imperial rival. This shift from innocuous Old Germany to menacing New Germany accelerated after German unification in 1871 as German economic growth and imperial ambitions became topics for commentary in British journals. But the stereotypical "German Michael," or rustic simpleton, and other images of self-effacing servile, loyal, honest and passive Old Germany lingered on into the late nineteenth century as a "straw man" for alarmist Germanophobes to dispel with new counter-stereotypes. These included fanatical nationalists, Anglophobic militarists, overbearing officials, know-it-all professors, unscrupulous merchants and indefatigable clerks. Some Germanophobes, however, and many Germanophiles, clung to older stereotypes as a form of escapism or wishful thinking: the former believed that national character deficiencies would foil German ambitions, the latter hoped that German idealism and good sense would eventually triumph over Anglophobic nationalism. The British entente with France in 1904, and Russia in 1907, marked an end to more than a decade of Anglo-German alliance attempts. These supposed missed opportunities were thwarted by mutual distrust, opposing strategic aims, diplomatic maneuvering and, ultimately, naval rivalry. But the strength of public opinion and popular nationalism also limited official moves toward cooperation. Stereotypes contributed to what has become known as the Anglo-German antagonism through their power to encapsulate national differences. British journalists could draw upon a rich heritage of demeaning German stereotypes in order to bolster national self-image at the expense of the German nemesis. Stereotypes also gained unwarranted currency in the public media through pseudoscientific racial theories and ethnological hierarchies that constituted the nineteenth-century paradigm of innate national character differences. The record of stereotypes in print therefore reveals the psychological underpinnings of pre-World War I British attitudes toward Germany and provides a new perspective on the interface between public opinion and national rivalry.



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Committee Chair

Meredith Veldman



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