Of Mind and Matter: The Duality of National Identity in the German-Danish Borderlands (Paperback)Peter Thaler (author)
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Publisher: Purdue University Press
Number of pages: 183
Weight: 340 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
European History Quarterly
Vol. 43 No. 2
Peter Thaler, Of Mind and Matter: The Duality of National Identity in the German-Danish Borderlands, Purdue University Press: Lafayette, IN, 2009; iv + 206 pp.; 9781557535245, $29.95 (pbk)
Early in his study of the German-Danish border region of Sleswig, Peter Thaler quotes Lord Palmerston's famous characterization of the 'Schleswig-Holstein ques- tion', which preoccupied European statesmen in the mid-nineteenth century, as 'so complicated that only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor, and he became mad. I am the third, and I have forgotten all about it' (27). For historians, as for nineteenth- century diplomats, contested national borderlands have tended to be compartmentalized as impenetrably obscure curiosities. Thaler's lean book (about 160 pages of text) aims to overcome such marginalization, harnessing analysis of Sleswig's historical dynamics to a broader inquiry into the nature of national identity.
Inevitably, however, a book on Sleswig (Thaler deliberately uses an older des- ignation for the province to avoid the current German or Danish labels) needs to provide readers with substantial background information. Thaler provides this orientation through a kind of double-narrative: Chapter Two recounts the region's political history, while Chapter Three traces linguistic and cultural developments. In the former, we see that the notorious intractability of the Schleswig-Holstein question was but one example of the interplay of Europe's late medieval and early modern composite monarchies. Sleswig's rulers fatefully linked it both to
the king- dom of Denmark to the north and to the duchy of Holstein to the south, the former outside of the Holy Roman Empire, the latter within it. This political ambiguity was paralleled by mixed and ?uid patterns of linguistic usage. A German vernacu- lar tended to predominate in the south, a
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