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Urban and national identity: Bremen, 1860-1920.


Peasants in many areas of France had no geographic concept of their country, maintained dialects which separated them from neighboring citizens and lacked a consciousness of being French well past the mid-nineteenth century. These peasants, according to Eugen Weber, were made into Frenchmen by conscription, new systems of transport or communication, and education. (1) Their local 'barbarism' and regional identities were increasingly penetrated by the national state, its markets and values. Some authors have questioned Weber's thesis by pointing to the centralist tradition which--at least since the Revolution of 1789--put prefects into departments, drew taxes from them and censored newspapers and theatres. (2) However, those critics cannot deny that the net cast by the nation-state's agents had huge meshes and until the 1880s many local customs, traditions and values remained unaffected by national trends.

In Germany, a less centralized country with no capital city, no unified system of tariffs, railways or political structures until after 1870, one would expect the identity of regions and cities to have remained immune to national values and institutions longer. Though Weber's integrationist model deals mainly with peasants and rural situations, his concepts on national development open speculative possibilities for other countries. The case of the city-state of Bremen permits a reconsideration of the question of urban versus national identity. (3) In this paper the viewpoint is taken that after a transitional period, 1860-90, Bremen became just another German city. Its previous special identity waned: regional and cosmopolitan elements were dissipated while the new German Reich 'penetrated' and nationalized the city-state, similar to the manner in which the French nation-state penetrated the countryside. The First World War and the Revolution of 1918/19 symbolically capped the process when the national government sent troops to quell Bremen's deviation from national norms in February 1919. (4)

At the beginning of the 20th century Bremen was a beautiful city according to a foreign observer. He commented favourably on its "public baths, beautiful gardens, libraries and museums ..." and noted that Bremen "has been called the 'prettiest city in Europe'". (5) This American consul reviewed Bremen's charming architecture in the context of northern German seaport cities. He assumed it to be German. However, a century earlier the question of whether German or Dutch would be the official language had been discussed by the Bremen Senate. After the Napoleonic Wars 'fatherland' was still used in reference to the city-state and two types of Bremen 'citizenship' were purchasable. (6) On the surface it appears as though a small, independent patrician city-state had been submerged into a national whole during the 19th century. How had that occurred and did older urban forms and traditions maintain themselves in the face of national pressures?

To answer the question of how two of the major social forces of the 19th century--urbanization and an increase of national sentiment--interacted, criteria on degrees of independence versus similarity would seem to be a prerequisite. By using a pattern developed to understand urbanization and comparing that pattern with what has been found for German cities, Bremen can be shown to have gone through a decisive social transformation, one which was not very dissimilar from that of major western European urban centers in the late 19th century as industrialization and population growth challenged the abilities of all city 'fathers'. However, only if a comparison is made with Bremen's general situation before 1860 and only if note is taken of the penetration of the city by the Reich can the special aspects of Bremen's transformation be seen.


Within a series of specialized studies summarizing the results of German historical research, J. Reulecke presented the breakthrough of 'urbanization' in the early industrial era (pre-1870) by identifying five traits: mobility of populace, city growth, shift from directives to planning, emergence of city technologies such as sewer or gas works, and bourgeois self-administration. (7) All of these traits could easily be applied to Bremen from approximately 1840 to 1870. The moat of the city was partially filled, its defensive walls removed, its gate controls ended (1848) and a railway connection completed (1847) to create the so-called "open citizen's city (offene Burgerstadt)". (8) The core of the old city on the north and south shores of the Weser River, shaped like a broken eggshell on a string, remained stable while the suburbs expanded. The opened city's population began its upward climb as shipping migrants abroad and hauling staple goods to Europe boosted the local economy. (9) Bremen's function as a port city was reinforced by its specialized North Atlantic trade and its lack of industry. (10) The city-state's leaders acknowledged the consequences of the city's spatial spread and commissioned a general plan. The Schroeder plan of 1852 tried to give some guidance to growth, while regulations on utilities and living versus working spaces followed. (11) On the political front the rule of a self-selected elite of shippers and lawyers had been challenged during the Revolution of 1848-49 but by 1854 they had restored their exclusive political preeminence. Only limited representation was offered to the outlying regions and to the general populace through an eight-class voting system. (12) Thus, if Reulecke's pattern of early urbanization is an adequate means of judging the first stages of urban development, the case of Bremen confirms the norm. However, these criteria give little opportunity for noting what was special about Bremen as a 'home town' to its merchants and Burghers. (13)

For the era of high industrialization (1871-1914) Reulecke thinks urbanization can be judged in relation to a widened list: population explosion and migration, spatial expansion, new urban life styles, financial difficulties, bureaucratization and social policy development, increased political participation as well as anti-urban attitudes. (14) Except for the last point Bremen shared these traits with other German and European cities. Its population which had only reached 83,000 in 1871, from 53,000 in 1850, and 35,000 in 1816, jumped to 247,000 by 1910. The city-state, which included Bremerhaven, registered 310,000 by 1910. (15) The city expanded through annexation and redefinition of abutting rural areas, especially as the city grew more and more into the state's rural territories. The official plan of 1885 nearly doubled what was termed urban. (16) Adjustments to spectacular economic growth (including a housing-speculation crash and two major recessions) transformed the social scene on nearly every street. (17) After Bremen was forced into the customs union with the rest of Germany in 1888, industrial plants and manufacture quickly increased. In 1890 some 11,200 workers were in industrial firms, compared to 5,800 in 1878 when the artisan trades predominated. (18) By 1902 some 705 firms with 18,666 workers were reported by trades inspected under regulations affecting industrial workers. (19) By 1912 those numbers had climbed to 1,926 firms with 34,844 workers. (20) Some of the social issues raising ugly heads still related to Bremen's role as a port, in particular the drastic conditions on the steamers of the Atlantic run where suicide rates of 15% among cokers in the 1880s led to public inquires. (21) Other issues, such as slum housing, increased crime and poverty, boarders sharing beds and the spatial separation of classes, were typical of all industrial centers. (22) The piece-work and conditions which led to far-above average German rates of mortality among "women in the jute" represented Bremen's special contribution to the problems of nearly uncontrolled industrialization. (23) A study from 1911--showing the bureaucratic self-administration of the commune at work--pointed out that for the period 1901 to 1910 mortality rates in upper income areas of the city stood at 73 per 10,000, in middle income areas at 107 and in lower income areas at 196. (24) Infant mortality figures showed even worse consequences from housing, hygiene and medical inequities: 598, 804 and 3,018 per 10,000 respectively. Similarly, investigators discovered how certain diseases such as tuberculosis were diseases of the Bremen poor (among those over age 30, 43 of 10,000 in low income areas died from this type of malady while the numbers stood at 15 and 5.8 for the middle and well-to-do areas). The city's well-meaning statisticians, who went far beyond their original mandate to collect trade information, could record and report but rarely remedy such situations. (25) For Bremen's sister city, Richard Evans has demonstrated the inabilities of Hamburg's amateur administrators to master the social consequences of trade and population expansion. (26) The experience of urban life in Bremen, especially for its lower-classes, confirmed the drastic social norms of industrializing Europe.

To cope with such novel difficulties the city expanded its poor house and police, and extended its health and housing regulations. (27) In the long run such interventions led to improved living conditions but in the interim brought financial burdens and an increased administrative structure to the commune. However, Bremen's version of liberalism had even less social conscience than elsewhere and the city 'fathers' continued primarily to serve the interests of traders and professionals. Some cultural institutions received subsidies and the Burgerpark was enhanced by public subscription but no aid was offered to the unemployed, no employment bureau established and no state-financed housing created before 1914. (28) Monies, though, could be found to rebuild the port and bridges and to dredge the Weser, as well as to reward retiring city officials. (29) Such expenditures gave Bremen the highest debt load per capita among German cities during the 1890s. (30) By then a new force had entered Bremen politics as the Social Democrats won the Bremen Reichstag seat and soon sought to challenge the local rule of very conservative notables. The latter termed themselves liberals but generally tried to avoid party affiliations in communal politics.

At the start of the 20th century most of the problems and social structures of other urban-industrial centers were being replicated on the Weser. This picture could be given more precise contours, but the purpose here is not to write a social history of the little republican city-state. Instead, it is to point out that at a general and descriptive level Bremen seems to have conformed to the normal pattern of urbanization.

Bremen as 'Home Town' or Special Urban Identity

In many ways not shown by the pattern of urbanization, before the 1860s Bremeners lived in a special urban world. If the city's appearance, its political system and constitutional framework, its specialized economy, and Burgher life styles are considered those special features reflect more than local pride and more than the 19th century belief in regional character traits. The people of Bremen were supposedly "stur", that is stubborn and reserved. (31) Though apparently suspicious of strangers they were open to exploring the seven seas. The focus upon "counting and calculating" impressed visitors and newcomers. (32) At least one reluctant visitor, a French prisoner of war from Dijon in 1870, found the "women very homely. Their toilets are tasteless and they walk like ducks ...; the men are in their businesses." (33) He was struck by the degree to which the urban services were more developed in Bremen than in France, especially drainage, horse omnibuses (with heating) and firefighting ("In Bremen a fire is out before the tambour has been rung in Dijon"). He described the spartan living conditions of these "very quiet and reserved people who the Italians would think of as shadows", but found little noteworthy about their monumental buildings, including the Dom. He could not have been aware of how the Hanseatic style of Renaissance opulence in public buildings, such as the Rathaus and guild halls, set the architecture of Bremen or Lubeck apart from south German and Prussian cities, or even nearby princely residential centers such as Oldenburg. (34) He could not have known that nearly two-thirds of all the residents owned their own homes in this pre-industrial setting. (35) The so-called 'Bremer' house--a simple two story brick dwelling with one or two families--predominated. (36) The degree of home ownership distinguished Bremen from most cities.

Somewhat different too was its political system. Though the notable merchant and professional families proclaimed themselves Weltburgers with a cosmopolitan and liberal outlook they were not prepared to share power. (37) Like all the political systems which evolved during the ancien regime from Standes-Staaten, the city-state of Bremen had a well-defined system of social status combining deference from below with authoritarian rule from above. Petitions and requests as opposed to organized protest characterized lower-class public activities. Lawyers, theologians and representatives from the Kaufmannschaft or big shippers dominated the system of notable rule. Until the 1860s all Senate deliberations were secret. (38) The Burgerschaft, according to the 1854 constitution, perpetuated the medieval representation by occupational groupings so that big shippers, lawyers and theologians had a majority. (39) The life-long Senators, who held all executive power and had to be selected from the legal and merchant professions, came mostly "from native families". (40) Until 1863 merchants in the shipping trade had to have a special form of citizenship. (41) "Great citizenship", which included the right to trade, could be inherited or purchased for about 10 times the annual income of an artisan.

One author has seen the city as being particularly medieval far into the 19th century. This observation referred partly to the Stoss or ancient system of taxation by which merchants declared their worth and then contributed taxes accordingly. (42) The Stoss lasted until 1863. Such a tax, as well as the retrograde political system, contrasted sharply with the acceptance of the advances favouring merchant capitalism: creating the technologically modern port of Bremerhaven (built to solve the problem of ocean-going ships having difficulty reaching Bremen at low tide), converting to iron steamships and creating a North Atlantic packet service. The other medieval trait which continued far longer in Bremen than in other German or north European cities comprised the limits placed on entering artisan trades so that guild monopolies remained the Bremen norm, whereas Hamburg had abolished monopolies by 1832. Master handicraftsmen had their interests protected and like the shippers did not want uncontrolled competition from industry which, aside from exceptions such as the processing of tobacco or brewing of beer, was kept out of the city-state. The artisans and shopkeepers thus generally accepted the narrow system of political representation because their own interests were defended.

If the politics of the notables served to defend the wellbeing of those who particularly identified themselves with the city-state, the economic trends could not be controlled so easily. Bremen's late 18th-century trade had been based on exporting linens from its Weser hinterland and transshipping grains and wines from the Baltic and Spain. (43) That trade had been widened to include the British colonies. By the 1850s, importing staples such as tobacco, cotton and coffee from the U.S. and the Caribbean, and shipping out increasing numbers of emigrants meant that the previous extensive trade system was being replaced by a highly specialized one. (44) The earlier trade system, complemented by diplomatic neutrality, had been the basis of the city's precarious independence. Among the consequences of the North Atlantic trade pattern was an emulation of Britain and U.S. economic models. (45) Sons of shippers were often trained abroad and had a very cosmopolitan outlook.

The preeminent and overlapping political and economic elite, while seeking to maintain Bremen's medieval system of representation and its merchant capitalism, fostered a localist outlook. This manifested itself in the monuments erected to honour local heros, such as the astronomer Olbers and mayor Smidt, or the Swedish monarch Gustav Adolfus (for strengthening Hanseatic ties and Protestantism). (46) The Senate promoted the celebration of the liberation from French control each October 18th, from 1816 to 1854. The latter festivals were orchestrated to inculcate Bremen patriotism and Calvinistic piety. (47) The annual Schaffermahl--a ritualized five-hour meal--demonstrated that deserving sailors and captains would be taken care of by their entrepreneurial masters. (48) The Freimarkt allowed a northern version of carnival to liven up grey February for a week. Such local customs were encouraged by the Senate through subsidies and public holidays.

What was special about Bremen at mid-century? It was still a controlled, small urban world. Its political and social system had its own trademarks: censorship and rights to participation in the city-state's affairs by approximately 500 'citizens', guild monopolies and limits on industry, elegant merchant residences, a predominance of artisan trades and lower-class public participation limited to petitioning authority. Local festivals and local patriotism were combined with international shipping and economic modernity. Simultaneously, this city was more mercantile than any other and it could not close itself off from the world. The 1840s had brought the first major interruption to the medieval stability restored after the Napoleonic interlude. Protests, defiance of Senate rules, news- papers and congresses of middle-class groups with ties to countrymen in other parts of Germany challenged an outlook expressed by the person who was mayor for almost a half century: "In a well ordered republic there should only be one will, only one power, only one might and all officials must act as organic parts of the same body." (49) The late 1850s and 1860s would bring another interruption in the form of Germany's unsettled national question. Citizenship was redefined within the North German Confederation, censorship ended, a pan-German outlook was fostered within a reinvigorated associational life, while Bremen's economic and political independence was undercut by the trading elites' own successes. This period, during which Bremen's staidness and separateness came under attack from new organizations, witnessed a novel world pressing in upon Bremen's exclusivity. The Vereine of teachers, architects, pharmacists and other professionals, who had no place within the traditional elite, began to enter public discourse by creating their own festivals and clubs with significant political implications. To illustrate: in 1859 the centenary of Friedrich Schiller's birth was celebrated. Inspiration originally came from outside the city-state and involved the schools, guilds and local clubs, but not the churches and the old elite. The Senate reluctantly approved the activities. The organizers repeatedly stated their intentions in pamphlets, in speeches and in appeals to the Senate and the public for financial support. They sought to increase "awareness of Germany, our cut-up and divided Germany." (50) National values were to be emphasized by theatre presentations and a day-long festival. The group which espoused these views and undertook the organizing overlapped with the local Nationalverein, the political branch of the country-wide association dedicated to unifying Germany. (51) In seeking Senate approval for the attempt to make a "national" figure of Schiller, the leaders used a rhetoric of local pride to promote national interests. They claimed to be continuing "republican state traditions whereby not even the lowest feels excluded, in that we stand enviously alone in Germany, as we did for many years with the celebration of October 18." (52 Over 5000 persons were directly involved in the parades: choirs, students, sharp shooters, and every artisan guild. The speeches contained many stereotypes about Germans' special "internal life".

The pan-German outlook of the Schiller celebrations reappeared in the national sharp shooters' federal competition held in Bremen during 1865. One historian of the event has found that its pattern and public response was "of exemplary significance for the national celebrations of those years." (53) Again journalists, teachers, pharmacists and architects initiated, organized and directed events. They sought to locate the individual's loyalty in the nation as opposed to the local Patrie. In the Schiller celebrations little had been said about the Vaterstadt aside from rationales to obtain Senate approval. In the sharp shooters' festival many accolades were offered to Bremen, but in number and priority they were far behind those to Germany, German unification and the need for German military preparedness. These activities illustrate an increased middle-class mobilization (a further escalation would follow in the 1890s). The significance in the Bremen context is two-fold: first, the pan-German sentiments were part of "imagining" a new community (54) of unified Germans, and second, politically and socially such activities were a challenge to local values and social structure. The Prussian solution to the German question would force a rethinking of the bounds of that "imagined community" but it could not halt the process.

National Penetration

The issues of national identity and institutions which the 1860s forcibly put on the agenda for Bremen's elites, the rest of the century maintained. On five fronts--military, legal-associational, trade patterns, population movements, nationalist mobilization--the war against Bremen particularism was fought out during the last part of the 19th century. In the military-political sector the city- state had no choice but to accede to Prussia's ultimatum and so in June 1866 it joined in the war against Austria. By 1869 a republic found itself welcoming its new monarch.

Being part of the North German Confederation, and then the Prussian-German empire, meant that the Reich's laws intruded upon the city-state. (55) As in Hamburg the advocates of particularism and cosmopolitanism were undercut. (56) Whether citizenship, bourgeois rights, trade regulations, anti-Socialist Laws or suggested boycotts of Social Democratic pubs, the Reich's legislation and the long arm of its laws reached far into local practices. National elections and Reichstag representation cut into the fabric of Bremen politics in a way that the secret reports from the German Confederation by a mayor to the Senate could not. The national commercial laws and courts were but one instance in which the shopkeepers of Bremen tried to maintain their independence but had to yield to homogenizing trends. (57)

The empire could creep into the little republic in a multitude of ways. Prussian police and military regulations demonstrate well how new forms and values intruded. In a report from 1891 the German Chancellor confidentially responded to a question about the veterans' leagues from the Bremen government. (58) He noted that the leagues had emerged as local organizations after the war against France. They had been formed for social security as well as camaraderie. Some were federated in the Prussian-led German Veterans' League which had 500,000 members in more than 6,000 affiliates and the total membership in the Reich was estimated at over a million. These developments he thought could be greeted with "satisfaction since the expectations of fostering patriotic sentiments are being fulfilled.... Indeed, the stance of the veterans' associations in general has given no cause for concern." The Chancellor mentioned that "in the interests of the Reich and regional administrations, as well as for military reasons ... the governments of the largest states have sought certain measures to influence the founding and direction of the veterans' associations." The influence of the Reich went far beyond telling local units how to honour deceased members, or what rights existed on the use of uniforms, flags and weapons. The Reich's prescriptions included legal restrictions in that each organization was required to have a constitution and it had to contain a statute stating that "the purpose of the organization must affirm the care and fostering of patriotic sentiments, and discussion of political and religious matters is to be excluded." The right to exist would be revoked if members were accepted who "stood in the service of Social Democratic institutions." Military personnel were to be consulted with an eye to establishing the Prussian pattern throughout the country, so as to have a "cautious and tactful use of official symbols and personal influence of the officers on the stance of the associations in a patriotic sense." "Patriotic" meant explicitly monarchist, authoritarian, anti-socialist and included the glorification of military struggles. Within two years the pattern being orchestrated by the Reich's leaders existed in Bremen's veterans' leagues. A socially and politically interventionist central state could employ its powers to reinforce cultural homogenization at the local level. The city-state's ways of doing things were being undercut by Prussian military-police authoritarianism.

The third, and perhaps decisive, element in Bremen's transformation related to the continuation of its trade specialization. By the 1850s and 1860s Bremen shippers were having to defend themselves against the accusations that their interests countered those of Germany's. The aggressive fostering of emigration from central Europe by the city-state led to claims that Bremen was Britain's secret representative on the continent. The Bremeners' defense ran as follows: Bremen shippers' activity increased the wealth of all Germans by remaining outside the Zollverein. (59) "Bremen can grasp its commercial tasks only with and for Germany...." Bremen has maintained "itself as a German state. It wished even more intensive ties to the whole fatherland," according to the national rhetoric used to defend Bremen's independence by the Handelsblatt on 30 October 1852. But, the accusers need not have worried since the trend of Bremen's trade meant that Bremen shippers' claims about Bremen as the independent "doorway to the world" for Germany contained less and less substance. At mid-century Britain and the U.S. may have dominated Bremen trade routes, but by the 1890s Bremen's trade served only as the doormat to an industrialized German hinterland. (60) The long-term consequence of that dependence, buttressed by Bremen's forced entry into the Zollverein in 1888, was the ever-greater identification of Bremen shippers with Germany as opposed to their home city and the larger world. One author has contrasted the difference in outlook between mid- and late-century Bremen entrepreneurs by claiming that the latter were "nationalized.". (61)

Another consequence of Bremen's trade prosperity and later growth of industry points to a fourth element undermining Bremen's peculiarity: population growth. However, a decisive difference needs to be noted about the population increase in the third quarter of the century and thereafter. In 1825 the excess of births over deaths was about 80 per year; by 1850 it was 300 and in 1875 it had reached 2,000. (62) The city's growth came primarily from internal reproduction until the 1860s. Then migration, especially near migration, took effect. By 1885 40% of those living in Bremen had been born elsewhere; by 1900 it was 43%, which meant that the majority of Bremeners were immigrants or immigrants' children. (63) The city-state was being populated by peasants, labourers and middle class, white collar workers from other parts of Germany, especially Oldenburg and Lower Saxony. How did that 'Germanization' affect outlooks and values?

The case of one migrant artisan might be instructive. Friedrich Ebert arrived in Bremen in 1891 as a young leather worker. Like his colleagues concerned to spread socialism and to make employers face social questions, he joined a movement whose legislative demands were forged within a national context. The labour unions and socialist party in Bremen as elsewhere by the 1890s were part of a national organization seeking redress through national legislation and increasingly responding to initiatives from outside the city and operating contrary to the concerns of its local elite. Some of these immigrants, including Ebert, would eventually seek Bremen citizenship. But, for these politicized individuals attaining citizenship had as its purpose to attain voting rights and thereby gain the means to homogenize local social circumstances with national norms and to transform the old elitist political culture. In attacking Bremen's voting system and the city-state's lack of social legislation, Ebert pointed to legislation already implemented in Bavaria and Baden, and to the Reich's universal suffrage. (64) Organized labour with its national congresses and national programmes lifted the eyes of workers beyond the narrow bounds of the city-state. Certainly, international standards and universalist ideals were often part of that appeal, but the social struggle progressed within a national framework for Bremen as well as for German labour leaders. Indeed, when Bremen labour split during the war, the crucial decisions, as one author notes, "were made in Berlin". (65)

This example of a lower-class migrant's attitudes can be matched by a middle-class migrant's national fervor. If Bremen intellectuals, during much of the 19th century, had actively supported a version of local patriotism by defining the city's history as a struggle of little Bremen maintaining its independence against threatening Dutch, Swedish and Prussian powers, after unification some migrants like Arthur Fitger presented different themes. Originally hired to decorate the Borse for a visit by Bremen's--the republican city-state's--new monarch in 1869, he enthusiastically took up national myths and presented a play on Durer including the melody of Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles. (66) In Fitger's treatments, Bremen's own historical figures came dressed in national garb; for instance, its first archbishop became a representative of imperial German policies against the pope. The values which middle-class migrants, educated in other parts of Germany, brought with them should not be overemphasized since the lawyers and theologians who worked in the Bremen Senate in the first part of the century had received their university education in other German centers. However, Fitger sought to impart national values measured by a Prussian-German yardstick. The celebrations of Sedan Day by especially chauvinistic Protestant pastors employed the same measurement when speaking about their new monarch: "No bishop of Rome will touch this imperial forehead with oil. This forehead is invisibly covered with the holy oil of love and trust from the fatherland". (67) Bremen joined with other German cities in this annual self-congratulatory exercise and as elsewhere lower-class workers shunned the events. (68)

A further instance of intrusion by national values can be witnessed in the middle-class nationalist mobilization after 1890. After the customs union of Bremen with the Reich in 1888 a horde of clerks and officers appeared to guard national boundaries and to check trade. The outlook of some of this personnel and the attitudes which they fostered appeared in the membership of the local Naval League, a vociferous nationalist lobby group. Though the records are incomplete they demonstrate again that migrants brought norms or were open to pressure from outside the local realm: in 1902 nearly half the members of the Bremen Naval League had employment with the Reich as postal officials, customs officers or Beamter. (69) The surprise is the high representation from Bremen's old elite families (for instance: Gildmeister, Kulenkampf, Apelt) in such leagues. This may illustrate how national values had triumphed at the expense of the local and cosmopolitan norms the forefathers of those Burgermeister, Senators and shippers had espoused at mid-century.

At the beginning of the 20th century urban restoration and preservation of historic buildings led to the discovery of traditions and a Heimat for Bremeners as well as for other Germans. Artists trekked to villages on the heaths at Worpswede and later the coffee-roasting baron Roselius had the Bottcherstrasse remade to demonstrate "lower German living styles". Yet, aside from memory of its Hanseatic and trading greatness, what remained of Bremen's earlier urban identity? A travel guide could point to its windmills at the edge of its moat, the orderly green spaces within the old city and especially its sights: cathedral (with mummies), Rathaus, Borse and guild halls. (70) But, its economic and diplomatic independence had been hollowed out. Its social peculiarities had mostly disappeared as the guilds came under national regulations and the trend in local politics increasingly followed national patterns. The Senate and Burgerschaft retained their antiquated systems of representation until 1918, though increasingly the city-state had to serve more than the merchants and their allies. The degree to which cultural homogenization was underway in the schools or theatres remains unclear. But, it is known that likenesses of Bismarck, Roon and William I joined the statute of Rolland in the old city and names such as "Deutschland" replaced Hanseatic identities on ships' bows. In the 1913 celebration of liberation from Napoleon, focus was upon Germany, not Bremen, as it had been for the first half of the century. If monuments and festivals are an indication of public spirit and outlook then Bremen had by the 1890s made the transition from "free Hanseatic", namely a mercantile locale of limited size under the control of notables, to a German industrial center marked by class divisions within a national framework.


Three communities existed with which the Bremen populace could identify during the early 19th century: the local, the national and the international The city's elite made up of merchants and jurists identified most strongly with the local and the international as might be expected from those who controlled the limited political participation within an international entrepot. The nation meant little aside from membership in the German Confederation. Master artisans generally deferred to the merchants' and jurists' preeminence and outlook. When local festivals were arranged and organized by this elite the focus was upon Bremen as fatherland, upon maintaining Calvinist morality and ties to international trading partners, namely Britain and the United States. Illustrative of the situation at the beginning of the 19th century is that just after Bremen had been a prefecture of France and guild regulations abolished, lower-class individuals petitioned the Senate to continue the open trade system. Non-guild craftsmen and their wives even placed temporary hopes for social redress in a national community by appealing to the German Confederation. Their efforts were quickly and harshly repressed. (71) The local patrie and international trade connections were the main values elevated by the local elite in the context of a censored and controlled public discourse.

The 1840s witnessed a challenge to the preeminence of these values, but only during the 1860s would the national attachments of the increasing middle class of professionals such as teachers, pharmacists and architects pose difficulties for the ruling elites' duality of local and international outlook. If festivals and political clubs are used as criteria, a Pan-German outlook was fostered through Gutenberg, Schiller, Goethe celebrations as well as by the activities of shooting clubs and the increasing membership in the Nationalverein. The political-military events of the Prussian-led unification reinforced a particular brand of German nationalism. Local, national and international values competed in mid-19th century Bremen, but the Bismarckian version of the national would gain at the expense of the other two during the rest of the century.

The fine Renaissance buildings, the rhetoric about local greatness and the belief in regional character traits remained. But Bremen's urban identity--its independence, local forms and values had difficulty surviving the "primacy of the national" that marked Imperial Germany. (72)

An afterthought seems appropriate on concepts and terms used in historical explanations of the German past, especially when reflecting upon the interrelationship between urbanization and nationalization of locales such as Bremen, or upon the model Weber offered in regard to French peasants. In the debates about Germany's special path (Sonderweg) to the present, one school of thought has argued that continuity of structures and integrative manipulation by elites predominated, while another group has denied both and suggested bourgeois hegemony expressed itself through novel challenges to notable and aristocratic preeminence from a widened public emerging in the 1890s. (73) In those debates the use of such terms as 'manipulation' has been questioned and 'mobilization' sometimes substituted. However, local studies, such as the above sketch on Bremen or Evans, extensive work on Hamburg, suggest that both 'manipulation' and popular 'mobilization' existed yet are insufficient to describe fully what transpired on the ground. The vocabulary of historians of Imperial Germany and of urban development might pay more attention to Weber's model and employ 'intrusion' and 'penetration' when conveying the process of change, and not yet discard the term 'orchestration' employed by Paul Kennedy to characterize the functioning of the nationalist leagues. (74) Making Bremeners into Imperial Germans had come as much from above by actions of the central state as it had from below by the processes of urbanization and industrialization.

Department of History Sudbury, Ontario, Canada P3E 2C6


The author wishes to thank Laurentian University, the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, Bonn and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

(1.) Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France 1870-1914 (Stanford, 1976), passim.

(2.) For instance J. Merriman, review of Weber in Journal of Modern History XL (1978): 534-6 and T. Margadant in Agricultural History LIII (1979): 644-51.

(3.) Not much has been written about the relationship between cities and national values but insightful remarks are offered by M. Meyerson "National Character and Urban Development," Public Policy XII (1963): 78-96 who works primarily from urban forms and architecture.

(4.) This paper seeks to offer an argument more than to provide empirical proof. Evidence in some cases can be piled higher and higher but not provide a definitive proof because, as in the debate between 'manipulative social imperialism' and 'mobilization' schools of thought on German history, each side tends to avoid considering the evidence of the other, primarily because philosophical premises are at issue. In my view urban historians have generally been content to describe patterns but have avoided values and in particular the power of the national state. The limited evidence offered here is drawn from a larger body of materials for which the author is still seeking a conceptual ordering. A reliable general history of the city-state of Bremen based on thorough research but without references, is Herbert Schwarzwalder, Geshichte der Freien Hansestadt Bremen Vol 2: Von der Franzosenzeit bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg (1810-1918) (Bremen, 1976). Two series on which I have drawn heavily comprise most of the research on Bremens past: Veroffentlichungen aus dem Staatsarchiv der Freien Hansestadt Bremen (since 1928) and Beitrage zur Sozialgeschichte Bremens (since 1980). My own specialized publications include "Lower Middle Class Nationalism in early 19th-Century Bremen," Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism XIV (1987): 93-103; "Anti-Semitism in Mid-Nineteenth Century Bremen" in K. Kwiet, ed., From the Emancipation to the Holocaust (Sydney, 1986), 1-16; "The Changing Patterns of Bremen Trade, 1780-1880," Journal of European Economic History (1989).

(5.) B. King, Chronicles of German Life (New York, 1914), 149.

(6.) See G. Schutz, "Kinder-und Jugendbriefe von Johann Smidt," Jahrbuch de Wittheit zu Bremen (1966): 151; K. Reinecke, Das bremische Burgerrecht (Bremen, 1928), 217.

(7.) Jurgen Reulecke, Geschichte der Urbanisierung in Deutschland (Frankfurt, 1985), part II. This study appeared in the series Neue Historische Bibliothek edited by Ulrich Wehler. Part III of P. Hohenberg and L. H. Lees, The Making of Urban Europe (Cambridge, 1985) provides a larger perspective.

(8.) Rudolf Schuster, Die Entwicklung der Bremischen Vorstade im dritten Viertel des 19. Jahrhunderts (Bremen, 1949), 12-20 provides the best overview as he shows the growth of the suburbs after the opening of the city gates and termination of the rules about residence: "... 1848 in der Vorstadt nur etwas mehr als 16000 Einwohner lebten, also noch nicht einmal ein Drittel der Stadtbevolkerung: 25 Jahre spater waren es dagegen fast zwei Drittel der Bevolkerung" (14).

(9.) Ibid., 129 provides the following from city statistics:
 1849 1862 1875

Alstadt 25,358 24,822 22,176
Neustadt 11,670 12,728 12,356
Suburbs 16,450 28,388 58,868

In 1807 the old city had approximately 21,000 and the new city on the left bank of the Weser 7,100 inhabitants, meaning that about 7,000 lived in the suburbs.

(10.) See Doris Herms, Die Anfange der bremischen Industrie (Bremen, 1952), which concludes "Bremen war also bis zum letzten Drittel des 19. Jahrhunderts keineswegs ein Industriemittelpunkt; vielmehr war es, wie ehedem, eine Stadt der Fernkaufleute und Reeder geblieben" (143).

(11.) Schuster, Entwicklung der Bremischen Vorstadte, 47ff.; and B. Fuchtenkort and S. Gorges,, "Die Vorstadtplannung des Baudirektors Alexander Schroder von 1852" in Ostliche Vorstadt (Bremen, 1985), 73ff.

(12.) W. Biebush, Revolution und Staatsstreich: Verfassungskampfe in Bremen von 1848 bis 1854 (Bremen, 1978), 321-25.

(13.) Though M. Walker, German Home Towns (Ithaca, 1971) does not specifically identify Bremen it could easily fit his criteria.

(14.) Reulecke, Urbanisierung, part III.

(15.) Jahruch fur Bremische Statistik (Bremen, 1910): 21ff.

(16.) Schwarzwalder, Freien Hansestadt Bremen II, 322-325.

(17.) This 'modernization' of the city is well portrayed in Ostliche Vorstadt which includes the diaries of a real estate and housing speculator (129ff) as well as specific case stud es on patterns of house building and street utilization. The social consequences appear most fully in "Strikes" und Staat: Zur offentlichen Regelung von Arbeits-verhaltnissen 1873-1914 (Bremen, 1985) and Arme Leute (Bremen, 1981).

(18.) C. Paulmann, 1864-1964: Die Sozialdemokratie in Bremen (Bremen, 1964), 75.

(19.) Statistisches Jahrbuch des deutschen Reiches (SJDR) XXVI (1905): 36ff.

(20.) SJDR XXXV (1914): 71

(21.) The case of coker Busch reprinted in Arbeitsplatze: Schiffahrt, Hafen, Textileindustrie 1880-1933 (Bremen, 1983), 9-14 and totals (which declined to 5 and then 1% by 1914), 16-17.

(22.) Around the turn of the century the Social Democrats in particular utilized these issues to attack their opponents' self-interested rule, but their information usually proved itself to be reliable. The SPD's Burgerzeitung and the Burgerschaft debates are overfilled with details of the social problems and inadequate state intervention during the industrialization after 1890.

(23.) M. Ellerkamp and B. Jungmann, "Frauen in der 'Jute'" in Arbeitsplatze, 193ff. reprinted in K. Hausen, ed., Frauen suchen ihre Geschichte (Munich, 1987), 130ff.

(24.) In Monatsberichte und Mitteilungen des Bremischen Statischen Amts im Jahre 1911 (Bremen, 1912), Anhang.

(25.) For instance their figures could show the decline of available housing between 1903 and 1910 (from 3-4% vacancy to 1/2% in the one-to-four room units usually occupied by workers; while the middle- and upper-income units remained constant at 1-2%. The units were identified by streets and areas and national comparisons provided. Mitteilung des Bremischen Statischen Amts im Jahre 1913, 10-11.

(26.) Death in Hamburg: The Cholera Years 1830-1910 (London, 1987), 26-27, 544-45.

(27.) For example: U. Drechsel, et al. eds., Arme Leute: Armut und ihre Verwaltung 1875-1920 (Bremen, 1971), 20ff.

(28.) These were issues to which the Social Democrats pointed accusing fingers, see for example Ergebnis einer statistischen Erhebung uber die Lebensverhaltnisse der bremischen Arbeiter (Bremen, 1902); Ostliche Vorstadt (Bremen, 1985), 237 re proletarian 'barracks'; Verhandlungen der Bremer Burgerschaft [hereafter VBB] (1900), 280, May 9 re workers' chambers; Jahresbericht des Arbeitersekretariats (Bremen, 1903), 47-48. The author has completed a lengthy manuscript, "Friedrich Ebert as Socialist" in which chapters 1 and 2 detail the social circumstances he encountered in Bremen.

(29.) See some examples in BZZ 23 to 30 November 1896 as the Social Democrats debated whether it was worthwhile making an effort to participate in local elections. In the discussion of the city's finances, its wage policy and the controversial gift were reviewed. The information brought forward included an 8,000 Mark subsidy to a private school, 15,000 Marks to an apothecary, and an alleged 200,000 Marks for the visit of the Kaiser. The division of the tax burden on the city s debt, which increased from 68 million in 1890 to 98 million in 1894, was shown to fall disproportionately on the lower classes. The controlling elite refused to raise the minimum wage and refused to aid the unemployed.

(30.) SJDR XXIV (1903): 231 and note about comparisons.

(31.) An ironic comment on these traits can be found in Das Parlament XXXVI (19 April, 1986): 12.

(32.) B. Adelung, Sein und Werden, Vom Buchdrucker in Bremen zum Staatsprasidenten in Hessen (Offenbach, 1952), 26-27.

(33.) Printed in Bremer Nachrichten 27 August, 1932; Professor Jeannel's observations had apparently been printed by A. Colin, Paris in 1871.

(34.) See the typologies in Peter Scholler, Die deutsche State (Wiesbaden, 1967), 53-55.

(35.) Schuster, Bremischen Vorstadte, 57.

(36.) Schaeffer, Bremens Bevolkerung, 28ff.

(37.) The best overview of the social-political system is still Schaeffer, Bremens Bevolkerung, part II which presents the rank ordering of Senators, (including their economic situation), the educated (jurists, pastors, doctors and professors), the traders (their education and background), the master artisans (their structured control over journeymen and apprentices) and the lower-classes (including cigar workers and educational associations).

(38.) Reporters were still forbidden to write about local politics in 1844; Schaeffer, Bremens Bevolkerung, 145.

(39.) The voting by classes operated basically as follows until 1918:
1. Class
 Citizens of the city with university education 14

2. Class
 Members of merchant convent 42

3. Class
 Members of artisans 22

5. Class
 From those in aricultural chamber 8

4, 6, 7, 8. Classes
 Tax-paying citizens of city-state 64

From: Biebusch, Revolution und Staatsstreich, 324.

(40.) R. Engelsing, "Bremisches Unternehmertum. Sozialgeschichte 1780-1880," Jahrbuch der Wittheit zu Bremen III (1957): 50.

(41.) U. Branding, Die Einfuhrung der Gewerbefreiheit in Bremen und ihre Folgen (Bremen, 1951), 58.

(42.) F. Waldthausen, Der Bremer Vermogensstoss im Rahmen des direkten Besteuerung Bremens im 19. Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart, 1911), points out that this tax ended more due to "lack of good will than to increasing difficulty of judging wealth" i.e. less identification with the commune by newly rich (93).

(43.) See Base, "The Bases for the Nationalization of a Port City," which summarizes the relevant literature and draws upon statistical materials from the Bremen archives.

44. Ibid.; three items made up over 55% of Bremen's imports by the 1830s: coffee, tobacco, sugar. Cotton and petroleum would by the 1860s provide some diversification. See also R. Engelsing, Bremen als Auswandererhafen 1683-1880 (Bremen, 1961), who demonstrates how Bremen's economic stagnation was overcome by becoming an emigration port.

(45.) R. Engelsing, "England und die USA in der bremischen Sicht des 19. Jahrhundert," Jarbuch der Wittheit zu Bremen I (1955): 23ff.

(46.) A summary of the types of statutes and monuments erected in Bremen is in B. Mielsch Denkmaler, Freiplastiken , Brunnen in Bremen 1800-1945 (Bremen, 1980) which demonstrates the shift from local-patriotic toward national themes.

(47.) Staatsarchiv Bremen (=SAB) 2. T. 2. x. 4 to 11; the purposes of bell ringing, church services, choral presentations and military parades were proclaimed to be "partly religious, partly popular festival [Volksfest]". The local appeals became by the 1830s mixed with national German references.

(48.) J.G. Kohl, Das Haus Seefahrt zu Bremen (Bremen, 1862), 178ff. describes the types of beer, the foods (Braunkohl und Pinkel) and the endless toasting of this male gathering.

(49.) Quoted in K Schwebel, "Burgermeister Smidts Kirchenpolitik in Bremerhaven," Jahrbuch der Wittheit zu Bremen XVIII (1947): 409. 50. "Die Schillerfeier in Bremen" (Bremen, 1859); copy of pamphlet in SAB 2. T. 2. x. 9. 13.

(51.) For example the following middle class professionals were in both organizations: Mohr, Kiesselbach, Meyer, Gildemeister, Fricke, Kotzenberg.

(52.) SAB 2. T. 2. x. 9, 7.

(53.) W. Luhrs, "Das zweite Deutsche Bundesschiessen in Bremen (1865)", Jahrbuch der Wittheit zu Bremen XVI (1972): 125.

(54.) This significant concept was developed by Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1983), 15ft.

(55.) Partly shown by Schwarzwalder, Freien Hansestadt Bremen II, 314ff.

(56.) For Hamburg see Evans, Death in Hamburg, 106ff though he notes that "incipient Prussianization" could also be surmounted, and Richard J. Evans, ed., Kneipengesprache im Kaiserreich. Die Stimmungsberichte der Hamburger Politischen Polizei 1892-1914 (Reinbeck, 1989), 205 regarding the Prussianization of the Hamburg police.

(57.) See p. Schottler, "Arbeitskampfe im Handelsstand? Die Einfuhrung des Kaufmannsgerichts und die Konfliktsaustragung im Bremer Kleinandel vor 1914," in "Strikes" und Staat, 49-54 for Bremen resistance.

(58.) This and following quotations from SAB, 2-V. 2.831 Nr. 5, exchange of 22 July and 22 November 1891.

(59.) See, for example, Bremerhandelsblatt, 7 February or 1 May 1852.

(60.) Figures for this dependency are presented in Buse, "Bases for Nationalization."

(61.) Engelsing, "England und die USA," 42 employs the term "nationalization of economic outlook."

(62.) Schustert, Bremische Vorstadte, 17.

(63.) Based on SJDR XXXVII (1906), 1 and XXXII (1911), 2-3.

(64.) For example: VBB (1902), 149ff, March 5 (re Bavarian employment agencies); or U. Schulz, ed., Friedrich Ebert in Bremen (Bremen, 1963), 4248 (re strikes); BBZ 13 November 1902 (re voting rights).

(65.) E. Lucas, Die Sozialdemokratie in Bremen wahrend des Esrten Weltkrieges (Bremen, 1969), 104.

(66.) R. Schulz, "Arthur Fitger," Jahrbuch der Wittheit zu Bremen VI (1961): 305.

(67.) SAB 2. T. 2. x p. 12; other speeches in Courier an der Weser 6 March 1871 by Bulle, Meyer, Mosle, Herzberg and Manchot (mostly teachers).

(68.) H. Muller, "Die deutsche Arbeiterklasse und die Sedansfeiern," Zeitschrift fur Geschichtswissenschaft XVII (1969): 1554-64; T. Nipperdey, "Nationalidee und nationaldenkmal in Deutschland im 19. Jahrhundert " Historische Zeitschrift 206 (1968): 529ff has shown how certain national celebrations and symbols had a socially disunifying effect.

(69.) SAB 7, 1032, for the league's general history in the context of radical nationalism see G. Eley, Reshaping the German Right: Radical Nationalism and Political Change after Bismark (New Haven, 1980), 68ff.

(70.) Baedecker fur Norddeutschland (Berlin, 1890, 3rd edition), entry on "Bremen."

(71.) See Buse, "Lower Middle Class Nationalism," passim.

(72.) H. Pogge von Strandmann, "Nationale Verbande zwischen Weltpolitik und Kontinentalpolitik" in H. Schottelieus and W. Deist, eds., Marine und Marinepolitik im kaiserlichen Deutschland (Dusseldorf, 1972), 12.

(73.) An argumentive historiographic overview criticizing the Sonderweg approach appears in Eley, Reshaping the German Right, 1ff and an astute defense of it can be found in V. Berghahn, "Militar, industrialisierte Kriegsfuhrung und Nationalismus," Neue politische Literatur XXVI (1981): 20ff. Richard Evans, Rethinking German History. Nineteenth-Century Germany and the Origins of the Third Reich (London, 1987), ch. 3 provides an insightful analysis pointing out the neglect of regionalism in all the approaches.

(74.) In The Rise of the Anglo-Germany Antagonism (London, 1980), ch. 18.

Dieter K. Buse Laurentian University
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Author:Buse, Dieter K.
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Date:Mar 22, 1993
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