Course Pack I: A Bit of History. So, what do you all know about Germany? They 'started' two huge wars, they make good cars, beer, sausages, chocolate, scheiße porn...? and what about that Brecht guy anyway?
. Germany's history in a nutshell, (and a few answers about Brecht) in a somewhat informal and editorial tone, is as follows.
. Oh, by the way, Germany just had a birthday (October 3). How old is she?
. Answer: She's 18 (in her current incarnation; that is, the unified post-Wall Germany).
. The Germans, as a people, started out as a loose collection of tribes. The Roman historian Tacitus writes about them; they cause trouble, generally, for Rome, and so on. That's the first we hear of them, really, from a historical perspective.
. Theologically, they had their own real mythos... we would describe them as pagans, and, for the most part, the modern neo-pagan movement is a bastardization of their ancient ideas. The ancient germanic peoples worshipped gods such as Odin, Thor, Freya, and so on. These gods are gods of thunder, and of war; gods that were to be appeased rather than praised; gods that would get drunk and destroy villages and kill for sport. In fact, the ancient germanic people tended to believe that the end of the world would come in a great battle – sound familiar? – but their spin on the idea was that the forces of evil would certainly win. Such pessimism still exists today (and can be seen in Mother Courage).
. Shortly before Christ, the Romans began to have some success colonizing modern day Germany, and, by the time of Charlemagne (9th Century AD; He was actually more German than French), the Germans had been mostly christianized, and were pretty well behaved for a bunch of ex-barbarians.
. In the early 16th Century, the Germans were largely responsible for the reformation of the church, and that, in turn, was largely responsible for the enlightenment: it was a lot easier to do just about anything when you were not answerable to the pope. Oh, and the printing press (also German) was rather instrumental in the enlightenment too.
. Sometime in the mid 19th C., Germans began to feel a certain sense of unity, for up to that time, the Germans had really been just a loose collection of little free cities, duchies, and principalities, and so forth. In 1871, however, a state resembling modern day Germany (albeit at that time they owned Poland) was formed under Bismarck. This really began to give rise to what is called the "German Question". Europe began to feel threatened by the new union of their neighbours, whose tendency toward belligerence was not unknown (Germans had been known, from time to time, to take over France, as early as the 5th Century AD.)
. It was into this Germany that Brecht was born, in Augsburg, in 1898.
. Of course, a bit should be said about Augsburg. Brecht would have identified himself as an Augsburger in his youth, (that is, moreso than as a Bavarian or a German), so perhaps we should take a look at his little town specifically. Do we have history in Canada? Sure, why not... I mean, St. John's is about 400 years old, and most of your families have probably been here since about 1850, right? That is your great-great-great-grandfathers' generation, give or take.
. That is like a candle in the sun. Augsburg is older than Jesus. Recorded history of its settlement as a Roman city dates back more than 2000 years. Before that, the Bavarians lived there well into prehistory.
. Augsburg became the capital of the Roman province of Raetia in 120, it was razed by the huns in the 5th Century; by Charlemagne in the 8th; and by the Duke of Bavaria in the 11th. In 1276 it became its own Freistadt (city-state). Due to its location between Italy and northern Europe, it became a great centre of trade, and what can be described as a mercantile class arose there.
. By the 1500s, Augsburg was home to a bustling economy, exemplified by the richest trading family in the world's history, the Fugger family. Jakob Fugger The Rich is noted to have said "The king reigns, but the bank rules." In retrospect, that's a strikingly marxist sentiment. And, indeed, the rich Fugger was a man of the people. History records that he set up, in 1516, the first social security system, the Fuggerei, a sort of low-income housing solution in the centre of Augsburg. It operates to this day; yearly rent is approximately one Canadian dollar.
. In 1555, just a few years after protestantism began to take hold in Germany, a decree was signed in Augsburg, which made the city impartial to either religion. This was because of the city's prosperity (compare Mother Courage's line, "In business you don't ask what religion, rather what price.") After that, the history of Augsburg was essentially composed of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.
. That is, however, until the 30 Years' War (during which Mother Courage is set) raped and devastated the city.
. In 1618, the 30 Years' War (in which Mother Courage is set) began. The war did not immediately effect Augsburg (the war centered on the north at first, then came south). However by 1629, Augsburg had to take a side. In 1632, the armies of Gustavus Adolphus (a protestant Swede, for those of you keeping score) took the city without resistance. They knew the catholics were coming, though, and in 1634, the catholic army surrounded Augsburg. The siege was catastrophic. The Swedes refused to surrender (you don't surrender in a Holy War) and hunger and plague decimated both sides.
. After the merciless war's end, prosperity never really returned to Augsburg. The New World was playing an ever greater part in the European economy, and trade routes to India by ship had been developed. As the Holy Roman Empire dissolved in 1806, Augsburg lost its status as a Freistadt. She essentially languished in atrophy until the industrial revolution, which brought the odd factory, but nowhere near the former glory of the merchant-town.
. Ninety-two years later, but a blink of the eye in such a perspective, Brecht was born.