Title Reviewed:
America and the Germans: An Assessment of a Three–Hundred–Year History. Vol. I, Immigration, Language, Ethnicity; Vol. II, The Relationship in the Twentieth Century

Author Reviewed:
Frank Trommler; Joseph McVeigh

Eberhard Reichmann


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 82, Issue 4, pp 390-391

Article Type:
Book Review

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America and the Germans: An Assessment of a Three–Hundred–Year History. Vol. I, Immigration, Language, Ethnicity; Vol. II, The Relationship in the Twentieth Century. Edited by Frank Trommler and Joseph McVeigh. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985. Pp. xxxii, 376; xvii, 369. Illustrations, notes, maps, tables, indexes. Vol. I, $19.95; Vol. II, $19.95; set, $35.00.)

The last decade provided two significant anniversaries for the "Germans in America," or, more broadly conceived—as in the title of the present work—for "America and the Germans": 1976, the nation's bicentennial, with an unprecedented revival of historical and genealogical ("roots") interest; 1983, the three hundredth anniversary of the first German group settlement in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Both occasions gave rise to numerous celebrations and to many publications in the academic and the popular vein on both sides of the Atlantic. Small wonder when we consider that approximately one quarter of our population claims some form of German descent.

Unlike A. B. Faust's famous two-volume set, The German Element in the United States (1909), the present work, ably edited by Frank Trommler and Joseph McVeigh, did not come into being through the immense industry of a single scholar; its forty-nine essays are based on papers presented at the University of Pennsylvania Tricentennial Conference, the premiere event by the scholarly community on the occasion of the Germantown tricentennial. Another difference is a broadened scope that includes, with nearly equal emphasis, the political, economic, and cultural relationships between the United States and Germany during the twentieth century.

The team of contributors represents a good cross section of who's who in German-American studies: G. Moltmann (immigration patterns), Don Yoder (Pennsylvania Germans), J. A. Hostetler (the Plain People), K. N. Conzen (ethnicity), J. Eichhoff (the German language in America), I. V. Rippley (the effect of World War I), Fritz Stern (U.S.-German relations), Christiane Totten (acceptance and rejection of German-Americans), H. A. Strauss (German-Jewish immigrants since 1933), to name but a few. Americanism and anti-Americanism in Germany are analysed by F. Trommler and K. Sontheimer respectively. M. L. Huffines and J. A. Fishman address the issues connected with German language maintenance in the U.S., and H. Jantz, Christian E. Schweitzer, A. Ritter and others examine German-American literature up to some contemporary authors writing in German.

No doubt, an anthology of this nature has its definite value both for the researcher and the novice in German-Americana. In most instances the reader will find the editorial intent to have been realized; that is, to reflect "the current state of scholarship," but "formulated with the uninitiated reader in mind."

The majority of the individual contributions are focused on nationwide description and interpretation of the respective phenomena: nationwide for the United States and for Germany respectively. Consulting the very useful index will not lead to an Indiana entry. Francis Lieber, the originator of the Encyclopedia Americana, is listed; our own Hoosier Liebers, Hermann and Richard, are not. We must not be disappointed about that. A look at and an understanding of the larger contexts will help us assess our regional and local German-Americana better, whether as variations of dominant patterns or as unique manifestations. Familiarity with the broader context eliminates guesswork in that respect. We also stand to gain methodologically from proven approaches employed by researchers on the national scale. While not all contributions in these two volumes are of equal weight and scholarly thoroughness—an unavoidable consequence in publishing conference papers—the reader will find a gold mine of information and interpretation, including valuable bibliographical references; e.g., in the copious notes of H. Wellenreuther's "Image and Counterimage, Tradition and Expectation: The German Immigrants in English Colonial Society in Pennsylvania, 1700–1765."

Investing in this work is definitely recommended for all libraries and for people interested in German-Americana and U.S. relations with Germany.

Indiana University, Bloomington Eberhard Reichmann

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.