Public Spheres, Public Mores, and Democracy

Hamburg and Stockholm, 1870-1914
Madeleine Hurd
A highly readable and innovative argument about European liberalization before World War I


In the long debate about the failure of German democracy in the early twentieth century, most comparisons have been made, implicitly or explicitly, with Great Britain. Madeleine Hurd's Public Spheres, Public Mores, and Democracy proposes a useful alternative—the comparison of prewar Germany with Sweden, which, like Germany, was characterized by a conservative monarchy, late industrialization, and a weak, fractured bourgeoisie.

Hurd's book offers the reader a close analysis of the political impact of nineteenth-century cultural and educational crusades, linking the process of democratization to left-wing parties' use of cultural, educational, and freethinking appeals. Both socialist and left-liberal leaders emphasized the politics of taste, sobriety, and self-respect, challenging realities and perceptions of who was acceptable in the public political sphere and who was to be excluded as immature, uncultured, and uncouth.

The two-city comparison suggests interesting conclusions. Moral and educational crusades could bring liberals and socialists together in common attacks on a drunken and irresponsible plutocracy. Cultural issues could also drive them apart, as the bourgeoisie and workers established rival claims to public respectability and autonomy. Public Spheres, Public Mores, and Democracy provides a compelling account of how the moral content of citizenship claims affected each city's and each country's long-term democratic stability. In the process, it indicates new ways of understanding the historical realities, and values, of the bourgeois public sphere.

Madeleine Hurd is Assistant Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh.

Praise / Awards

  • "This book is not simply about class but about the ways in which social interaction was shaped by civic culture, social norms, and moral/religious assumptions. It confirms, and enriches immensely, recent studies in German electoral history. . . . It is incisive on politics and society . . . informed by methodological rigor, and exemplary in its careful analysis of both the particular and the general. . . . A valuable contribution to the history of imperial Germany . . ."
    —Jan Palmowski, American Historical Review, October 2001
  • ". . . a well-conceptualized and finely wrought analysis of national differences."
    —Dolores L. Augustine, St. John's University, New York, Central European History, Vol. 36:3 (2003)
  • "In this well-researched comparative study of Hamburg and Stockholm, Madeleine Hurd provides a useful approach to the study of democracy, socialism, and liberalism in the decades before the First World War. Examining a familiar question—the cause for problems of democracy and liberalism in imperial Germany—Hurd asks why things were different in Sweden. The answer to this question comes from detailed analysis of the respective major ports of these two industrializing northern European states."
    —Benjamin Lieberman, Fitchburg State College, German Studies Review, February 2003
  • ". . . a series of carefully-crafted, deeply-researched chapters on public life in her two cities."
    —James J. Sheehan, Journal of Social History, Winter 2002

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 328pp.
  • 8 drawings, 2 tables, 2 maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11067-4

Add to Cart
  • $89.95 U.S.