Cities, Sin, and Social Reform in Imperial Germany

Andrew Lees
An important examination of the colorful histories of urbanization and social reform in Imperial Germany


Cities, Sin, and Social Reform in Imperial Germany breaks new ground in the history of social thought and action in Germany from 1870 to 1914. Examining a great variety of attitudes and programs, the book emphasizes socially liberal efforts to counteract perceived problems in the area of moral behavior through progressive reforms. It thus points the reader toward connections and parallels between Germany and other parts of the transatlantic world.

Thematically and methodologically wide-ranging, Cities, Sin, and Social Reform considers a broad spectrum of responses not only to the breakdown of social cohesion in general, but also to specific forms of deviant behavior. The author draws on large numbers of writings from the period by clergymen, jurists, medical doctors, educators, social workers, and others, and focuses on activists as well as writers. This literature illuminates the histories not only of urbanization, but also of sexuality, Christianity, leisure, education, and women.

Focusing on positive instead of escapist responses to the challenges that inhered in urban society, this work can be read as part of an ongoing reassessment of the German Empire that points away from the idea that Germans were traveling an antimodernist Sonderweg, or special path, that led inevitably to National Socialism and the Third Reich.

Andrew Lees is Professor and Department Chair of History at Rutgers University. Lees specializes in Germany, Britain, and European intellectual and cultural history. His other books include Revolution and Reflection: Intellectual Change in Germany during the 1850s and Cities Perceived: Urban Society in European and American Thought, 1820-1840.

Praise / Awards

  • "Lees's detailing of the debate over urban reform in imperial Germany reflects an ambitious working through of great masses of the literature of social criticism generated by middle class authors, activists, and organizations during the last pre-World War I decades. On this basis, he delivers not dramatic new insights but rather well-informed summaries of a significant sampling of exchanges on urban social problems and proposals for dealing with them."
    American Historical Review
  • ". . . a noteworthy contribution to discussions on urban growth in Germany."
    Journal of Social History
  • "The book as a whole provides a powerful illustration of a bourgeois German society as a vibrant "community of Discourse[s]," where middle-class urbanities were not passive subjects duped by politically savvy, yet anachronistic landed elites but instead masters of their cities... Indeed, Lees's analysis makes clear just how much we have yet to find out about urban life (both middle class and working class) In imperial Germany."
    —Julia Bruggemann, H-Net Reviews

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Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 448pp.
  • 8 drawings, 2 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11258-6

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  • $104.95 U.S.