The Origins of Christian Democracy

Politics and Confession in Modern Germany
Maria D. Mitchell
A pioneering exploration of the origins of German Christian Democracy in the context of 19th- and 20th-century politics and religion


This book is a pioneering contribution to the history of the founding of the West German political system after the Second World War. The political cooperation between Catholics and Protestants that resulted in the formation of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in occupied and early West Germany represented a significant change from a long history of hostility in confessional relations. Given that the CDU went on to dominate politics in West Germany well into the 1960s, Maria D. Mitchell argues that an understanding of what made this interconfessional party possible is crucial to an exploration of German history in the postwar period. She examines the political history of party formation as well as the religious beliefs and motivations that shaped the party's philosophy and positions. She provides an authoritative guide to the complex processes of maneuvering and negotiation that produced the CDU during 1945-46. The full range of political possibilities is discussed, including the suppressed alternatives to the Adenauer/Erhard axis that eventually defined the party's trajectory during the 1950s and the abortive Christian Socialism associated with Jacob Kaiser. 

Jacket image: Courtesy of Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik (ACDP), Plakatsammlung, 10-017-213.

Maria D. Mitchell is Associate Professor of History at Franklin and Marshall College.

Praise / Awards

  • "Mitchell's work is an impressive study of the dynamics that have formed Germany since 1945. Highly Recommended"
    —D.J. Dietrich, Choice
  • "[An] accomplished work that sheds needed light on a topic vital to the history of Germany and Europe in the post–World War II era."
    American Historical Review
  • "In providing a fascinating analysis of how these conflicts were ultimately resolved through compromises that managed to avoid any deep splits within a still young party, this book gives readers strong insights into the formation of the post-1945 political order in the Federal Republic. At a time when the CDU has once again reasserted its position as the dominant force in German politics, Maria Mitchell has provided an excellent introduction to the remarkable ideological and cultural shifts that made both its formation and its lasting success possible."

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 360pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2012
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11841-0

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  • $94.95 U.S.

  • Audio Download
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-00379-2

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  • $8.99 U.S.

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  • Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Germany, Socialism ,Adenauer, Cologne, Christian Democratic Union, interconfessionalism, Marxism