History Student Conference – Germany (1900-1945)

On 20th March 2014 Post 16 History students attended a third A level conference in Birmingham where they had the opportunity to listen to lectures on Germany from 1900-1945, one of the examination topics at AS level.

Dr Matthew Seligmann from Brunel University began the day with ‘Did the Kaiser Rule as well as Reign’? Dr Seligmann delivered a fascinating insight on Kaiser Wilhelm II’s capacity to govern Germany during World War One. His delusions of grandeur and questionable abilities resulted in Germany being badly ruled by his chosen favourites who were incapable of coordinating their government departments contributing to Germany’s eventual downfall in 1918. (Brunel University is currently third in the Guardian league tables for student satisfaction in History).

Dr Leif Jerram, Senior Lecturer in Modern History at Manchester University, continued with ‘Peasants at the Palace: How far did an authoritarian tradition stifle the growth of Weimar Democracy before 1929?’  Dr Jerram argued that the Weimar Republic had a built in authoritarian tendency which created many of its problems. His lecture challenged the classic metanarrative of the Weimar Republic that it was the Great Depression that created economic meltdown leading to political chaos which allowed the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.

Dr Lisa Pine from London South Bank University opened the afternoon session with ‘The Depression Put the Wind in Hitler’s Sails’: How accurate is this statement in explaining the rise of the Nazis after 1929? Dr Pine is a widely published international expert on the social history of the Third Reich with a strong interest in the mechanisms of this dictatorial regime and its impact upon German society. She argued that widespread disillusionment with Germany’s parliamentary system from 1929 onwards, coupled with the intrigue of right wing politicians surrounding President Hindenburg, were the essential preconditions for Hitler’s accession to power, but that at no time was Hitler’s rise inevitable.

The star lecturer of the day however was undoubtedly Professor Roger Griffin from Oxford Brookes University. Professor Griffin, who is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s foremost experts on the socio-historical and ideological dynamics of fascism, ended the day with a lecture on ‘A Sick Man’: Exploring the mind of Adolf Hitler, what do we learn? Professor Griffin entertained everyone with a fascinating insight of Adolf Hitler who, he argued, was afflicted with a variety of damaging psychological disorders which combined to generate a destructive, paranoid, fixated belief system. The real dichotomy for a historian however was to understand why millions of Germans, who were mostly ordinary human beings and hardly ‘

‘I found the day really helpful as it gave me a broader understanding of the topic I am studying. The lectures were very different from being in a classroom and have helped prepare me for the future by giving me an insight into what university would be like’Cerina A

I found the lectures informative and interesting. Dr Jerram told us how to improve our essays by including our own theories but Professor Griffin was my favourite because he used lots of humour which was really engaging at the end of a tiring day.‘  Fatima M

‘The speakers have helped me a lot. Leif Jerram told us how to set out our essays by expanding on our theories and also recommended an educational website to help us. Roger Griffin was very amusing yet gave a powerful insight into the thoughts and feelings of Hitler. It was nice to be out of the classroom for a change and in an environment where everyone was engaged’Gurpreet S

The trip was very enjoyable because it gave us an idea of what classes at university would be like. All the lectures were interesting and the tips on how to impress examiners using analytical skills and independent thinking were great. Dr Griffin suggested some good films on You Tube that we should watch to help us with our studies‘.  Bisha Z

This is the third time I have accompanied Sixth Formers to university lectures in Birmingham with Mr Jackson. Each time WWEA students have been a credit to our academy. The lectures have been diverse but relevant to their A level studies and all the students have found the experience beneficial. I have also enjoyed the ‘snapshot of university’ life and learning. My overall favourite was Roger Griffin from Oxford who motivated and inspired our young scholars using analogies, humour and his broad expertise of Adolf Hitler‘.  Mrs Wilkinson

By Mr. S. Jackson