I am looking for a list of high-quality resources (books, articles, etc.) about 18th and 19th-century social and cultural history for the area that now is Germany. Materials written in English would be great, but I read and speak enough German to tackle German-language materials, if I know they are worth the effort. (My German is NOT good enough to handle sorting the wheat from the chaff ...)

One line of my lineage comes from a small village (Züttlingen) in Baden Württemberg. I have worked extensively with the Lutheran Church records that have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, but would like to have more background context to more thoroughly understand the lives of my ancestors.

I have read Our Daily Bread: German Village Life, 1500-1850 by Teva J Scheer. While a work of historical fiction, it's based on sound research.

  • 4
    This is getting close to a "list question" that will elicit a number of equally valid recommendations as answers (as per genealogy.stackexchange.com/faq#dontask), but I suspect in practice the number of high-quality resources in this space is small.
    – user104
    Mar 4, 2013 at 13:13

4 Answers 4


I have found the following book useful for understanding the Pfalz region. It might have some relevance to you as well. I found it using Google Books, searching on town names and names of people. The blurb is copied from its Google Books entry.

Property and Civil Society in South-Western Germany 1820-1914

Jonathan Sperber

UP Oxford, Sep 22, 2005 - History - 287 pages

Historians have often employed the concept of civil society, an intermediary realm between the family and the state, to analyse nineteenth-century Europe and North America. They have concentrated on voluntary associations, the press and public meetings, the constituent elements of Jurgen Habermas's 'public sphere', in doing so overlooking a central element of nineteenth-century civil society: property and its disposition, whether within the family or in the marketplace.

This book examines the place of property in the society of south-western Germany during property's nineteenth-century golden age. It analyses the culture of property ownership and property transactions within families, among business partners and competitors, and among creditors and debtors. The work considers the boundaries of property, outlining relationships between neighbouring property owners, and showing how property ownership helped shape social distinctions between men and women, Christians and Jews, the upper and lower classes, the sane and the insane, and between honourable and dishonourable actions. It traces the development of property relations and property transactions from the end of the Napoleonic era to the eve of the First World War.

The book's conclusion compares conditions in south-western Germany with those elsewhere in Europe and North America, and considers changes in property relations occurring in Germany during the age of total war and in the post-1945 period in the light of structures and developments in the nineteenth century. Based on extensive documentation from civil court records, Property and Civil Society in South-Western Germany presents its results through the recounting of intriguing, sometimes bizarre, but always revealing stories of legal disputes. A reconsideration of the nature of civil society, an analysis of nineteenth-century social development and social conflict, a study of the nature and action of the law in everyday life, the book is also an ironic and bemused look at the past human condition.

  • +1 Thanks for the citation; it looks like a good monograph. I'll order it from Interlibrary Loan. Feb 18, 2013 at 12:25

Rather than list specific texts, here are a couple of resources that may help

  • University libraries: Using keywords, browse the library catalogue of any university with a good European history program. They will have a lot of publications, both books and periodicals, that should be able to take you from introductory to more advanced material. You might be able to arrange inter-library loans with your public library. (The FamilySearch's Library catalogue can also be searched for region-specific resources).

  • Genealogical and historical societies: publications issued by these societies will be full of regionally-specific material. Most won't be available to read on-line, but lists of contents and back issues may be available through the society website. Examples: Verein für Familien- und Wappenkunde in Würtemberg und Baden and FEEFHS Germany Genealogy Resources

  • Literature databases, such as PERSI (mostly US publications) and Literaturdatenbank as finding aids

  • Digital collections: Google Books, FamilySearch, Internet Archive, Central and Eastern European Online Library etc.

  • Thanks for your suggestions about research tactics. However, what I am really looking for is a list of specific titles, not suggestions as how to browse the Web for possible candidates. I could contact some of my graduate school cohort who did European history and ask what key items they have graduate students read in their 1st year colloquia. But I hope that folks here on this site might have some recommendations. Feb 18, 2013 at 2:01

I found this book "Ordinary Prussians. Brandenburg Junkers and Villagers, 1500-1840 by William W. Hagen " very helpful even though it's not exactly my area of Brandenburg interest. Amazing amount of detail. I used inter-library loan.

  • Hi Sydney, welcome to G&FH I encourage you to take the tour. I made a few edits to your answer to make it more clear and added an author to the book as well.
    – CRSouser
    Apr 26, 2017 at 16:15
  • Hey Sidney, welcome to our site! When I read the question I wanted to propose exactly the same book (although it is on Prussia) as you did! :-)
    – lejonet
    Apr 26, 2017 at 19:41

My interest is in Thurginia. I just read the 2 vol book by Henry Meyhew pub. 1864. German Life and Manners as seen in Saxony at the Present Day. He lived in Eisenach for 2 years and wrote about his observations and experiences. He was very much a social anthropologist. But he clearly states he is viewing and comparing what he finds to his present day London. He wrote about food, education, courting, marriage, children and death. Also, holidays, amusement and general customs.

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