Cities, Sin, and Social Reform in Imperial Germany breaks new ground in the history of social thought and action in Imperial Germany, focusing on socially liberal efforts to counteract perceived problems in the area of moral behavior.
Thematically and methodologically wide-ranging and innovative, this volume considers a broad spectrum of responses not only to the supposed breakdown of social cohesion but also to specific forms of deviant behavior. It draws on large numbers of writings from the period by clergymen, jurists, medical doctors, educators, social workers, and others. This literature illuminates the histories not only of urbanization and cities but also of sexuality and Christianity, crime and criminology, leisure and education, youth and women, charity and social work, and the welfare state as well as local government.
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. Although intended primarily for scholars and students of modern Germany, this book should speak to a variety of readers, among them anyone who cares about the history of cities, deviant behavior, or social reform.
Andrew Lees is Professor of History, Rutgers University.