skip to primary navigationskip to content

Forum on Geopolitics

Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)

Studying at Cambridge


The German Question and the European Problem

The German Question and the European Problem

Germany has been at the heart of European geopolitics since 1453, at the latest. This is because the vital interests of the main powers have tended to intersect at the geographical centre of the continent. For hundreds of years, this resulted in a fragmented space in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which sucked instability from outside, and was unable to contribute effectively to pan-European projects - for example, the repulse of the Turks.

From the late nineteenth-century, by contrast, a united Germany exported instability to Europe and the rest of the world. The project of European integration after World War II was driven by the desire both to contain German revanchism and to mobilise her energies in the contest against Soviet communism.

The EU, however, did not develop into a strong Anglo-American style union, but took on many of the characteristics of the old Holy Roman Empire. It has proved incapable of managing the re-emergence of German power and of mounting a response to the internal economic and external strategic threats to the Union.

The findings of this research theme will be published as scholarly works in their own, as well as informing our work within the Brexit-Euroexit 'Laboratory for World Construction' project. Key research questions will include:

  • What have been the important elements of continuity and change in the German Question over the past five hundred years?
  • How has the rest of Europe tended to perceive the importance of Germany in terms of location, size, population and military strength - actual or potential - during this same period?
  • What is the connection between the internal order of Germany and the European balance of power?
  • Conversely, what has been the impact on German political culture of that of Europe, in particular, of the EU?
  • To what extent has Germany 'pulled its weight', historically, within the European system?

For upcoming events relating to this theme, click here.

For reports on past events relating to this theme, click here.

People specializing in this area