Heligoland
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Heligoland : Britain, Germany, and the Struggle for the North Sea

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On 18 April 1947, British forces set off the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. The target was a small island in the North Sea, thirty miles off the German coast, which for generations had stood as a symbol of Anglo-German conflict: Heligoland.

A long tradition of rivalry was to come to an end here, in the ruins of Hitler's island fortress. Pressed as to why it was not prepared to give Heligoland back, the British government declared that the island represented everything that was wrong with the Germans: 'If any tradition was worth breaking, and if any sentiment was worth changing, then the German sentiment about Heligoland was such a one'.

Drawing on a wide range of archival material, Jan Ruger explores how Britain and Germany have collided and collaborated in this North Sea enclave. For much of the nineteenth century, this was Britain's smallest colony, an inconvenient and notoriously discontented outpost at the edge of Europe. Situated at the fault line between imperial and national histories, the island became a metaphor for Anglo-German rivalry once Germany acquired it in 1890. Turned into a naval stronghold under the
Kaiser and again under Hitler, it was fought over in both world wars. Heavy bombardment by the Allies reduced it to ruins, until the Royal Navy re-took it in May 1945. Returned to West Germany in 1952, it became a showpiece of reconciliation, but one that continues to bear the scars of the twentieth
century.

Tracing this rich history of contact and conflict from the Napoleonic Wars to the Cold War, Heligoland brings to life a fascinating microcosm of the Anglo-German relationship. For generations this cliff-bound island expressed a German will to bully and battle Britain; and it mirrored a British determination to prevent Germany from establishing hegemony on the Continent. Caught in between were the Heligolanders and those involved with them: spies and smugglers, poets and painters,
sailors and soldiers.

Heligoland is the compelling story of a relationship which has defined modern Europe.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 384 pages
  • 162 x 242 x 34mm | 646g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 29 black & white illustrations, 1 map
  • 0199672466
  • 9780199672462
  • 323,407

Review Text

The breadth of research - from areas as diverse as music, art, and literature, to naval planning and Nazi propaganda - is impressive, as is the authors skill in selecting what to leave out in what might easily have become an unwieldy study. Heligoland is a valuable addition to the literature to Anglo-German affairs since 1800, and one which - due to its inclusivity and breadth- will be of interest to all scholars interested in either country or indeed the history of Europe, in that period. David Morgan-Owen, 20th Century British History
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Review quote

Jan Ruger's new book takes the North Sea island of Heligoland as a lens through which to examine Anglo-German relations over the past two centuries. The result is an entertaining and illuminating study full of colourful detail, that traces the phases of co-operation and hostility between the two powers over the decades from the Kaiser to Hitler and beyond. * Richard J. Evans, author of The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 * This is a brilliant demonstration of how the very small can have a significance over time on the very large. Drawing on literature, cartography, art, music and film, as well as a wide spread of archives, Jan Ruger shows how and why Heligoland became caught up in a succession of epic and destructive wars, conflicting but also overlapping national identities, the rise and fall of Anglo-German antagonism, and the competition for empire. * Linda Colley, Princeton University * A brilliant and subtle history of Anglo-German relations, told through the evocative study of a contested island. This fascinating book is a triumphant demonstration of the power of microhistory. * Christopher Clark, author of The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 * distinguished German historian Jan Ruger ... has written a micro-history that captures the complexity of Anglo-German relations * Nigel Winser, Geographical * For those devourers of "forgotten" history, this book is a must ... riveting * Ian Hernon, Tribune * Visitors today may be quite unaware of Heligoland's curious history or of the weight of symbolism it once bore. Day trippers come now to enjoy the bird watching, the 1950s architecture, the duty-free cigarettes. Before setting out, they should read Mr. Ruger's fascinating book. * The Wall Street Journal * A gem of a study ... concise, scholarly, and readable. On one level it is simply an authoritative narrative history of an island and ist people, but on another it represents so much more: a case study of the twists and turns of Britain's relationship with Germany, Europe, and the wider world over two tumultuous centuries. * Nick Hewitt, Military History Monthly * Fascinating * Ian Brunskill, Wall Street Journal Europe * Mr Ruger makes his case that Heligoland's fortunes are a useful bellwether of wider relations and he relates his story in an engaging style ... More people should know Heligoland's story for the echoes it has today. * The Economist * Utterly fascinating ... impeccable, original, scholarly and superbly written * Simon Heffer, Literary Review * Resonant... a prism through which to view the entire span of Anglo-German rivalry, conflict and, eventually, reconciliation. * Martin Kettle, Guardian * The whole book is studded with unexpected gems about extraordinary people ... a fine tale. * Max Hastings, The Sunday Times * Ruger's book brilliantly spins a far bigger history out of one small, half-forgotten place. For so long the fault line between two powers, Heligoland deserves to be rescued from oblivion; it has found an admirable historian. * Ben Wilson, The Sunday Telegraph * A fascinating book which uses a scrap of land in the North Sea to illustrate the tumultuous relationship between Britain and Germany. * History Hit Podcast with Dan Snow * The reader of Ruger's volume will be fascinated, surprised, horrified and moved. * John R. Davis, Reviews in History * This brilliant, quirky book tells the almost unknown story of the tiny North Sea German island that became an unlikely corner of the British Empire. * Sunday Times, Best Books for the Summer 2017 * A thought-provoking treatise of how nations coexist - or dont. * Joseph Callo, H Net * Masterful... fascinating... this is microhistory at its best. * W. Mark Hamilton, Mariner's Mirror * Ruger's book moves seamlessly between the views and demands of the inhabitants of Heligoland... and the considerations and policies impacting the island in the halls of government in Great Britain and Germany. Well-researched from multiple archives... the book also provides a useful and important reminder to historians of the need to consider a "long view". * Alan M. Anderson, Naval Historical Foundation * A Ruger's work on this small island is historiography at its best. * Dieter Langewiesche, German Historical Institute London Bulletin * Pacey and erudite... succeeds admirably. * European History Quarterly * Fascinating. * Neal Ascherson, London Review of Books * Jan Ruger has exploited an impressive array of sources to craft a masterful account not just of the history of this tiny, unique place, but of the Anglo-German relationship in general a model microhistory with an approach well worth emulating. * Lawrence Sondhaus, American Historical Review * A fascinating insight to the often troubled relations between [Britain and Germany] from the Napoleonic Wars to the Cold War. * Flash: The Trinity House journal * He provides a rich and highly readable study that is a valuable addition to the literature on Anglo-German relations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. * Colin Storer (University of Warwick), European History Quarterly, Vol. 47 * One of the book's greatest advantages is its periodization and long-term perspective. It makes it easy to follow, and it places the narrative within broader processes and events. The main arguments are clearly presented and the text is highly readable. Personal stories and anecdotes contribute to this readability. Numerous illustrations are interspersed in the text and support it nicely... the book is a brilliant example of the way in which geographical features can
serve as an axis for the study of history. * Daniel Uziel, H-Soz-Kult * The breadth of research - from areas as diverse as music, art, and literature, to naval planning and Nazi propaganda - is impressive, as is the authors skill in selecting what to leave out in what might easily have become an unwieldy study. Heligoland is a valuable addition to the literature to Anglo-German affairs since 1800, and one which - due to its inclusivity and breadth- will be of interest to all scholars interested in either country or indeed the history of
Europe, in that period. * David Morgan-Owen, 20th Century British History *
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About Jan Ruger

Jan Ruger is Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London. He is the author of The Great Naval Game: Britain and Germany in the Age of Empire and joint editor of Rewriting German History.
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Rating details

15 ratings
3.93 out of 5 stars
5 27% (4)
4 47% (7)
3 20% (3)
2 7% (1)
1 0% (0)
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