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By: John Alexander Williams
354 pages, 5 tables, 13 illustrations
Turning to Nature in Germany is a study of mass movements that aimed to bring the German people into closer contact with nature. In the early twentieth century organized hikers, nudists, and conservationists all looked to nature for solutions to the nation's political crises. Following these movements over three political eras - the Second Empire, the Weimar Republic, and the Third Reich - the book shows how manifestations of popular culture reflected the concerns and hopes of their time. Williams breaks with historians who have long seen nature movements as anti-modern and irrational by arguing that naturists were calling not for Germany to turn back the clock, but for the nation to find a way to navigate the treacherous waters of contemporary life and strive toward a brighter future.
Turning to Nature in Germany makes an important argument about the normality of German history and about not interpreting the past in the dark light Nazism casts on it. Williams has a compelling perspective and incorporates a rich and broad range of historical research. His discussions of socialist hiking organizations and attitudes toward nature and youth hiking are really excellent - densely researched, beautifully organized, vigorously and persuasively argued. - Celia Applegate, University of Rochester"
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