This is a translation of the article 'Too Many Nazis? Zeitgeschichte in Großbritannien' originally published in Alexander Nützenadel and Wolfgang Schieder (eds) 'Zeitgeschichte als Problem: Nationale Traditionen und Perspektiven der Forschung in Europa' (Göttingen, 2004). According to the author contemporary history in Great Britain begins in the period just after the Second World War, when the public in general and historians began to ask questions about the causes of the war and sought critically to come to terms with the pre-war policy of appeasement. In terms of institutions, however, the field did not begin to develop till the mid-1960s, when the Institute of Contemporary History and, with it, the Journal of Contemporary History were founded. Historians of contemporary history have struggled with the somewhat paradoxical problem that, unlike countries on the Continent, twentieth-century Great Britain did not experience any radical historical break in continuity. Today the field of contemporary history is well established in Great Britain. The central theme of British contemporary history is, according to the author, the recurring search for the causes of the decline in the international standing of Great Britain in the second half of the twentieth century, which is symbolized by the end of the Empire and underscored by the long recession in the 1970s. Answers were sought in international relations (the post-war international constellation and decolonization), politics at home (the post-war political consensus, the building of the welfare state, the growing strength of the labour unions), economics (a disproportionately costly civil service and failure to modernize), culture and mores (the suppression of the entrepreneurial spirit, the dwindling away of Victorian virtues). A new impulse was given to this historiography in the years that Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. She had made it her aim to restore British prestige and productivity by mobilizing traditional virtues. The wide range of discussions about the decline included some downright revisionist approaches (for example, John Charmley's), but also led to a shift in the field of contemporary history towards an interdisciplinary, international approach. In the last part of the article, the author considers the periodization of contemporary history in Great Britain. The predominant view today is that contemporary history includes the twentieth century while its centre of gravity is shifting to the period after the Second World War. This sort of periodization now corresponds also to the pragmatic conception of contemporary history as periods limited by the memories of living contemporaries of the events and people under discussion.
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