Die Wacht am Rhein.

Brad DeLong agrees with Daniel Drezner that, in a time in which the world’s news agenda is once again dominated by hatred and violence, it is important to remember that keeping up the hope for a peaceful future is not necessarily in vain.

Let us give thanks that the most brutal and blood-soaked border in the world is quiet – a border inhabited on both sides by those bloodthirsty peoples who have been numbers one and two in terms of the most effective killers of foreigners for centuries: the Germans and the French.

It is now 59 years and 9 months since an army crossed the Rhine River bearing fire and sword. This is the longest period of peace on the Rhine since the second century B.C.E., before the Cimbri and the Teutones appeared to challenge the armies of the consul Gaius Marius in the Rhone Valley.

I’m not sure about those 59 years being the longest period of peace since the second century B.C.E., but having lived on the Rhine’s left bank, close to the westward-watching “Wacht am Rhein” (the Niederwalddenkmal or “Germania” – a monument erected after the foundation of the German Reich in 1871), for most of my life, those 59 years are clearly the ones that matter to me.


Franco-German Friendship
And, in light of the recent transatlantic history, let me add that the photo of a French friend and myself in front of the memorial was taken by an American tourist – we do remember which fire bearing army made the Franco-German approchement possible.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Life and tagged , , by Tobias Schwarz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tobias Schwarz

German, turned 30 a while ago, balding slowly, hopefully with grace. A carnival junkie, who, after studies in business and politics in Mannheim, Paris, and London, is currently living in his hometown of Mainz, Germany, again. Became New Labourite during a research job at the House of Commons, but difficult to place in German party-political terms. Liberal in the true sense of the term.

His political writing is mostly on A Fistful of Euros and on facebook these days. Occasional Twitter user and songwriter. His personal blog is almost a diary. Even more links at about.me.

9 thoughts on “Die Wacht am Rhein.

  1. Dead right, Tobias. For all those who criticise the EU mercilessly, they should remember the significant achievement that the mere existance of the EU represents.

    As for your comments about the Americans, I think the more transatlantic travel there is – from both sides of the ocean – the barriers and misunderstandings will begin to disappear.

  2. As I said I’m not sure about it. Certainly, earlier times probably had a more relaxed definition of “peace” than we have today, given the nature of their polities, and general circumstances of life.

    So, assuming this, and abstracting from the occasional anti-Jewish pogrom next door, I thought that the Franco-German stretch of the Rhine area (say up to Cologne), in the center of the Carolingian realm, including important medieval cultural centers like Worms, Speyer and Mainz, was enjoying rather peaceful periods in the medieval that might or might not have exceeded 60 years, until the Franco-German national dualism became a dominant cleavage that made the area a hotspot for centuries.

    But I am certainly no one who would ever claim to possess any detailed knowledge of medieval history, let alone the ability to classify the nature of violence or peace in those times.

  3. OT
    Just wondering if not one of the great minds in the fistful could have a small meditation on how a common immigration policy might work out? (You didn?t miss that veto was recently abandoned on this question thus laying the ground for a common policy, now did you?)

    Easier or harder to enter the EU in the future? Relaxing the policy and blaiming Brussels while saving the demography or tightening for fear of foreigners (and fear of losing seats to the rightwing parties)?

  4. I think Brad is overestimating hugely the number of barbarian incursions in the first couple of centuries AD. As far as I know, no armies headed in either direction for a long time after the teutoberger wald disaster.

  5. How many wars were fought in the Rhine area between 900-1500, ewhen the whle area belonged to Germany? It doesn’t seem inconceivable there were a 60 year peace period, esp. in the early part of the period.

  6. “A Distant Mirror” is an excellent history book, by Barbara Tuchman, which traces the life and times of one Sieur de Coucy, a French nobleman in the 1300’s whose bloodline eventually died out. At one point we know that de Coucy gathered an army and fought a war against a nobleman somewhere in the upper Rhine, near Switzerland. No one knows what the issues were, but Tuchman speculates it was something to do with some minor inheritance rights.

    I’d imagine that the period between 900-1500 was rife with such small squabbles. Tuchman makes the point that in the long run it was always the peasants who suffered the most, as each passing army wound up having to forage the countryside to sustain itself.

    The book makes a good case for seeing the Middle Ages as a period of constant human misery. Luckily she tells the story in a way that makes for fascinating reading (the book was on The New York Times bestseller list for awhile).

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