German Big Business in the Twentieth Century ESH4026

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Two things are striking about the history of German big business in the 20th century: first, the massive dislocations that it faced in the first half of the century; and, second, the remarkable consistency of its performance before and after 1945, both in terms of technology and in terms of export success. The main question explored in this course is: how was the second possible in light of the first? It deals with several key issues: the impact of the first World War on the structure and practice of German big business; inflation and political unrest in the 1920s; the rise of National-Socialism; business in the Third Reich; the holocaust; business in the occupation period; and the "economic miracle".


Lecture: one hour per week, Seminar: one hour per week. Please note this course does not run every session. For the current course list please see:

Requirements of Entry

Enrolment in an MA (SocSci) or MA (Arts) Honours Programme


One essay = 25%

One source report = 15%

One two-hour exam = 60%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

Our aim in this course is to understand:

1. the ways in which business leaders in the German area reached (or did not reach) accommodation with a variety of political, social, and economic crises during the twentieth century

2. the interactions between such accommodation (or lack thereof) on the one hand and business structure, practice, and competitiveness on the other.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

Upon completion of this course, your coursework and examination performance
will indicate the extent to which you are able to:

1. read, analyse, and reflect critically and contextually upon historical texts, both
primary and secondary;

2. show an informed awareness of changes through time in the political, social, and
economic environment within which German big business operated during the 20th
century and to evaluate the response of business to this changing environment;

3. demonstrate a critical awareness of historiographical controversies on the
role of big business in German society during the 20th century;

4. assess continuity and change in structures and practices within specific
German firms and industrial sectors.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.