Strategies of rule: cooperation and conflict in the British Zone of Germany, 1945–1949
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis examines strategies of rule deployed during the British occupation of north-western Germany from 1945 to 1949 and explores instances of cooperation and conflict between the occupiers and the occupied population. While the literature has primarily looked at the occupation through the lens of big political projects, this study analyses the application of quotidian ruling strategies and the making of stability on the ground. Techniques for controlling the German population were devised during the war and transmitted to officials through extensive training. Lessons from previous occupations and imperial experiences also entered the Military Government’s ruling philosophy by way of the biographical composition of its top cadre. Once in Germany, the British instituted a system of ‘indirect rule’ which relied on focal points of visibility as embodied by their local officials charged with cooperating with German notables, and invisible instances of supervision in the form of mass surveillance of civilian communications. To illustrate the way the occupiers dealt with conflict, the thesis analyses the dispensation of punishment for breaking Military Government laws, demonstrating that the British often issued severe punishment when their monopoly of force was contested, thus belying the notion of a particularly docile occupation. During mass popular protests, however, they sought to use moderate German trade unionists as intermediaries tasked with diffusing popular unrest, who were co-opted in exchange for material and propagandistic support. The British also used German administrators at the local and regional level, many of whom had a distinctively technocratic and conservative profile and who were appointed for their administrative experience rather than for their political inclinations. Through lobbying by British ecclesiastical figures, the occupiers also cooperated extensively with the German Churches, who were seen as effective partners in the re-Christianisation of Germany and increasingly as an essential bulwark against Communism. The thesis concludes that the long-term legacies of the British occupation lay in the effects of ‘indirect rule’, which exacerbated social inequalities by strengthening the profile of certain social elites at the expense of mass politics. The occupation is finally placed within the comparative context of occupations in Western Europe during the mid-20th century, which had the common legacy of buttressing elites who were primarily concerned with the making of stability rather than with participatory democracy, thus giving the post-war era its conservative mould.