Arthur B. Gunlicks
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The origins of the Länder

Questions about identity have been asked for centuries in Germany, and to some extent are still asked today. Following the French Revolution, the concept of the state was modified to include a particular kind of state: the nation-state. This meant that it was now the goal of people who identified with one another – whether because of geography, language, religion, history or culture – to form a state which included this distinct group of people, leading to the rise of nationalism, which generally replaced religion as the major focus of common identity. This chapter discusses the origins of the Länder in Germany, focusing on the Holy Roman Empire, the French Revolution and its aftermath, and Germany's transition from the Second Reich to the Third Reich. After World War II, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation, with the supreme commander in each zone – a general from the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union – acting as the highest authority.

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