Awarding of the Carlo Barck Prize to Georg Simmerl
25 Jan 2023 · 6.30 pm

Georg Simmerl: Die Bundesrepublik im Kaiserreich erkennbar machen – Über den Versuch, eine neue Geschichte der Gründerkrise zu schreiben

Venue: Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Et., Trajekteraum

Recently, the German Kaiserreich has again become the subject of historiographical controversy. While Eckart Conze sees the “critical distance” towards the Kaiserreich as an indicator of the Federal Republic’s liberality, aiming to remember it as an authoritarian state, Hedwig Richter draws progressive connecting lines from the Kaiserreich to the present. Between these positions, the lecture explores possibilities for a new historiography of the Kaiserreich that does not follow revisionist positionings, but rather suggests re-visioning modes of representation. The “Gründerkrise,” a far-reaching economic crisis shortly after the Reich’s foundation, will serve as a point of reference for this discussion. Represented along the lines of the contemporary public’s currents of opinion, this period of crisis reveals a Kaiserreich in which the contradictory nature of the liberal Federal Republic also becomes apparent. The dynamics of this period’s public debates were already determined by a strategic interplay between governance and different forms of criticism, an interplay that resulted in the foundation of today’s established model of growth for the German economic nation. Furthermore, as an expression of the general problem that governance and criticism may limit or supplement one another, this interplay still determines the dynamics of many debates in the Federal Republic’s present.

Georg Simmerl studied law as well as political, media, and social studies in Regensburg, Copenhagen, and Berlin. In 2021, he defended his dissertation “Die Gründerkrise. Kritik und Regierungskunst des Liberalismus in den Anfängen des deutschen Nationalstaats” [The Gründerkrise. Criticism and Liberalism’s art of governance during the beginnings of the German national state] at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Simmerl has conducted research at the WZB Berlin, the HU Berlin, the Kolleg Friedrich Nietzsche, Weimar, and the FU Berlin, among other institutions.


The Carlo Barck Prize

Awarded by the ZfL for the first time in 2017, the Carlo Barck Prize honors dissertations in the field of literary and cultural studies that pose innovative questions and display an original conception. The prize is usually awarded every two years. The prize money of 10,000 euros is allocated as a six-month scholarship for a fellowship at the ZfL.

The scholar of Romance literature Karlheinz “Carlo” Barck (1934–2012) investigated the history of aesthetics and imagination since the 18th century, focussing on the French and Spanish avant-gardes of the early 20th century. He was the driving force in the development and publication of the Ästhetische Grundbegriffe, a historical dictionary of basic aesthetic concepts. With his multifaceted intellectual interests, he had a lasting impact on the ZfL’s research program.


  • Eva Geulen: Welcome address and laudation
  • Lecture by laureate Georg Simmerl: Die Bundesrepublik im Kaiserreich erkennbar machen – Über den Versuch, eine neue Geschichte der Gründerkrise zu schreiben [Recognizing the Federal Republic within the Kaiserreich – On the attempt to write a new history of the Gründerkrise]
  • Ernst Müller: Response and moderation of the discussion