Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany is once again the beating heart of a healthy body politic. The speed with which the reunified country has established itself as the central power in Europe is in many ways astonishing, but it is only the latest in a series of regional, national and imperial reinventions. If the success of modern Germany is testament to its enduring ability – to borrow the Kantian metaphor for the Enlightenment – to pull itself out of self-imposed immaturity, then, for better or worse, the story of Germany is also the story of modernity.
Neil MacGregor’s approach to this story is as idiosyncratic, inspired and – just occasionally – incomplete as his subject matter. Produced to coincide with both a BBC Radio 4 series and an exhibition at the British Museum, Germany: Memories of a Nation adopts the methodology developed in MacGregor’s bestselling A