- Sarah K. Danielsson, The City University of New York, USA
Whilst terms such as Lebensraum are commonly associated with National-Socialist ideology of the 1930s and 40s, ideas of racial living space were in fact generated in the previous decades by an international geographic community of explorers and academics. Focusing on one of the most influential figures within this group, Sven Hedin, this is the first study that systematically connects the geographic community to the intellectual history of the development of National-Socialist ideology and genocidal practices.
The book demonstrates how colonial, racial and nationalistic policies were often spearheaded by explorers and geographers such as Hedin. In Germany, Britain, France, and Russia their positions as publicly recognized authors and reputable academics made them highly influential with politicians. Whilst this influence was to become most visible within Hitler's Germany, the debates were not by any means restricted to or even originated in, Germany. Germany was the home of some of the most prominent geographers, but this scientific community had a tradition of international debate and exchange with especially British, French and Russian geographic societies and institutions. Many issues that were later discussed and championed by National-Socialist ideology were aired and debated in this international setting - raising important questions about the international character and impact of National-Socialism.
Tracing the intellectual history of the international geographic community and its relationship to National-Socialism, this study provides an assessment of Hedin's close involvement with the Nazi elite as a culmination of decades of political and scientific work. In so doing the book uncovers a long ignored or overlooked important connection between exploration, geographers, and genocide.
Contents: Introduction:at the heart of the matter: the politics of science; Part I From Geographer to Political Activist, 1880-1933: 'Geographical knowledge is world power': Sven Hedin' s rise to fame and influence (1885-1903); The ideological conviction of a Germanic nationalist: Hedin the agitator (1904-1913); At the front lines of the Great War: defending the Germanic cause (1914-1918); 'There is a cancer in the middle of Europe': Hedin's National-Socialist blueprint, (1919-1934). Part II The Nazi Years and the Aftermath, 1934-1952: 'The hour of retribution has struck': the fateful years, (1935-1938); 'On a mission' in Berlin: plans for the move East and the move towards genocide (1939-1941); 'The truest friend' of the Third Reich: justifying genocide - clinging to the hope of victory (1942-1945); The final years: Sven Hedin, apologia pro vita sua (1945-1952); Conclusion: the politics of science: in defense of the indefensible; Bibliography; Index.
About the Author: Professor Sarah K. Danielsson, The City University of New York, USA.
Reviews: 'Sarah Danielsson's study of the world famous Swedish explorer and geographer Sven Hedin is really well worth reading, characterized as it is by a deep-going analysis and a broad approach. In her book, she systematically uses both printed and unprinted sources, such as Hedin's diaries, and therefore, she can give a new and convincing picture of his racism, anti-Semitism and Nazi ideology. This book becomes a major contribution to the study of the pro-German intellectual elite and its world view during the first half of the 20th century.'
Klas Åmark, Stockholm University, Sweden
‘Danielsson has written an excellent book on the famed Swedish geographer Sven Hedin. She shows that Hedin was not only a renowned scientist, one of the last of the great explorers, and, still today, a Swedish national hero. He was also an avid Nazi with close ties to Hitler, Goebbels, and other Nazi leaders. Danielsson does much more than write an important biography. She also provides a critical intellectual history of geography as a discipline, and shows its deep historical connection to race thinking. She revives and updates Hannah Arendt’s remarkable analysis of pan-Germanism. This is a rich, insightful book with connections to many fields of knowledge. ‘
Eric D. Weitz, City College, City University of New York
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