This book by Wolfgang Altgeld, the first of a three-volume study, examines the early history of German national consciousness between the later Enlightenment and the founding
of the Wilhelmine Empire as a moment of inter-denominational conflict. It also considers the significance of religious and confessional contrasts for the evolution of nationalism. Transforming and
radicalizing processes, from anti-Judaism and anti-Catholicism to anti-Christian and neo-pagan initiatives, can thus be understood in both their theological and political contexts. Altgeld shows that the
national idea was not simply confronted with the after-effects of the original confessional schism but rather with its modern, dynamic amplifications in which German nationalism, essentially Protestant
in character, played an outstanding role. In the process, Altgeld paints a differentiated picture of the relationship between modernization, secularization, and nationalization.