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Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl: Excerpt from Land and People (1851)

In this passage from Land and People (1851), Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl postulates that Germany is comprised of three regions marked by differences in the relationship between city and countryside. According to Riehl, the respective inhabitants of these regions differ fundamentally as well. Additionally, he criticizes the "artificial" transformation of cities into traffic junctions and centers of industry, which, in his view, favored Kleinstaaterei and impeded German national reform.

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First Chapter
Local groups of communities in Germany. Natural and artificial cities. The large cities.

The existence of the contrast between city and country was at the beginning of our century held to be such a common truth that no political person found it worth talking about.

Now the claim that in Germany there is still a distinction between city and country has become, for the one side, a political creed and, for the other side, a heresy. I still believe in city and country, not because it fits in my political system, but rather because I have to believe in the facts, which are presented daily to my senses.

There are many types of city and country in Germany, and the ranges of these natural opposites are so rich, so intertwined, that the one-sided observer may likely believe that city and country no longer exist.

The varied geography of Germany definitely affects the contrast between city and country. Cities and villages are structured in large groups, separated by ineradicable natural differences on the basis of soil formation. The interaction of land and people was also a given, an interaction whose outer forms have certainly been much changed through historical facts and the political course of the nation, but which cannot be shaken in its foundation.

In the highlands, where the wilderness reigns, where forest and field are eternally marked by nature, the countryside rules over the cities. The scattered cities are usually just large villages. Where cliffs and chasms separate village from village, farm from farm, there can only and forever be peasants and no burghers. Wherever a neighbor plans in the autumn the next visit to another neighbor in the spring, "when the mountain passes are open again," this is where nature determines the shape of the cities. The village itself often appears here in its original form as a group of occasional farms. Indeed, the solitary farm – the wilds, as it is called in the South – was often a community unto itself. The isolation of the farms gives the people a quite distinctive social character. This kind of peasant is the original peasant: closed to the outside world and solidified in his customs, backward in his education and his needs. He is a whole man in his heart and soul, but politically he is a sheep-like child. The isolated farm also has its own ethical face, and its own type of vices like the big city.

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