November 1918: The German Revolution

November 1918: The German Revolution

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2020

The German Revolution of November 1918 is nowadays largely forgotten outside Germany. It is generally regarded as a failure even by those who have heard of it, a missed opportunity which paved the way for the rise of the Nazis and the catastrophe to come. 
The book argues that to view the German Revolution in this way is a serious misjudgement. Not only did it bring down the authoritarian monarchy of the Hohenzollern, it also brought into being the first ever German democracy in an amazingly bloodless way. 

Focusing on the dramatic events between the last months of the First World War in 1918 and Hitler’s Munich Putsch of 1923, the book illuminates the fundamental and deep-seated ways in which the November Revolution changed Germany. In doing so, he reminds us that, while it is easy with the benefit of hindsight to write off the 1918 Revolution as a ‘failure’, this failure was not somehow pre-ordained. In 1918, the fate of the Weimar Republic remained very much wide open.

Link to the publisher’s website

The book has been published in German, Japanese, and Romanian. A Chinese translation is also forthcoming.


“Gerwarth argues in his polished narrative drawing on the eyewitness testimony of famous writers and thinkers that Weimar was not “the doomed republic” of legend, a hopeless 14-year interval between a warmongering Kaiser and Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship, but a success in its own right… ‘November 1918‘ is a perceptive study of an orderly people who proved that a revolution need not lead to extremes of left and right.” – Martin Ivens, The Times

“Gerwarth’s November 1918 [is one] of the most stimulating histories of the interwar period to have been published in recent years.” – Tony Barber, The Financial Times

“Gerwarth’s scholarship cannot be faulted… a superlative piece of research into a sequence of events that are of immense importance.” – Simon Heffer, The Daily Telegraph

“Readable and informative.” – Jonathan Sperber, Times Literary Supplement

“Authoritative new account… Gerwarth has… done us [a] service by rescuing the Weimar Republic from what EP Thompson, in another context, called ‘the enormous condescension of posterity’.” – Brendan Simms, The Irish Times

“[Gerwarth’s] account is written in clear prose and richly documented with eyewitness accounts from the most vivid diaries and correspondence of the period. As an audacious bid to restore the German Revolution to its rightful place in history, November 1918 could hardly have been more skillfully executed.” – Daniel Johnson, Claremont Review of Books

“Splendidly researched, and with a striking new thesis… a fascinating study, whose insights will stop you dead even if you thought, as I did, that you already knew this stuff.” – James Hawse, The Spectator

“Thought-provoking and readable … Gerwarth’s invaluable book shows that, compared to their counterparts in other central European states facing similar turmoil, the moderate German revolutionaries had spectacular success in securing their democracy. By 1929, only cataclysmic economic crisis could overturn what was Europes most open and representative liberal state. Hitler, it seems, got lucky.” – Alexander Watson, Literary Review

“its salutary to have a fresh account of the birthing pains of that vaunted republic rather than another autopsy of its demise Where Gerwarth most excels is deftly weaving together the impressions of contemporary commentators, of whom he has assembled a rich banquet: Victor Serge, Thomas Mann, Kaethe Kollwitz, Alfred Doeblin, Harry Graf Kessler, and Joseph Roth, among others.” – Thomas Meaney, The Washington Examiner

“A fascinating narrative of the events that transpired during the time in which Germans called for a more democratic government and more political and social freedom. Throughout the book, the author balances small biographies of important political leaders with the extensive use of newspapers, memoirs, and letterseffectively giving those who lived through the revolution a voice Gerwarths book is a wonderful addition to the history of the Weimar Republic.” – Louis Grün, Origins

November 1918 provides a first-rate survey of events and personalities surrounding the revolution in Germany … Robert Gerwarth has written a detailed account of a fascinating topic. The writing is clear and avoids jargon and theory. The research is thorough, as is made evident by the notes and the comprehensive bibliography. His book has academic credibility but can also be recommended for the general reader.” – Jim Burns, Northern Review of Books

“Meticulously researched, judiciously argued, and written with enviable panache, November 1918 is an engaging history with much original insight that should become the standard work on the subject.” – Professor Anthony McElligott, University of Limerick