In July 1876 three eight-year-old girls from Marpingen, a village in the west German border region of Saarland, claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Their visions attracted tens of thousands of pilgrims and prompted numerous claims of miraculous cures. They also led to military intervention, the dispatching of an undercover detective, parliamentary debate, and a dramatic trial. This book examines an episode that contemporaries dubbed the `German
Lourdes', its background and its repercussions. David Blackbourn sets out to recreate the Catholic world of Bismarckian Germany through a detailed analysis of the changing social,
economic, and community structures in which it was embedded, and a sensitive account of popular religious beliefs. He powerfully evokes the crisis-laden atmosphere of the 1870s, and offers a subtle interpretation of the interplay between politics and religion in newly unified Germany. The book ranges boldly across the fields of social, cultural and political history, in an engrossing story with many contemporary resonances.
`Though its scholarship is impeccable, this highly original and elegantly written work is full of human interest and pregnant with implications for the history of Germany.'
London Review of Books
`It deserves to reach as wide a readership as the most celebrated historical study of a single village: Le Roy Ladurie's Montaillou'
'You rise from reading the story of Margaretha with a distaste for all the adult species, and a longing to get back to picking bilberries in the wood.'
Times Literary Supplement
'masterly historical study, surely one of the most comprehensive ever devoted to a particular Marian apparition'
'David Blackbourn has produced an exhaustive study of the apparitions of the Madonna in July 1876 in Marpingen ... His magisterial book suffers from the weight and oppressiveness of the Prussian machine itself, while also giving a striking picture of popular stubbornness and reistance. Its interest lies mainly in the way it articulates issues of legitimacy in terms of religion and the people. No disgust, no condescension - no compassion even - for the opium
of the masses, here; rather, a sharp sense of the democratic right to believe what you choose.'
London Review of Books
Characterised by both a very high order of analytical rigour and authorial sensitivity...this outstanding book is chiefly memorable for the subtlety with which Blackbourn teases out the many ambivalent aspects of his complex subject matter...it is also rich in character and incident. This is considered, original and outstanding contribution to historicl scholarship, that fully deserves to be ranked alongside the attemps of Natalie Zemon Davies or Emmanuel Le
Roy Ladutie to discuss the universal via the ostensibly local.
`Blackbourn tell this complex and sometimes unsavoury story with immense subtlety and sophistication, pouring into it all the knowledge he has gained in more than twenty years of working on Imperial Germany, and basing it on a mass of meticulous research into what must often have been quite difficult manuscript material in the archives. The real achievemnet of Marpingen lies in the details, in its wonderfully rich and nuanced re-creation of the world of
Catholic society and secular politics in the thoughts, eords and deeds of people who have linguished in the dustbin of history for too long.'
Health Education Research
`As David Blackbourn presents it, Marpingen becomes a magnifying glass for state and society during the Bismarck period. the author paints a graphic and very precise picture...the broad sweep of narration is given structure and focus by precise reflections on political activity, social intercourse, and changes in mentalities...Blackbourn's book...brilliantly illuminates a turbulent period in Germany's history when things moved fast and generated
tensions...Blackbourn's penetrating book makes an unusually creative contribution, in terms both of contents and of method, to the history of Germany in the nineteenth century. It certainly cannot be ignored.'
German Historical Institute London Bulletin XVIII:1