Instruments of Division
: The Role of Audio Technology in the Transition From the Weimar Republic to the Nazi State

  • John Crabtree

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Audio technology in the popular imagination had an ambiguous role in the culture and politics of the Weimar period, being both a medium of progressive modernism in the jazz-age, and, under Nazi control, an instrument of repression and conformity. The aim of this study is to understand the role of audio technology – the radio, gramophone, electronic musical instruments, sound film and their associated and interconnected ecosystems – in the musical, cultural and political ideas of the Weimar republic (1918-33) and the subsequent impact of these ideas on the transition to the Nazi State (1933-45). Studies of the culture and politics of the Weimar and Nazi period are largely delineated by genre: arts, music, literature, politics and their respective artefacts which position technology as the end result of a historic processes. In contrast, this study focuses on audio technology as a socio-political actor in the development of a broad range of cultural and political concepts of the time. I will argue that a primary driver of social change was the symbiotic relationship between technology and the social, political and economic ideas of the period – a relationship that had an often unintentional and unpredictable impact on German society. In contrast to the received image of the Weimar period where audio technology is depicted as a medium of progressive modernity, this study finds that it had a much more ambiguous disruptive influence on the era. Methodologically, this research is supported by secondary literature and primary sources: contemporary journals, literature and archival research and audio recordings.

By analysing primary sources and secondary literature I demonstrate that in contrast to the received image of the Weimar period, audio technology had a much more ambiguous disruptive influence that contributed to the emergence and acceptance of totalitarianism.
Date of Award28 Mar 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRobert Adlington (Main Supervisor) & Geoff Cox (Co-Supervisor)

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