The Top 1 Percent? A Cultural History of Wealth and “the Rich” in the Long Twentieth Century in Germany

Eva Maria Gajek

The second half of the nineteenth century saw a significant increase in and structural changes to asset ownership. At the same time, during this period of transformation, society began to take a close look at the group of property owners: through scientific studies, statistics, listings, journalistic texts, photographs, or political speeches, various actors came to an understanding of the social order and increasingly tried to answer the question of who "the rich" were. The project takes these attempts as a starting point to trace the changes in the answers and techniques used by contemporaries during the long twentieth century in Germany. Using exemplary case studies, it asks what boundaries and definitions of wealth were established and by what categories the social group of the "rich" was ultimately produced, measured, and legitimized. The aim is to tell a story of wealth and the "rich" as a cultural history in order to sensitize the reader to the historical complexity of the subject and to draw attention to the fact that statistics collected about wealth and the "rich" were in an intensive interrelationship with social imaginary worlds.

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