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October 18, 1971

German-born American historian Fritz Stern, the Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University, gave the first C. Mildred Thompson Lecture of the academic year, “The German Past and the American Present.” Professor Stern drew parallels between the “illiberal, something more than totalitarian” rule of Otto Von Bismarck between 1871 and 1890 to the current situation in United States, particularly in regard to the continuing conflict in Vietnam. Just, he said, as “the Bismarckian system had become an albatross” by the early years of the 20th century, so “in the last decade America has lost more dignity than most countries achieve in a lifetime.” Stern’s The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology appeared in 1961, and Knopf published The Failure of Illiberalism: Essays on the Political Culture of Modern Germany in 1972.

The Miscellany News

The Thompson lectureship, given by an anonymous donor, honored American historian C. Mildred Thompson ’03, who taught in the history department from 1910 until 1923, when she became Vassar’s dean, a position she held until her retirement in 1948. Dean Thompson died in 1975.

The Years