Between Social Advancement and Crisis

Research and editor: Sönke Friedreich

In the second half of the 19th century, Plauen experienced an accelerated growth and modernization process. As a regional town, albeit integrated in global economic networks, the largest municipality of the Saxonian Vogtland developed into a hub of embroidery industry and lace production. Between 1843 and 1910, the population multiplied thirteen times, turning Plauen, next to Chemnitz and Leipzig, into the most rapidly growing city in the Kingdom of Saxony. Because of favorable economic conjuncture and rapid growth, the years between 1880 and 1912 have been named the “golden years” of Plauen. As a “City of upstarts” (W. Erhardt), Plauen, at this time, provided not only food and income opportunities, but it also offered prospects and liberties typical for a city, like education and cultural self-realization. The severe crisis of the textile industry after 1912, the convulsions of the First World War as well as the political and economic instability of the Weimar Republic stand in remarkable contrast to this period.

The project focuses on the question how urban identity and urban self-perceptions developed within Plauen ’s rise and decline, which plausibilities and functions these self-perceptions bore to their bearers, and which effects did they have. In this context, it is also interesting to investigate if a specific concept of the function and “value” of becoming a city ever existed, and how far the urban citizens distanced themselves from contemporary criticism of the metropolis. The basis of the research will consist of written sources like newspapers and other press products, files and publications of city institutions like clubs etc., as well as archive records of urban anniversary and commemorative culture.