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Lead book review

How the quarrelsome ‘Jena set’ paved the way for Hitler

Frances Wilson describes a group of self-obsessed intellectuals united by mutual loathing in a small university town in the 1790s

27 August 2022

9:00 AM

27 August 2022

9:00 AM

Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self Andrea Wulf

John Murray, pp.512, 25

Today, the German city of Jena, 150 miles south-west of Berlin, is the world centre of the optical and precision industry; but in the 1790s it spawned an even more marketable commodity. It was then a small medieval town on the banks of the river Saale with crumbling walls, 800 half-timbered houses, a market square and an unruly university.

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