When I was a student at the University of Wisconsin, I was a history major, but I had the de facto equivalent of minors in French and German literature, with undergraduate and later graduate course work in both.
I was--although I considered myself reasonably well-educated for a midwestern yokel--struck by the title of a book by one of my German professors, Jost Hermand: Von Mainz nach Weimar (1793-1919) Studien zur deutschen Literatur (From Mainz to Weimar (1793-1919) Studies on German Literature). I of course understood the reference to the founding of the Weimar Republic. But Mainz? What was it doing in a history of German literature and democracy? As far as I knew it: the site of some great medieval edifices and home to Gutenberg. What was it doing here?
As I soon learned, it was the "first republic on German soil," proclaimed by local revolutionaries (under the auspices of French forces) on March 18, 1793, and extinguished in the summer of 1793. (And I don't think I would have learned that even if I had taken a formal course on the French Revolution rather than just "read around" in that literature on my own.) The fall of Mainz, along with the assassination of Marat and other setbacks, was one of the factors that prompted the introduction of the so-called "Terror."
Here, a depiction of the Liberty Tree erected by German revolutionaries:
|Hand-colored engraving: |
"Depiction of the Liberty Tree and the pikes, planted
at Mainz on 13 January 1793.
[at left:] Scale: 1 inch to 6 feet." Actual size of image: 3 x 5 inches)
Some examples of coins and currency over on the tumblr.
More on the Mainz Republic and its significance.