This is the first book to describe German literary history up to the unification of Germany in 1990. It takes a fresh look at the main authors and movements, and also asks what Germans in a given period were actually reading and writing, what they would have seen at the local theatre or found in the local lending library; it includes, for example, discussions of literature in Latin as well as in German, eighteenth-century letters and popular novels, Nazi literature and radio plays, and modern Swiss and Austrian literature. A new prominence is given to writing by women. Contributors, all leading scholars in their field, have re-examined standard judgements in writing a history for our own times. The book is designed for the general reader as well as the advanced student: titles and quotations are translated, and there is a comprehensive bibliography.