HELIGOLAND by Jan Ruger

  • Written by  Nigel Winser
  • Published in Books
HELIGOLAND by Jan Ruger
02 Apr
2017
As the distinguished German historian, Jan Ruger, describes, never under-estimate the influence and power of strategically small islands and the giant political rivalries that ensue

No more so than Heligoland, the archipelago of ‘rock and sand’ in the North Sea 50 miles from the German Coast, Britain’s smallest and most difficult 19th century colony. These Heligoland islands may be half the size of Gibraltar, but their political significance over the past two centuries, as Britons and Germans have fought for supremacy in the North Sea, has become a metaphor for rivalry, conflict and a stark reminder of our battered past.

Ruger has written a micro-history that captures the complexity of Anglo-German relations through the changing ownership of an ‘elevated, barren, rocky spot’ that begins with George III’s order to take possession of Heliogoland from the Danes in 1806. There follows a detailed chronology as the small number of islanders see their home being turned into naval strongholds under the Kaiser from 1890, and for both World Wars. There are also periods when the islands became a popular spa tourist destination attracting novelists, film makers, and gangsters.
Citizens, teachers, and politicians now have a new reference to view the nature and political history of German and British relations, as reflected in the ownership of this fortress settlement, until it was obliterated by the Royal Navy’s Operation ‘Big Bang’ in 1947 with the ‘largest non-nuclear explosion in history’ and then handed back to West Germany in 1952. Queen Elizabeth’s words to the President of Germany in 2015 that our two nations have reached a state of ‘complete reconciliation’ must never be taken for granted as Europe faces an uncertain future. Heligoland is a metaphor of warning and hope for us all.

Click here to purchase Heligoland by Jan Ruger

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Exhibitions

Twenty one years, sixteen countries, seven continents... RGS-IBG director, Rita…

Films

An emotional and divisive documentary that explores the trophy hunting…

Books

by Paul Murton • Birlinn • £14.99 (softback)

Books

by Harry Hook • HIP Editions • £54 (hardback)

Books

by James Suzman • Bloomsbury • £18.99 (hardback)

Books

by Thorkild Hansen • New York Review Books • £11.99…

Books

by David Bellamy • Search Press • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Michael Bristow • Sandstone Press • £8.99 (paperback)

Reviews

Oslo makes complex geopolitics a living, breathing spectacle

Films

New blockbuster takes climate chaos to the extreme, where what…

Exhibitions

Prestigious Natural History Museum photography competition recognises Brent Stirton's capturing…

Books

An inveterate armchair traveller ever since my Soviet childhood, I…

Books

Bonnett’s previous book, Off the Map, was a thoroughly readable…

Books

When Wilkinson set off to become the Telegraph’s Islamabad correspondent…

Books

Dartmoor National Park might appear wild, but it’s the lines…

Books

Barry Smith is a self-confessed islomaniac and a fixation with…

Books

Neoliberalism. The word seems to have lost all meaning. According…

Films

Combining a treasure trove of unseen footage set to music…

Books

The dreadful pandemic of 1918, writes Laura Spinney, ‘engulfed the…