BONN, JULY 15 -- Three months before her trade minister's public tirade against West Germany and the European Community, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher convened a secret seminar where she heard a similarly skeptical view of the German character.

Meeting at Chequers, Thatcher's country retreat, five top British and American experts on Germany said some of the same things that cost Trade Minister Nicholas Ridley his job Saturday, according to a confidential memo describing the March 24 seminar that surfaced today in London's Sunday Independent newspaper and West Germany's Der Spiegel news magazine.

The academics said the Germans suffer from "anxiety, aggression, arrogance, lack of consideration, smugness, an inferiority complex and sentimentality," according to a summary of the meeting written by Thatcher's top foreign policy adviser, Charles Powell.

Relations between Britain and West Germany were further soured today by a warning from British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd to Bonn and other European Community partners about the speed of European unity.

Hurd, normally regarded as a passionate supporter of European unity, told a British Broadcasting Corp. television interviewer that if the EC pressed ahead with plans for a single European currency and a central European bank next year, Britain would opt for an independent, slower pace toward unity.

In Bonn, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government, which sharply attacked Ridley's statement Thursday, reacted today with restraint to publication of the memo.

"We have to remember our own history," said Peter Peterson, a legislator in Kohl's ruling Christian Democratic Union. "People will remember those years if we act in any way domineering.

"We have to become better Germans. And the British have to become better Englishmen for a united Europe."

The British opposition said today that the seminar indicated that Ridley was voicing opinions held by Thatcher. Labor Party spokesman Gerald Kaufman called it "extraordinary" that the Conservative Party government would spend a day "pulling the Germans to pieces."

Despite Thatcher's continuing support, Ridley, a close adviser to the prime minister, quit after having given an interview in which he called the Germans "uppity" and warned that Britain should be wary of joining Germany in a politically and economically united Europe because "you might just as well give {our sovereignty} to Adolf Hitler."

The historians Thatcher invited to advise her on how to deal with a West Germany moving rapidly toward union with East Germany were historians Gordon Craig of Stanford University and Fritz Stern of Columbia University and their three leading British counterparts: Hugh Trevor-Roper, Norman Stone and Timothy Garton Ash.

According to the memo, the historians concluded that "we should be nice to the Germans" because the Western powers have said since World War II that their goal was a united, democratic Germany -- exactly what the Germans now say they are creating.

But even though postwar Germany has been a peaceful and successful country that is "ready to acknowledge" its many mistakes and character flaws, the historians said that their optimism about a unified Germany "was not free from discomfort. They worried not about the present or the near-term, but about a more distant time, beyond today's view," the summary said.

West Germany looks like a stable democracy today, "but how will it look in 10, 15 or 20 years?" the confidential memo said. The Germans, whose history shows an inability to deal with economic stress, have not yet faced serious problems since the Allies helped them replace postwar occupation with a Western-oriented democracy.

The historians recommended that Thatcher watch closely as the new Germany reaches out to play a larger role in Eastern Europe, where countries long under Communist control are moving toward democracy and free enterprise. The dramatic developments of the past year there "must by all means not mean that a united Germany would now achieve by economic means what Hitler could not create by military means," the memo said.

The academics advised Thatcher to adopt a policy that accepted German unity but pushed to keep Germany firmly in the Western alliance, place limits on German military power and help stabilize the Soviet Union as a counterweight to German dominance of Europe.

Since the seminar, Thatcher has spoken more positively of German unification, with the very caveats the historians mentioned. But that did not stop her opponents from saying today that Thatcher and Ridley share a similar mistrust of Germany and the Germans.

Hurd, in the BBC interview, confirmed that the summary of what was discussed at the seminar was accurate and said that in considering the future of Europe, it would be "remiss" not to consider Germany's past reputation.

"It seemed to me to be perfectly reasonable to ask people to look back into the past to see how far the past was throwing its shadow over the future. This was discussed very frankly . . . and the verdict was favorable," Hurd said. He said he was amazed by Ridley's comments, however, and dismissed them as "a bit of a ramble."

In his resignation letter, Ridley argued that the views he expressed "are very much in line with those of the government," even if he should have used "more measured words."

Conservative politician Julian Critchley said on British television that although Thatcher disavowed Ridley's remarks, "What is dangerous and difficult about the affair is that whatever she might have said, there are lots of people who might not be prepared to believe her."

One of those people is Kohl, according to sources in the Bonn chancellery. They describe Kohl as saying in recent days that he has been more than patient with Thatcher's reluctance to accept the German unification her country officially supported for four decades.

Despite numerous public statements in which he said he understands that the English still suffer from painful memories of Nazi aggression, Kohl is said to now believe that it is Thatcher who must prove that she will give the Germans another chance.

In addition to the rift between Britain and West Germany, Ridley's comments and the memo have also exposed a split within the Conservative Party about the future of Europe. Although most in the party favor close links with the rest of Europe, many, including Thatcher, fear British sovereignty will be lost.

Hurd will meet with European Community foreign ministers Monday in Brussels. Opposition politicians indicated that his comments on a two-speed approach to economic unity may have been an attempt to gain concessions from other EC nations on the pace of change.

Special correspondent Ewen MacAskill contributed to this story from London.