German Historical Institute London

17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ
United Kingdom

Phone: Tel. +44-(0)20-7309 2050





The GHIL regularly holds lectures on topics of general interest to British and German historians. GHIL Lectures are held on Tuesdays at 5.30pm during term time. Papers are normally presented in English; knowledge of the German language is not necessary for participation. GHIL Joint Lectures are presented in cooperation with the Faculty of History, University of Oxford; Modern German History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research; and other distinguished institutions. The Leo Baeck Institute Lecture Series is organised by the LBI in cooperation with the GHIL. Currently all lectures are held as online events.


GHIL Lectures

Autumn Term 2020

Please note that all Lectures will take place online via Zoom until further notice.

1 December (5.30pm)

GHIL Lecture

Alice Rio (London)
Legal Role-Playing and Storytelling in Early Medieval Francia

Alice Rio is Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London. An enduring problem in early medieval history is what to make of the legal material, which is abundant relative to the total surviving evidence (legislation, acts of practice, models, old texts, new texts), and paints extremely contradictory pictures of contemporary legal practices both within and across legal genres. The lecture will try to show that this level of contradiction results from people calling on many different legal and cultural frameworks for representing their own actions, all of which were potentially valid provided that they could be sold successfully to one’s audience: what mattered was success in getting others to play along through scene-setting and role-play. Alice Rio has written two books on early medieval legal and legal-ish practices: Legal Practice and the Written Word in the Early Middle Ages: Frankish Formulae, c.500–1000 (2009); and Slavery After Rome, 500–1100 (2017).

To register for this event, please follow this link to Eventbrite.

Online Event

9 February

GHIL Lecture

Peter Burschel (Wolfenbüttel)
The Dance of the Tapuya: On the Cultural Coding of Skin Colour in the Early Modern Period

Peter Burschel is Professor of Medieval and Early Modern Cultural History at the University of Göttingen and Director of the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. Among his many publications is Die Erfindung der Wahrheit: Eine andere Geschichte der frühen Neuzeit (2014).

This talk will show how European perceptions of skin colour—rather than primarily of skin markings, as had been the case in the Middle Ages—increasingly began to influence European perceptions of non-European ‘aliens’. He will argue that it was only during the sixteenth century that skin was seen as a ‘supra-individual’ distinguishing characteristic that made it possible to structure, classify, and, not least, to hierarchize intercultural encounters chromatically. This shows that the process was not merely about the perception of skin colour per se, but always also addressed the question of who was white, and who was not.

Originally scheduled for March 2020 and postponed due to Covid-19 lockdown.

Registration details for this lecture will follow in due course.

Online event

Previous GHIL Lectures


21 January


Ralf Lützelschwab (Berlin)
Where are all the Sermons? Carmelite Preaching in the Late Middle Ages

Ralf Lützelschwab is a former Assistant Professor of Medieval History at the Freie Universität Berlin and specializes in church history of the late Middle Ages, with a strong focus on the Avignon papacy and monastic history.

This lecture examines the Carmelites, the great unknown in Western monastic history. They experienced their very own migration history, moving from the hills of Mount Carmel to Europe. If they had not opted for exile, they would not have survived. In new surroundings, sermons became part of their regular pastoral routine. The paper will focus on sermons and sermon collections, both manuscript and print, held in a number of Carmelite libraries in Germany and England. How did the Carmelites fulfil their task as preachers? How did they shape the conscience of their flocks?

German Historical Institute London

9 June (podcast 8 July)


Jane Whittle (Exeter) and Laura Schwartz (Warwick)
Women and Work Round Table

***   Please note that this event has been cancelled!   ***

This lecture was instead recorded and made available as a GHIL podcast, 8 July 2020.

16 June (podcast 15 July)


Maud Bracke (Glasgow)
Inventing Reproductive Rights: Sex, Population and Feminism in Europe (1945–1980)

***   Please note that this event has been cancelled!   ***

This lecture was instead recorded and made available as a GHIL podcast, 15 July 2020.

23 June (podcast 1 July)


Chiara Bonfiglioli (Cork)
Internationalist Waves and Feminist Waves in Italy, Yugoslavia, and Cuba

***   Please note that this event has been cancelled!   ***

This lecture was instead recorded and made available as a GHIL podcast, 1 July 2020.

28 July


Imaobong Umoren (LSE)
Race Women Internationalists: Black Women, Feminism, and Freedom Struggles

***   Please note that this event has been cancelled!   ***

29 September (5.30pm)

GHIL Lecture

Samita Sen (Cambridge)
Making Coolies: Labour Brokerage and the Tea Industry in India, 1830–1930

Samita Sen is Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History at the University of Cambridge. Her lecture will focus
on the recruitment of labour for the Assam tea industry. She will argue that recruitment for plantations in colonial India gave
rise to institutions and agencies which became separate businesses in themselves. They maintained close links with the
industry to which they supplied labour, but these two interests were not convergent since the recruiting agencies’ profitability
depended on their ability to leverage the buyers. Moreover, the commercial brokerage of labour, which expanded its
net across the country, drew into its profitable sway a vast network of recruiters at different levels, as well as whole sets of
social relationships and institutions. Exploring the specificities of this recruitment system helps us to understand of modes
of mobilizing labour, social forces, and institutions at play in the creation of labour markets and the processes that entangled
migration and trafficking.

Samita Sen’s recent publications include, with Nilanjana Sengupta, Domestic Days: Women, Work,
and Politics in Contemporary Kolkata
(2016); and ed. with Suhit Kumar Sen, Passage to Bondage: Labor in the Assam Tea

Online Event

27 October (5.30pm)

GHIL Lecture

Stefan Berger (Bochum)
Comparing De-Industrialization: Initial Thoughts on a Global Phenomenon

Stefan Berger is Professor of Social History and Director of the Institute for Social Movements at the Ruhr University Bochum, and Executive Chair of the History of the Ruhr Foundation. De-industrialization is usually associated with the industrial nations of the Global North. Whilst there have been earlier phases of de-industrialization, studies of the phenomenon usually focus on the decades from the 1960s on. De-industrialization in the Global North is associated with processes of industrialization in the Global South. However, there have also been processes of de-industrialization in pockets of the Global South. The lecture will reflect on how de-industrialization might be studied in a global perspective. It will argue that de-industrialization studies should be brought together with social movement studies, memory studies, and heritage studies in order to find a framework within which processes of structural change might usefully be compared in their transregional entanglements. Among Prof Berger's most recent publications is the edited volume Constructing Industrial Pasts: Heritage, Historical Culture and Identity in Regions Undergoing Structural Economic Transformation (2019).

Online Event

3 November (5.30pm)

GHIL Lecture

Giorgio Riello (Florence)
A ‘Material Turn’ in Global History? The World of Early Modern Things

Giorgio Riello is Professor of Early Modern Global History at the European University Institute in Florence. His lecture charts the confluence and overlap between two different fields of historical enquiry: early modern global history and material culture. At a basic level, global historians’ interest in ‘things’ is the result of the fact that material artefacts – whether commodities, luxuries, scientific instruments, ethnographic specimens, or unique art objects – have been seen as being as mobile as people, if not more so. Yet the ‘material turn’ in global history also raises a series of methodological and theoretical questions concerning agency, mobility, and what is now called global microhistory. Among his works are Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World (2013); with Peter McNeil, Luxury: A Rich History (2016); and Back in Fashion: Western Fashion from the Middle Ages to the Present (2020).

Online Event


12 February


Sabine von Heusinger (Cologne)
Fire, Siege, and the Jews: Real and Imagined Threats to Water Supply in the Late Medieval City

Focusing on water at times of war, fire, and plague, this talk will look at a premodern society struggling with life-threating dangers and trying to find remedies. Three case studies from the ‘Regnum Teutonicum’ explore war (the Siege of Neuss), precautions taken against fire (Strasbourg), and accusations of well-poisoning made against Jews in the Late Middle Ages. They demonstrate that the life-sustaining power of water was crucial for the community. Every threat to water supply – real or imagined – had serious consequences.

Sabine von Heusinger is Professor of Late Medieval History at the University of Cologne. Her current research on water as a precondition for human life allows her to investigate many aspects of social, cultural, and intellectual history in the Late Middle Ages.

26 February


Kim Siebenhüner (Jena)
Blumer’s Journey: Swiss Cotton and the Great Divergence Debate

The history of cotton has been the subject of much recent research, but blind spots remain. International debates have barely acknowledged the role of early modern Switzerland as one of the most important European areas producing, marketing, and selling cotton cloth in the 18th century. This talk shows how Swiss producers and merchants were integrated into global cotton networks and reflects on how cultural history approaches may be reconciled with the debate, dominated by macro-economics, about the Great Divergence.

Kim Siebenhüner is Professor of Early Modern History at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena. She has worked on early modern religious history, material culture, and cross-cultural exchange. She is the author of Die Spur der Juwelen: Materielle Kultur und transkontinentale Verbindungen zwischen Indien und Europa (2018) and co-editor of Cotton in Context: Manufacturing, Marketing and Consuming Textiles in the German-Speaking WorldWorld (1500–1900) (2019).

12 March


Hugo Drochon (Nottingham) and Philipp Felsch (Berlin)
Born Posthumously: Two Lectures on Nietzsche’s Legacy

Hugo Drochon will speak first on ‘Nietzsche’s Great Politics: From Bismarck to Hitler’, discussing how Nietzsche’s productive life maps perfectly onto Bismarck’s reign, which was characterized by the ‘great politics’ of German unification and the power politics of the European balance of power. Yet ‘great politics’ was also the way in which Heidegger, Jaspers, and Baeumler of the ‘Hitler prophecy’ tried to make sense of Nietzsche’s politics in the inter-war period, and Drochon’s paper will reflect on how these two moments can help us make sense of our own politics. This will be followed by Philipp Felsch speaking on the ‘The Italian Job: Nietzsche’s Return in the Cold War’ about the return of Nietzsche after the Second World War that was due equally to the new French reception (Deleuze, Klossowski, Foucault, and others) and the critical edition of Nietzsche’s works by the Italian antifascists Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. Felsch will dedicate his talk to the latter’s political philology.

Hugo Drochon is a historian of late 19th and 20th-century political thought, currently Assistant Professor in Political Theory at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of Nietzsche’s Great Politics (2016).

Philipp Felsch is Professor of Cultural History at the Humboldt University Berlin. His recent publications include Der lange Sommer der Theorie (2015) and BRD Noir (2016).

19 March (5.30pm)


Prashant Kidambi (Leicester)
‘Greengrocer, Tailor and Champion Wrestler’: The Transnational Career and Times of Buttan Singh, c.1900–1914

This paper examines the extraordinary career of Buttan Singh, a Sikh wrestler who became the national wrestling champion of Australia in the early 1900s. Later in that decade, he travelled to Britain and Australia. The paper considers Buttan’s transnational peregrinations within three discrete historical contexts. First, it places his story into the broader streams of Sikh migration within the British Empire. Second, it shows how Buttan’s story became entangled in the making of a frontier society in Western Australia. Finally, the paper relates Buttan’s career to that of other peripatetic sportsmen who breached the ‘colour line’ before the First World War.

Prashant Kidambi is Associate Professor of Colonial Urban History at the University of Leicester. He is the author of The Making of an Indian Metropolis: Colonial Governance and Public Culture in Bombay, 1890–1920 (2007; 2016), and is currently completing Cricket Country, a book on the making of the first Indian cricket team.

15 October


F. Benjamin Schenk (Basle); comment by Andy Willimott (London)
‘Hubs of Global Migration’: Organizing Transcontinental Flows of People in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Scholars have long treated the history of the transatlantic migration to the Americas and the trans-Ural movement of peasant colonists within the Russian Empire at the end of the 19th century separately. In fact, the two processes were interconnected and had a number of striking similarities. One common feature was modern reception and transit camps for immigrants and migrants, which emerged almost simultaneously at various locations along global migration routes. These ‘hubs of global migration’ became important laboratories of migration management in the modern age.

F. Benjamin Schenk is Professor of Russian and East European History at the University of Basel and currently a Visiting Fellow at the Department of International History, LSE. His most recent monograph is Russlands Fahrt in die Moderne: Mobilität und sozialer Raum im Eisenbahnzeitalter (Stuttgart, 2014; Russian translation, 2016).

Commentator Andy Willimott is Lecturer in Modern Russian History at the QMUL School of History.

29 October


Sarah Stockwell (London)
‘Losing an empire, winning friends’? Sandhurst, Military Assistance, and British Decolonization

In the 1950s and 1960s British institutions delivered a variety of forms of technical and military assistance to emergent Commonwealth states. As a result, the ‘end’ of empire saw large numbers of Britons still working in the public services of newly independent countries and a great influx of students from former colonies to train and study in Britain, including at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where British authorities struggled to cope with the high demand for places. This lecture explores what the history of Commonwealth and foreign cadets at post-war Sandhurst tells us about Britain’s management and experience of decolonization.

Sarah Stockwell is Professor of Imperial and Commonwealth History at King’s College London. Her research focuses on British decolonization. Her most recent book, The British End of the British Empire (2018), explores the domestic impact of decolonization principally through analysis of the history of British institutions that had acquired roles within Britain’s imperial system.

5 November


Jochen Johrendt (Wuppertal)
Prester John and his Letter: Between Intellectual Joke and Contemporary Criticism

In his History of the Two Cities (written about 1157), Otto of Freising reports on a ‘Prester John’, allegedly a descendant of the three wise men, who ruled in India, and defeated the armies of Muslim rulers. A few years later, the priest king John supposedly addressed a letter to the Byzantine emperor describing his own kingdom as an ideal: a realm of abundance, health, wondrous people, truth, and faith. But why did contemporaries invent this letter, which some crusaders, in particular, believed to be genuine?

Jochen Johrendt is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Wuppertal. He works on the history of the papacy and on Italy, in particular, Rome. His most recent publication is Der Investiturstreit (2018) and he is currently working on a monograph on the medieval papacy.

19 November


Mark Knights (Warwick)
Corruption and the Invention of Public Office in Britain and its Empire, 1600–1850

The talk will explore several case studies that allow us to chart shifts in attitudes to office-holding, from the idea that an office was a piece of personal property or duty owed to a monarch towards office as a public, disinterested, and accountable responsibility. The examples of Samuel Pepys, Lord Chancellor Macclesfield, Charles Bembridge, and Sir Edward Colebrooke will be used to explore debates over the blurred boundary between gifts and bribes, the sale of office, breach of trust, what constituted a public official, and over how far a universal set of standards should apply across Britain’s empire.

Mark Knights is Professor of History at the University of Warwick and his principal research interest is early modern British political culture. His most recent work is The Devil in Disguise (2011, paperback 2015), which one kind Amazon reviewer describes as an ‘interesting and unusual history book that is so gripping that at times it reads like a murder mystery novel’.


GHIL Joint Lectures

The GHIL regularly presents lectures in co-operation with the Faculty of History, University of Oxford; the Modern German History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research; and other distinguished institutions.

Previous GHIL Joint Lectures


4th November (5.30pm)

GHIL Joint Lecture

Annelie Ramsbrock (Potsdam)
Metamorphoses of Violence: A History of the Prison in West Germany

GHIL in co-operation with the Faculty of History, University of Oxford

How did West Germany try to contain state violence against prisoners from the late 1960s onwards, and even to present prisons as institutions that reflected the paradigm of liberalization? To what extent did ideas and perceptions of legitimate and illegitimate violence change? A number of prison scandals led to increased sensitivity in media coverage and in politics regarding acts of violence in prisons. These were countered by new ‘social rehabilitation’ approaches, with limited success. Looking at prison reform in West Germany, the lecture will focus on violence as a problem in processes of creating social order.

Annelie Ramsbrock is a Research Associate at the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam. She received her doctorate from the FU Berlin and was Visiting Professor of Modern European History at the University of Göttingen. She is the author of The Science of Beauty: Culture and Cosmetics in Modern Germany, 1750–1930 (2015) and Geschlossene Gesellschaft: Das Gefängnis als Sozialversuch – eine bundesdeutsche Geschichte (2020).

Online Event

14 October (6.30pm)

GHIL Joint Lecture

Margaret MacMillan (Toronto/Oxford)
Total War and European Society

British German Association in collaboration with the GHIL

Margaret MacMillan is a Professor of History at the University of Toronto and Emeritus Professor of International History at the University of Oxford. She is the author of The War that Ended Peace (2014); The Uses and Abuses of History (2008); and the international bestsellers Seize the Hour: When Nixon Met Mao (2006) and Peacemakers: The Paris Conference 1919 and its Attempt to End the War (2001), which won the 2002 Samuel Johnson Prize.

Watch the event video at the BGA website.

Online Event

11 June (5.30pm)

Public Lecture

Frank Bajohr (Munich)
Research on the Holocaust since the 1990s: Achievements, Changes, Problems, and Challenges

***   Please note that this event has been cancelled!   ***

12 March (5.30pm)

Public Lecture

Jenny Pleinen (German Historical Institute London)
The Landed Gentry in British Politics after the Second World War: From Taxed Decadence to Subsidized Cultural Heritage

GHIL in co-operation with the Seminar 'Britain at Home and Abroad', Institute of Historical Research, University of London

Jenny Pleinen is a Research Fellow in Modern History at the GHIL. She received a Ph.D. in history for her study of western European migration regimes after the Second World War. Her current research concerns the political economy of government redistribution in Britain since the middle of the 19th century.

Her lecture will focus on the period after the Second World War, when the landed gentry’s image in British politics underwent a fundamental reconfiguration, with demands for higher taxation losing momentum and a bipartisan consensus for public subsidies emerging. The lecture explores how this change came about and what role the invention of the ‘stately home’ as a key feature of British cultural heritage played in it.

11 March (5.30pm)

Public Lecture

Cornelius Torp (Bremen)
Speculation and Gambling in Germany and Britain around 1900

GHIL in co-operation with the Faculty of History, University of OxfordThe worldwide economic crisis since 2007 is not the first time that financial speculation has been accused of resembling a casino game. The dividing line between speculation and gambling has always been fragile and contested. The debate about the legitimation of certain types of speculation and their resemblance to games of chance enjoyed a heyday around 1900, in both Germany and Britain. Around this time, the anti-gambling movement reached its apogee in both countries and resulted in the legal prohibition of various forms of gambling. At the same time, new financial instruments opened up space for speculative transactions on a hitherto unseen scale. From a comparative perspective, the lecture tries to bring these two strands together and traces how politicians, journalists, economists, and speculators strove to draw a line between honourable economic activity and illicit wagering.

Cornelius Torp is Professor of Modern History at the University of Bremen. He recently served as the DAAD Hannah Arendt Visiting Chair of German and European Studies at the University of Toronto and was a Research Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) and a Marie Curie Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence. He has published widely on modern German and European history, the history of globalization, the history of the welfare state, and the history of gambling.

20 February (5.30pm)

Public Lecture

Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (Berlin)
Sex and Violence: Race Defilement in Nazi Germany

GHIL in co-operation with the Modern German History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London

Stefanie Schüler-Springorum studied modern history, ethnology, and political science at the Universities of Göttingen and Barcelona, and received her Ph.D. from the Ruhr-University Bochum in 1993. She was Director of the Institute for German Jewish History and Professor at Hamburg University from 2001 to 2011; Head of the German branch of the Leo Baeck Institute from 2009; and since 2011 she has been Director of the Center for Research on Antisemitism in Berlin.

This talk will look at the entanglement of antisemitism, gender, sexuality, and emotion in Nazi Germany. It will focus on Nazi Germany’s violent practices and dynamics, which encompassed other forms of resentment and hostility, but treated men and women conspicuously differently in each case, as can be shown in the race defilement propaganda and persecution of the 1930s and 1940s. The paper will argue that the peculiar ambivalence of these cases was inherent in the attraction of Nazi propaganda and deterrence at the same time.

Download flyer (PDF)


10 December (6.30pm)

Public Lecture

Ulrich Herbert (University of Freiburg)
The Short and the Long 20th Century: German and European Perspectives

Gerda Henkel Visiting Professorship Lecture

Venue: German Historical Institute London

The Gerda Henkel Visiting Professorship is a joint project of the GHIL and the International History Department of the LSE and is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

13 November (5.30pm)

Public Lecture

Ulrike Jureit (Hamburg)
Chronicle of an Announced Death: Affiliation, Violence, and the Appropriation of Urban Space in Provincial Germany, 1934

GHIL in co-operation with the Faculty of History, University of Oxford

On 25 March 1934 the Jewish population of the small town of Gunzenhausen in central Franconia experienced one of the first pogroms, in which two Jews lost their lives. The lecture reconstructs the spatial appropriation of this urban space and analyses the interdependence of space, violence, and collective belonging. In Gunzenhausen the spatial appropriation was extremely violent. The pogrom proved to be a revolutionary moment of commitment to a way of life that, although it had been following a racial concept of social order for some time, still had to reach agreement on binding forms of social exclusion and racial community-building.

Since 2000 the historian Ulrike Jureit has been a Research Fellow at the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture, associated with the Hamburg Institute for Social Research.

10 October (6pm)

Public Lecture

Simon MacLean (St Andrews)
The Carolingian Origins of the Medieval Castle

The castle is perhaps the most recognisable feature of the western European landscape in the Middle Ages, dominating medieval social and political order from the 11th century onwards. The origins of the castle are generally assigned to the 9h and 10th centuries, beginning with defensive fortifications established against the Vikings. In this paper, I argue that there are problems with this origin story by re-evaluating some of the key sources and assumptions on which it rests. This argument has broader implications for how we think about the significance of fortifications in the last years of the Carolingian Empire and the evolution of the castle between the 9th and 12th centuries.

6 June (5.30pm)

Public Lecture

Maren Möhring (Leipzig)
Travelling around the World: Mass Entertainment in the ‘Haus Vaterland’ in Berlin

GHIL in co-operation with the Modern German History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London

Annual Lecture of the German History Society

In 1928, a consortium headed by the internationally renowned wine merchant Kempinksi opened a huge entertainment complex at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. It consisted not only of a cinema and ballroom, but also of several themed restaurants – among them a Spanish bodega, a Japanese tea room, a Wild West bar, and a Viennese wine tavern. ‘Haus Vaterland’, despite its patriotic name, promised to assemble ‘the world under one roof’ and in this sense borrowed from the World’s Fair imaginaries. Investigating how ‘the world’ was arranged and performed in one of the most prominent places of public entertainment in Weimar Germany can help us better to understand how knowledge and imaginations about ‘the world’ were produced, circulated, and experienced, and how they shaped modern mass entertainment.

Maren Möhring is Professor of Comparative Cultural and Social History at Leipzig University. She is the author of Fremdes Essen: Die Geschichte der ausländischen Gastronomie in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (2012) and is currently working on a publication about ‘Haus Vaterland’ and the transnational history of mass entertainment.

21 May (5.30pm)

Public Lecture

Thomas Mergel (Berlin)
Modern Revolutions: The History of a Mimesis

The idea of the modern revolution rests on the idea that all individual revolutions are part of one great and all-embracing movement and this is why, in the 19th century, ‘the’ revolution became singular. Marx’s philosophy of history is pivotal in this respect. The lecture conceptualizes the idea of a ‘script’ of the revolution, and discusses how the history of the modern revolution can be grasped as the history of a tradition and, in practical terms, as the history of a constant mimesis. It also pursues the problem of how, in the course of the 20th century, this script began to fade, as revolutions resembled the Marxian concept less and less, so that today we again speak of a plurality of revolutions.

Thomas Mergel is Professor of 20th-Century European History at the Humboldt University of Berlin. He works on the cultural history of politics since the 18th century, focusing in particular on the history of political communication. His publications include Parlamentarische Kommunikation in der Weimarer Republik: Politische Kommunikation, symbolische Politik und Öffentlichkeit im Reichstag (3rd ed. 2012)

9 May (5.15pm for 5.45pm)

Public Lecture

Martin Mulsow (Erfurt/Gotha)
Die Illuminaten, Schiller und die Anfänge des Kantianismus

English Goethe Society lecture

In the years after 1784, the centre of the Order of Illuminati, which had been founded by Adam Weishaupt in Bavaria, moved to central Germany, where it became active in Gotha, Weimar, and somewhat later in Jena – no longer working against reigning princes, but, at least in Gotha, together with them. The lecture will focus on the small Illuminati group in Jena, which met from 1785 to 1788. It consisted mainly of law students, whose meetings we can reconstruct on the basis of unpublished protocols and lecture scripts. The remarkable thing about this group is that it was closely bound up with the early reception of the work of Immanuel Kant and paved the way for its broad impact on the thought of Friedrich Schiller and German Idealism.

28 February (5.30pm)

Public Lecture

Stefanie Michels (Hamburg)
Connected Families: West Africa and Southern Germany, 1891–1896

GHIL in co-operation with the Modern German History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London

Taking the example of Tube Meetom and Rudolf Duala Manga Bell, two boys from elite families of Duala, Cameroon, living with a petty bourgeois German family, this lecture discusses child circulation practices of the Atlantic contact zone in relation to notions of ‘family’ and home-making. On the level of colonial control, the lecture highlights the ambivalent practices of state control through the male custodian and the agency of the African father by means of financial and social interaction. On the affective level, an array of relations between extended families points to bonds not governed by the logic of ‘race’ and coloniality. Although in the end the German colonial authorities forcefully limited the ambitions of the two boys by exiling one and executing the other, their life stories advanced African independence movements in the 1930s.

Stefanie Michels focuses on German colonial and African history. She teaches at the University of Hamburg and has recently co-edited Global Photographies (2018) and Koloniale Verbindungen – Transkulturelle Erinnerungstopographien: Rheinland und Grasland, Kamerun (forthcoming).

23 January (5.30pm)

Public Lecture

Elissa Mailänder (Paris)
Self-Confident, Autonomous, and Liberated? Politicized Gender Relations in Nazi Film, 1939–1945

GHIL in co-operation with the Faculty of History, University of Oxford.

The Nazis drew upon a wide range of media first to mobilize voters, then to consolidate power, and, ultimately, to motivate German citizens in waging war. The flourishing German film industry lured more than a million spectators into cinemas each year during the war. Blockbusters such as Wunschkonzert, Stukas, and Die grosse Liebe explicitly targeted a young audience who, in their entertainment, craved romance, adventure, and escapism from the realities of everyday life. By juxtaposing these action films and romantic comedies with contemporary events, the movies showcased a ‘fun’ and dynamic Nazi society while promoting highly politicized images of ‘modern’ gender relations.

Elissa Mailänder is an Associate Professor of Contemporary History at Sciences Po in Paris. Her research interests include the history of violence, gender, and sexuality. Mailänder’s previous work has focused on perpetrator history and the everyday in Nazi concentration and extermination camps. Her new project examines heterosexual relationships in Nazi Germany and highlights the importance of mass participation and practices of everyday conformity with mass dictatorship.

Leo Baeck Institute Lecture Series

Acting Jewish: Between Identity and Attire

Organized by the Leo Baeck Institute London in cooperation with the German Historical Institute London.

The lecture series investigates the complex nature of what it means to act or appear Jewish and for whom this appearance is important. Examples are drawn from a wide range of performative settings: on stage, on screen, and in daily life. Under which conditions do particular elements of fashion and attire appear as ‘Jewish’? How do Jews consciously showcase or hide their identity by ‘acting’ and dressing in certain ways? And how are these elements conceptualised in the wider discourse: as ‘natural’- self-expressions of an ethnic identity, as attire communicating a social role, or as ‘prejudiced’ – as a ‘costume’ hiding the wearer’s true identity?

Previous Leo Baeck Lectures


23 January (6.30pm)

European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London

Kerry Wallach (Gettysburg College)
‘Coming Out’ as Jewish in Weimar Germany

In the 1920s and early 1930s – as today – Jews in Germany were concerned about growing antisemitism, and many took precautions to conceal their Jewishness by dressing and behaving in certain ‘assimilated’ ways. Yet there were still occasions when it was beneficial to be openly Jewish. This lecture explores the tensions that came with being visible as a Jew – an identity play that often involved appearing simultaneously non-Jewish and Jewish. Drawing on a wide range of images and films, this presentation explores controversial aspects of German- Jewish visibility and invisibility, as well as the complex reasons why Jews chose to appear distinctly ‘Jewish’.

Kerry Wallach is Associate Professor and Chair of German Studies and an Affiliate of the Judaic Studies Program at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Passing Illusions: Jewish Visibility in Weimar Germany (2017) and a number of articles on German-Jewish literature, history, film, and visual and consumer culture. She serves as co-editor for the German Jewish Cultures book series published by Indiana University Press and sponsored by the Leo Baeck Institute London.

4 March (6.30pm)

European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London

Adi Heyman (Fashion Blogger)
The Big Cover-Up: Modest Fashion

What started out as a religious niche has matured into a 250 billion-dollar industry largely pioneered by a group of diverse women embracing unique identities on social media. Fashion stylist-turned-blogger Adi Heyman’s inspiration for launching a Jewish fashion and lifestyle blog in 2010 stemmed from her personal and professional experience as an Orthodox Jew working in the fashion industry.In her talk, Heyman explores the possibility of being an ‘Orthodox fashion influencer’, and reflects on the lack of authentic content highlighting modest fashion, as well as the under-representation of women from minority cultures. As one of the leading religion-focused Jewish influencers, she promotes conservative silhouettes with a contemporary twist that resonate with the religiously observant consumer. Her work interprets Western identities alongside religious belief in a way that enables women to feel empowered by personal fashion and lifestyle choices. In 2019, Heyman founded the Jewish Fashion Council (JFC) to build a global community of Jewish fashion professionals and to provide funding and support for Jewish student life at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design.

8 October (6.30pm)

European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London

Paul Herzberg (Actor and Writer)
Acting Jewish: Perception and Reality

What does ‘acting Jewish’ really mean? Is it a style of performance drawing on the alleged traits of global Jewry? Or is it perhaps about ancient perceptions? Paul Herzberg offers a view, drawing on his four decades in the entertainment industry.

Paul Herzberg is an actor and writer. His most recent appearances as an actor were as John Vorster in Antony Sher’s I.D. at the Almeida; Shylock in The Merchant of Venice at The Arcola; at the RSC as Vincentio in The Taming of The Shrew; and in 2017 as Shimon Peres in the award-winning play, Oslo. Recent television appearances include Daniel Borgoraz in the award-winning serial The Honourable Woman. His screenplay Almost Heaven won the Nashville International Best Feature Award, and his stage play, The Dead Wait, was shortlisted for The Verity Bargate Award and, nominated in three categories for the MEN theatre awards, winning best actor. His commissioned screenplay Anna’s Story was selected for the 2018 Brit List.

Originally scheduled for Thursday, 23rd April 2020 and postponed due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Online Event

19 November (6.30pm)

European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London

Svenja Bethke (University of Leicester)
How to dress in Eretz Israel? Clothing, Fashion and Nation Building, 1880s–1948

The identities of many eastern European and German Jews who immigrated to Eretz Israel between the 1880s and the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948 oscillated between their roots and their identification with the new Zionist project. This lecture explores how immigrants expressed social, cultural, and political belonging through clothing and, focusing on gender and visual materials, offers fresh perspectives on how clothing became fashion, or ‘anti-fashion’, and to what extent a consensual mode of dress emerged. It also explores how the clothing habits of Arab people and the changing Ottoman and British occupying authorities influenced ‘Jewish’ fashion.

Svenja Bethke is a Lecturer in Modern European History and the former Deputy Director of the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Leicester. Her research interests include the Holocaust, legal history, the history of modern Palestine/Israel, visual culture and fashion history. She is currently a visiting Marie Curie Fellow at the Abraham Harman Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for her project on ‘Clothing, Fashion and Nation-Building in Eretz Israel’.

Originally scheduled for Thursday, 21st May 2020 and postponed due to Covid-19 lockdown.

Online Event


24 January (6.30pm)

European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London [2018-19]

Cilly Kugelmann (Jewish Museum Berlin)
Jewish Museums between Self-Assertion and Self-Defence

In the 19th century Jews gradually began to free themselves from their ambivalence towards the fine arts. Rabbis repeatedly placed the depiction of people in pictures and sculptures close to idolatry and viewed it with reservations. The discovery of a visual culture in Judaism by the Haskala, the Jewish Enlightenment, fulfilled a double function: it was intended to strengthen a new Jewish selfconfidence internally and at the same time to ward off the antisemitic prejudice that Jews were incapable of artistic expression. This process will be illustrated by the example of the emergence and development of Jewish museums in Europe.

Cilly Kugelmann was the Program Director and Vice Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin from September 2002 until March 2017 and she is currently chief curator on the museum’s new permanent exhibition. She has worked for the museum since May 2000, first as head of the Education department, and later also of the Science and Scholarship and Exhibitions departments. Previously, Kugelmann directed the education program, ran public relations, and curated historical exhibitions at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt am Main.

14 February (6.30pm)

European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London [2018-19]

Richard I. Cohen (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Moses Mendelssohn: The German-Jewish Icon of Modernity (1780s–2019)

Moses Mendelssohn has engaged artists of Jewish and non-Jewish origin from his lifetime until today. The lecture will show how, over this long period, Mendelssohn has been turned into the icon of German-Jewish modernity by being represented in a myriad of ways and techniques.

Richard I. Cohen is the academic director of the Israel Center of Research Excellence (ICore) for the Study of Cultures of Place in the Modern Jewish World. Formerly the Paulette and Claude Kelman Chair in French Jewry Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he has published widely on the history of Jews in western and central Europe and on the inter-relationship between art and society in the modern period. Among his publications: The Burden of Conscience: French-Jewish Leadership during the HolocaustJewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe;  co-curator and co-editor of From Court Jews to the Rothschilds: Art, Patronage, and Power, 1600–1800,  and Le Juif Errant: Un témoin de temps. He recently edited and introduced Place in Modern Jewish Culture and Society [vol. 30 of Studies in Contemporary Jewry, Oxford University Press, New York].

4 April (6.30pm)

European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London [2018-19]

Nathan Abrams (Bangor University)
Treyf Jews? Jewish Gangsters in McMafia and Peaky Blinders

In this illustrated lecture, Professor Nathan Abrams will explore recent British representations of Jews on television focussing on the role of the Jewish gangster in McMafia and Peaky Blinders in particular.

Nathan Abrams is Professor in Film at Bangor University in Wales where he directs the Film Studies programme and the Centre for Film, Television, and Screen Studies. He is the author of Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual (2018) and Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film (2019), and co-founding editor of Jewish Film and New Media: An International Journal.