German Historical Institute London

17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ
United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0)20 - 7309 2050
Fax: +44 (0)20 - 7309 2055 / 7404 5573


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Seminars and Lectures

The GHIL regularly holds seminars and lectures on topics of general interest to British and German historians. Seminars are held Tuesdays at 5.30pm during term time. Seminar papers are normally presented in English; knowledge of the German language is not necessary for participation.

25 October

Mathew Thomson (Warwick)
The Closest Thing to a Religion? a Cultural History of the NHS

Britain’s National Health Service has been described as the closest thing the British people have to a religion. But the cultural history of the institution has attracted surprisingly little attention. This lecture examines the cultural representation and meaning of the NHS since its foundation in 1948. Was the NHS really the closest thing to a religion? If so, how and when did this come about? And what are the implications of a cultural history of the NHS for how we think about the history of the NHS itself and for our understanding of post-war British history?

Mathew Thomson is Professor of Modern British History at the University of Warwick. His most recent book, Lost Freedom (2013), examines concerns about children, space, and security in post-war Britain. He is currently working on a collaborative project on the cultural history of the NHS supported by the Wellcome Trust.

8 November

Vanessa Harding (London)
Wealth and Inequality in Early Modern London

The economic and demographic expansion of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century London increased the numbers of both super-rich and very poor, and also encouraged the emergence of a professional and commercial ‘middling sort’. It is less easy to assess the size of the gap between rich and poor and whether and how much it was changing. This talk will investigate some of the sources for measuring and mapping wealth and inequality and will explore the changing relations between the rich and the comfortably-off and their poorer neighbours.

Vanessa Harding is Professor of London History at Birkbeck, University of London. She has published widely on medieval and early modern London and is currently writing a book on seventeenth-century London with the life of a middling Londoner as its central thread.

22 November

Harald Fischer-Tiné (Zurich)
‘Keep them pure, fit, and brotherly!’: The Indian YMCA’s ‘Army Work’ in the Great War (1914–1920)

The outbreak of the First World War was hailed by American YMCA secretaries working in India as presenting ‘overwhelming opportunities’ to enlarge the association’s activities and boost its general popularity. This lecture takes stock of the wide spectrum of the Y’s activities, and it addresses the question of the underlying objectives and wider impact of the Y’s humanitarian ‘war work’ schemes.

Harald Fischer-Tiné is Professor of Modern Global History at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zürich). His research interests lie in the global and transnational history of South Asia and the British Empire. Among his recent books are Shyamji Krishnavarma: Sanskrit, Sociology and Anti-Imperialism (2014) and Pidgin-Knowledge: Wissen und Kolonialismus (2013).

6 December

Frances Andrews (St Andrews)
Medieval Europe through Monastic Eyes

As global history takes centre stage, the interconnectedness of high medieval Europe might seem to be a given. Yet the widely held belief that medieval men and women lived their lives with little awareness of the world beyond their village and its fields persists. Nor do modern historians easily associate European interconnectedness with professional religious, the monks, nuns, and friars. This talk opens up an alternative view, exploring the many chapter meetings to which they travelled, how those meetings worked, and what they made of them, picturing medieval Europe through monastic eyes.

Frances Andrews is Professor of Medieval History at the University of St Andrews. Her books include The Early Humiliati (1999), The Other Friars (2006), and several edited volumes, most recently, Doubting Christianity: The Church and Doubt, co-edited with Charlotte Methuen and Andrew Spicer (2016).

Seminars are held at 5.30 p.m. in the Seminar Room of the German Historical Institute.
Tea is served from 5.00 p.m. in the Common Room, and wine is available after the seminars.

Guided tours of the Library are available before each seminar at 4.30 p.m.

Download the list of Seminars Autumn 2016   (PDF file)

Previous Seminars

Public Lectures 2016

19 October

Miriam Rürup (Hamburg)
Imagining Remigration and Return: The Experience of Statelessness and the Idea of Universal Belonging in Postwar Germany

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

After 1945 the situation of a huge group of displaced persons was uncertain. Roughly 10,000 out of 280,000 displaced persons living in Germany in 1948 were stateless. Until a law confirming their legal status as homeless foreigners was passed in the FRG in April 1951, these DPs were defined as homeless, stateless foreigners under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees. While the ‘right to have a nationality’ was part of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, the question of how to deal with stateless people remained unresolved. Different and partly contradictory concepts of how to overcome statelessness competed in the early postwar era. This lecture will explore these concepts, which included practices of forced repatriation in the early postwar months, the Zionist idea of a return to the ‘homeland’, and notions of universal belonging such as World Citizenship.

Miriam Rürup is Director of the Institute for the History of the German Jews in Hamburg. She studied history, sociology, and cultural anthropology at the universities of Göttingen, Tel Aviv, and Berlin, and worked for the Foundation ‘Topography of Terror’ in Berlin, the Rosenzweig Center in Jerusalem, and the Simon Dubnow Institute in Leipzig, at the History Department of Göttingen University, and at the German Historical Institute in Washington. Her research interests lie in German–Jewish history, the history of the Third Reich, gender history, and the history of migration. Among her publications are Ehrensache: Jüdische Studentenverbindungen an deutschen Universitäten, 1886–1937 (2008), a study of the history of German–Jewish student fraternities in Imperial and Weimar Germany, and the edited volume Praktiken der Differenz: Diasporakulturen in der Zeitgeschichte (2009).

Download flyer   (PDF file)

If not otherwise stated, lectures are held in the Seminar Room of the German Historical Institute.
Tea is served from 5.00 p.m. in the Common Room, and wine is available after the lectures.

Previous Public Lectures


European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London, 2015-16

The Politics of Land. Archaeology, Architecture and City Planning in Israel

This season’s theme intends to approach its broad subject via a spectrum of political, legal and cultural perspectives. We will examine more closely how the realities of ‘land’ or ‘territory’ impact on the daily lives of Israeli and foreign citizens living in the State of Israel, be they Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim or Christian.

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