German Historical Institute London

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Public Lectures 2013

23 January

Towards a Global History of the Enlightenment

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

In many accounts of world history, the Enlightenment occupies a prominent place, marking the beginning of intellectual and cultural modernity. But these narratives have remained deeply Eurocentric. In this talk Sebastian Conrad suggests that the history of the Enlightenment should be read as a history of global conjunctures. Claims to Enlightenment were co-produced by historical actors from a variety of locations in their attempt to think globally and come to terms with the challenges of an integrating world.

Sebastian Conrad is Professor of Modern History at the Free University in Berlin. His publications include Globalisation and the Nation in Imperial Germany (2010); The Quest for the Lost Nation: Writing History in Germany and Japan in the American Century (2010); and German Colonialism: A Short History (2012). His introduction to global history is due to appear early in 2013.

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28 February

No Holocaust without Stalin? Some New Interpretations of German Mass Crimes

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

Conventional interpretations of the murder of European Jewry during the Second World War have recently been challenged. This began in the 1990s, when economic arguments made an impact, but since 2011 several new approaches have emerged. Was the Holocaust the result of extremely violent societies, or is it explicable only in the context of Stalinist violence, of Eastern European ‘Bloodlands’? This talk seeks to analyse these new approaches, their productive input and their limits, and to offer a different framework for a historiographical view of Nazi crimes.

Dieter Pohl is Professor of Contemporary History at the Alpen Adria University in Klagenfurt, Austria. His research focuses on German occupation and mass crimes in Eastern Europe, Stalinism, and the history of the Ukraine. He is the author of Nationalsozialistische Judenverfolgung in Ostgalizien 1941–1944 (1996); Verfolgung und Massenmord in der NS-Zeit (2003); and Die Herrschaft der Wehrmacht: Deutsche Militärbesatzung und einheimische Bevölkerung in der Sowjetunion 1941–1944 (2008).

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6 June

Imagined Revolutions and Real Executions: Hard-Core Nazis and the Spring of 1945


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

During the final weeks of the Second World War hundreds of ordinary German civilians were murdered by SS killing squads, retreating Wehrmacht units or local functionaries of the Nazi Party. Despite the relatively small numbers of victims, these incidents provide revealing insights not only into how hard-core Nazis perceived total defeat, but also into how the “Third Reich” was interpreted in (West) Germany during the late 1940s and 1950s. When West German courts began to deal with Nazi crimes after 1945, these killings were among the first cases investigated. They corresponded to the interest of the German public and media in regarding ordinary Germans as victims of fanatical Nazis.

Patrick Wagner is Professor of Modern History at the University of Halle. His major fields of research lie in the social history, the history of science and police history of Germany during the nineteenth and twentieth century. His book publications include Bauern, Junker und Beamte. Lokale Herrschaft und Partizipation im Ostelbien des 19. Jahrhunderts (2005); Hitlers Kriminalisten. Die deutsche Kriminalpolizei und der Nationalsozialismus zwischen 1920 und 1960 (2002); Displaced Persons in Hamburg. Stationen einer halbherzigen Integration 1945 bis 1958 (1997).

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12 September

Michael Geyer (University of Chicago)
How Wars End: The European Experience

Keynote Lecture to the German History Scociety Annual Conference 2013

Peace was invented in Europe; this in any case is the tall claim of an eminent British military historian. He referred to the short nineteenth century, post-Napoleonic and pre-World War I, and had Immanuel Kant as the main authority to buttress his point. While there is no such authority for the late twentieth century, there is an emergent argument that post-war Europe and, at its center, post-war Germany made peace happen in a protracted process. Indeed, there are more far-reaching speculations that Europe has entered an era of social and cultural pacification (Entgewaltigung) and that this latter process drove political and military developments. While the talk is titled “how wars end,” its goal is to explore how, when and why peace was made in Europe after 1945 and whether this peace holds the promise for being more than simply another prewar.

Please note: Attendance by prior registration only: please contact Carole Sterckx by 10 September (sterckx(ghi)

2 October

Cosmopolitanism and the Jews

Leo Baeck Institute Lecture

The newest buzzword for globalization is cosmopolitanism. As with many such reuses of older concepts, cosmopolitanism has a complex history, specifically in the German-speaking lands. It is this history and its relationship to the history of German Jewry from the Enlightenment to the Holocaust that will be examined — in a global and perhaps even cosmopolitan manner.

Attendance by prior registration only (info(ghi)

10 October

Percy Ernst Schramm goes to the movies: some aspects of medieval modernity

6 November

Bringing the Dead Back In: Mapping Military Casualties of the Great War on Civil Society

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

How did the carnage of the First World War imprint society? Modern historiography has looked at the death and dying of soldiers from military, social, and cultural perspectives. Surprisingly, however, few attempts have been made systematically to analyse the social profile of ‘fallen’ soldiers and the consequences of their death within the context of civil society. The lecture draws on a research project based at the University of Osnabrück which collects complete sets of personal data of soldiers who lost their lives during the First World War for selected urban and rural areas, and projects their death onto their last known address before enlistment. This approach allows for a detailed reconstruction of the war’s impact on German society, facilitating comparative analysis across time, space, and various frames of reference. Data from Aachen and Osnabrück shows differences in the distribution of casualties in military and civil contexts, variations in regional patterns, and discrepancies between national narratives and local experience.

Christoph Rass is Professor of Modern History at the University of Osnabrück and a member of the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS). His research focuses on the social history of war and military institutions as well as on regulated labour migration and migration regimes. His most recent work includes projects on military casualties of the First World War, a social profile of the German secret service (BND), and the history of expulsion. His publications include Institutionalisierungsprozesse auf einem internationalen Arbeitsmarkt (2010) and Menschenmaterial: Deutsche Soldaten an der Ostfront (2003).

Tea is served from 5.00 p.m. in the Common Room, and wine is available after the lecture.

A guided tour of the Library is available before the lecture at 4.30 p.m.

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4 December

Towards Post-Classical Democracy: Political Change and Historical Discourse in Contemporary Germany

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

Present-day Western democracy is not what it was in the immediate post-war era. But how can we historically account for the profound changes that started a generation ago and have intensified globally over the past few years? And why are Germans today so particularly concerned about the fate, and possible demise, of democracy? The lecture discusses the tensions between historical transformation and contemporary discourse in what is arguably one of the most urgent topics of the early twenty-first century.

Paul Nolte is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the Free University of Berlin. He has published extensively on the political, social, and intellectual history of modern Germany and transatlantic relations. His publications include Religion und Bürgergesellschaft (2009); Riskante Moderne (2006); Generation Reform (2004); and Staatsbildung als Gesellschaftsreform (1990). His most recent monograph is a critical historical assessment of democracy: Was ist Demokratie? Geschichte und Gegenwart (2012).

Tea is served from 5.00 p.m. in the Common Room, and wine is available after the lecture.

A guided tour of the Library is available before the lecture at 4.30 p.m.

Download flyer (PDF file)