German Historical Institute London

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Seminars 2013

15 January

Global Microhistory: Moving Towards a History of Relations

Microhistory and global history are usually considered to be a strict contrast, or a mere re-statement of the well-known micro–macro controversy. This talk argues instead that the two approaches share a broad common ground, overcoming methodological nationalism by dissolving the history of fixed and enclosed units into the history of relations.

Angelika Epple is Professor of Modern History and Dean of the Faculty of History, Philosophy, and Theology at Bielefeld University. Her main research interests are the history of globalization, the theory of history, and the history of historiography. Her recent publications include Gendering Historiography: Beyond National Canons (co-ed., 2009); Das Unternehmen Stollwerck: Eine Mikrogeschichte der Globalisierung (1839–1932) (2010); and Entangled Histories: Reflecting on Concepts of Coloniality and Post coloniality, special issue of Comparativ: Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und Vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung (co-ed., 2011).

29 January

The Politics of Private Life. An Exemplary Marriage and the Rebuilding of a Society: Alva und Gunnar Myrdal’s Sweden in the Interwar Period

Alva and Gunnar Myrdal were two of the most important social planners of the twentieth century who wanted no less than to re-organize society in Sweden, the USA, and Asia. In the media, they stylized marriage as the model of all social relations, but how ‘modern’ were their social ideas and the lives they actually lived? How did their private lives and attempts at social reform interact? An examination of their inspiring and explosive marriage illustrates how much the history of social reform is anchored in everyday practices.

Thomas Etzemüller is Professor of Modern History at the University of Oldenburg. His research interests include German and Swedish history, cultural history of the modern period, the history of science, and the history and theory of historiography. His publications include Ein ewigwährender Untergang: Der apokalyptische Bevölkerungsdiskurs im 20. Jahrhundert (2007); Die Romantik der Rationalität: Alva und Gunnar Myrdal—Social Engineering in Schweden (2010); and Biographien: Lesen, erzählen, erforschen (2012).

26 February

Career and Mobility of African Employees of European Business: The United Africa Company in Ghana (1929-1992)

Africans employed in European businesses are crucial intermediaries in colonial and postcolonial Africa, but they have not yet been studied as a group, unlike the Chiefs that mediated ‘indirect rule’, the clerks and messengers of the colonial administration, and mine workers.The lives of the employees of the United Africa Company (UAC) in Ghana and Nigeria provide a useful starting point for thinking about changes in work and life course in colonial and postcolonial West African societies.

Dmitri van den Bersselaar is Senior Lecturer and Head of the History Department at the University of Liverpool. He was founding director of the Liverpool Centre for the Study of International Slavery and is a current editor of History in Africa. He is author of In Search of Igbo Identity: Language, Culture and Politics in Nigeria, 1900–1966 (1998); The King of Drinks: Schnapps Gin from Modernity to Tradition (2007); and many articles on West African history and the history of Afro-European trade relations.

14 May

The European Renaissance and the Rise of the West

The Industrial Revolution happened in Europe rather than in Asia or the Islamic world. Having started on the Italian peninsula, the European Renaissance was an indispensable factor in the lead-up to the ‘European miracle’ (Eric Jones). The seminar therefore discusses its global implications: was the European Renaissance unique or simply one among many other renaissances?

Bernd Roeck is Professor of Modern History at the University of Zurich. He specializes in the cultural history of early modern Europe, especially Italy and the Holy Roman Empire. His recent publications include Gelehrte Künstler (2013); Lebenswelt und Kultur des Bürgertums in der Frühen Neuzeit (2011); and Florence 1900: The Quest for Arcadia (2009).

21 May

Europe after Empire: Decolonization, Society, and Culture

After the Second World War, Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Portugal made the transition from imperial powers to postcolonial, multicultural nations. Yet we still lack a comparative social and cultural history of the process of decolonization at home. This seminar outlines the reshaping of national identities, the formation of multicultural societies, and the remembering and forgetting of empire in Britain, France, and Portugal.

Elizabeth Buettner is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of York. Her publications include Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India (2004) and many articles on colonial cultural history, ethnicity, memory, postcolonial migration, food, and multiculturalism.

5 June

Jewish Images on Christian Coins: Economy and Symbolism in Medieval Germany

From the twelfth century, Jews were increasingly associated with the pejorative image of the moneylender. Apart from this stereotype, other images and representations of Jews were publicly available: on small silver coins which circulated in regional markets. This seminar probes different levels of interpretation of each coin and encourages further reflection on the relationship between economic and religious stereotypes and the reality of economic life.

Eva Haverkamp is Professor of Medieval Jewish History at the Ludwig Maximilians-University of Munich. She is the author of Hebräische Berichte über die Judenverfolgungen während des Ersten Kreuzzugs (2005) and many articles on Jewish history.

11 June

Law, Violence and the Colonial State: India and the Colonial Modern

This lecture explores the systemic violence integral to many of the everyday practices of colonialism, and the languages in which these practices were legitimated within colonial discourse. Through this exploration it reflects on the troubled relationship between law and violence in the making of colonial modernity.

Neeladri Bhattacharya is Professor of Modern History at the Jawaharlal Nehru -University of New Delhi. His recent publications include Labouring Histories: Agrarian Labour and Colonialism (2004) as well as numerous articles on colonialism and the representation of history.

18 June

Politics and Culture in Wilhelmine Germany: Carl Vinnen’s Ein Protest deutscher Künstler (1911) Revisited

Carl Vinnen’s Ein Protest deutscher Künstler is one of Wilhelmine Germany’s best known but arguably least understood acts of cultural protest. It has been described as a ‘notoriously pessimistic, xenophobic attack on modern art’, yet Vinnen had explicitly stated that he wanted ‘no chauvinistic Deutschtümelei’. This seminar will argue that the focus on Vinnen’s nationalism has obscured his true concerns: the commodification of art and the loss of the local in an age of rapid globalization.

Matthew Jefferies is Professor of German History at the University of Manchester. His publications include Hamburg: A Cultural and Literary History (2010); Contesting the German Empire, 1871–1918 (2008); Imperial Culture in Germany, 1871–1918 (2003); and Politics and Culture in Wilhelmine Germany: The Case of Industrial Architecture (1995).

15 October

The Real American Empire

This seminar reassesses American imperial history from 1783 to 1945 and traces its aftermath up to the invasion of Iraq. It will argue that the conventional label of an ‘American empire’ describing the USA during the era of superpower dominance after 1945 is a misnomer: the real ‘American empire’ was acquired in 1898 and dismantled after the Second World War.

Antony G. Hopkins was Smuts Professor of Common wealth History at Cambridge and is currently Emeritus Fellow of Pembroke College. He has written about African history, imperial history, and globalization, and is currently completing a book on the history of the USA. His major publications include Globalization in World History (2002), British Imperialism, 1688–2000 (1993, coauthored with Peter J. Cain), and An Economic History of West Africa (1973).

12 November

Twentieth-Century German History Revisited: Historiography and Personal Experience from an Anglo-German Perspective

This seminar reconsiders Germany’s history in the twentieth century, seen in parallel with Britain’s from a contemporary Anglo-German perspective. It relates findings from personal experience of life in Germany from the 1950s to the 1970s as well as insights from private memoirs and interviews to the existing historiographical knowledge of the diverging paths of the two countries.

Marcus Ferrar, a former Reuters journalist, was born British to a German mother. He served as a correspondent in East Berlin and Eastern Europe during the Cold War, before he managed Reuters’ European media business. His publications include The Budapest House (2013), A Foot in both Camps (2012) and Slovenia 1945 (2005, coauthored with John Corsellis).

19 November

Lost in Translation or the Production of Silence: Colonial Scandals in the German Empire

This seminar discusses a colonial scandal which occurred in the German colony of Togo and attracted considerable attention in Imperial Germany. It analyses the social, economic, and political background to the events in Togo as well as the coverage in Germany, focusing on what was left out in the reporting and how silence can bear significance.

Rebekka Habermas is Professor of Modern History at the University of Göttingen and is currently Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow at the University of Oxford. She specializes in gender history, the history of crime and law, the history of missions, and German colonial history. Her publications include Diebe vor Gericht (2008), Frauen und Männer des Bürgertums (2002), and Wallfahrt und Aufruhr (1991).

26 November

Beyond Exclusivism: On the Three Rings, the Three Impostors, and the Discourse of Multiplicity during the Middle Ages

Are monotheistic religions intolerant by nature? This question has been widely discussed with special attention to historical events such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and jihad between 600 and 1500. This seminar discusses religious diversity during the Middle Ages, reassessing the well-known stories of the three rings and the three impostors.

Dorothea Weltecke is Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Constance. Her research focuses on the history of the medieval religions of Europe and the Middle East, the Crusades, and exchange and conflict between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Her publications include ‘Der Narr spricht: Es ist kein Gott’: Studien zu Atheismus, Unglauben und Glaubenszweifel vom 12. Jahrhundert bis zur Neuzeit (2010) and Die ‘Beschreibung der Zeiten’ von Mor Michael dem Großen,1126–1199 (2003).


Seminars — Spring 2013 (PDF file)
Seminars — Summer 2013 (PDF file)
Seminars — Autumn 2013 (PDF file)