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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Public Lectures

Leo Baeck Institute Lecture Series

Max Weber Lecture Series

Seminars - Spring 2019

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Contested Histories

Seminar Series | Summer Term 2019

The silenced social challenges of regime change, the teaching of history during local conflicts, Holocaust remembrance in post-colonial societies, the transatlantic slave trade, and imperial collecting in museums — the topics covered in this series will explore histories that, even if not always contested at the time, have become so in recent years. Speakers will debate how these difficult histories around the globe are embraced, remembered, but also very often kept under wraps.

7 May

Slavery's Past and Present: Challenges to Academic Research and Museum Work in Germany and Britain

How can museums and historians reappraise traumatic and partly hidden histories such as slavery, and offer opportunities to enable dialogue about events that society finds uncomfortable? Historian Rebekka von Mallinckrodt, University of Bremen, will first address the little explored topic of trafficked people and related legal concepts in the Holy Roman Empire, a state not usually associated with slaves. Although on the margins of the transatlantic slave trade, eighteenth-century Germany was deeply involved in it. Richard Benjamin, Head of the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, will then argue that museums of slavery should not only become platforms for dialogue on decolonizing the past and collection practices, but also develop new ways of power-sharing with publics and communities. The talks will be followed by a commentary by historian Catherine Hall, UCL. Chaired by Felix Brahm, GHIL.

11 June

Multidirectional Memory?: National Holocaust Memorials and (Post-)Colonial Legacies

Venue and Collaborator: Institute of Advanced Studies, Common Ground (G11), Wilkins Building (South Wing), Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

How do colonial history, the Second World War, and the Holocaust intersect? As Britain embarks on the creation of a National Holocaust Memorial, calls have been made for a memorial to and a museum of Britain’s historical involvement in slavery, its colonial past, and their legacies. Meanwhile, scholarship such as Michael Rothberg’s Multidirectional Memory has argued that Holocaust remembrance also has the potential to open up routes for commemorating other contested national pasts. This panel will enable a dialogue between scholars of the Holocaust, colonialism, and the British Empire to reflect on national and transnational legacies. With Avril Alba, Sydney, Yasmin Khan, Oxford, and Tom Lawson, Northumbria. Chaired by Tamar Garb, IAS London.

Please regsiter for this event on the IAS website.

18 June

Who owns Public History?: Two Talks on History Textbooks in Conflicted Societies

Who owns public history and on what grounds? How does the historian relate to public debates? Across spatial and temporal conflict contexts, debates about the content and role of history textbooks are sensitive, highly political, and often notable for their interminability. Developing a theoretical approach, political scientist Eleni Christodoulou, Georg Eckert Institute, Brunswick, will embrace ‘educational anxieties’ by offering a framework for analysing securitization dynamics that successfully resist and prevent textbook revisions as part of peace-building processes in Cyprus and Lebanon. Neeladri Bhattacharya, former Chief Adviser of the National Council for Education Research and Training in India, will then explore how contested claims of caste and class, region and nation, are played out on the site of history textbooks in India. Chaired by Nandini Manjrekar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

25 June

From Collected to Contested: The Future of Museums after the Repatriation Debate

European museums have recently come under increasing pressure to repatriate objects from colonial times. But where do we go from here? Does repatriation naturally entail ‘decolonizing the museum’, or might it even prevent museums from doing just that? This panel will discuss what decolonization in the museum might actually mean. How do recent debates fit into the bigger picture of engaging with uncomfortable collecting histories? How could embracing these histories enable marginal and multiple voices to have a say? With Subhadra Das, Curator, UCL, Clémentine Deliss, Curator and Author, Tristram Hunt, Director, V&A, and Alice Procter, Tour Guide and Art Historian. Chaired by Mirjam Brusius, GHIL.

3 July

Closing Event ‘Zingster Strasse 25’

Venue and Collaborator: Goethe Institute London, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2PH

To address the urgent need for living space in the 1950s the GDR government introduced new housing projects based on prefabricated concrete slabs, the so-called Plattenbau. Erected on the outskirts of East Berlin, Zingster Straße 25 in Neu-Hohenschönhausen was one of them and it was completed in 1987. Three decades later the artist Sonya Schönberger visits some of the tenants. Who is still around, and who has moved in since? Her interviews, read by performers Johanna Malchow and Ingo Tomi, tell not just personal stories of daily life in the GDR, but also bear witness to the regime change of 1989, and the often challenging and still under-debated aftermath of social change in a unified Germany. The performance is introduced by Christina von Hodenberg, Director, GHIL.

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Seminars are held at 5.30 p.m. in the Conference Room of the German Historical Institute (unless indicated otherwise). Tea is available from 5.00 p.m. in the Common Room, and wine is served after the lectures.

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

Previous Seminars

Public Lectures 2019

9 May
(5.15pm for 5.45pm)

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. Now this secret society was 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 beginning reception of the work of Immanuel Kant and paved the way for its broad impact in the thought of Friedrich Schiller and German Idealism.

Open to the general public. No registration necessary.
Please note that the lecture will be delivered in German.

21 May

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 nineteenth-century, ‘the’ revolution became singular. Marx’s philosophy of history is pivotal in this respect. The lecture conzeptualizes 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 twentieth 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 Twentieth-Century European History at Humboldt University Berlin. He works on the cultural history of politics since the eighteenth century, 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 edn. 2012)

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6 June

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.

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Previous Public Lectures

Leo Baeck Institute Lecture Series London, 2018-19

The Seeing Jews in Art: Networks, Fantasies and Dreams

Full details are available here.

Max Weber Lecture Series

The Max Weber Lectures are a part of a series of lectures related to the themes of the research projects of the India Branch Office. Well-known experts from any of the research themes of the IBO are specially invited to India to share their expertise with project partners and other researchers in India.

Full details are available here.