German Historical Institute London

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Public Lectures 2014

26 February

Multiple Boundaries, Contested and Shifting: Spatiality, Subjectivity, and the History of the Weimar Republic

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

The Weimar Republic has often been described as marked by two contrasting features: a burst of cultural creativity on the one hand and the fragility and ultimate destruction of the new democratic order on the other. While recent research has highlighted the co-existence of ‘multiple modernities’ and emphasized the chances for stabilizing democracy, this more nuanced picture still provides only partial answers to the question of how culture and politics were related in Weimar Germany. The lecture will approach this problem from a new angle by investigating ‘boundaries’—between territories, between masculinity and femininity, in popular culture and politics, of political milieu vis-à-vis the temptations of mass culture, and between civilian life and military preparedness. The talk will explore how a focus on a variety of boundaries, attempts to control and redefine them, and interrelations between them can help us conceptualize the history of Weimar Germany.

Dirk Schumann is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Göttingen. His research focuses on German history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and its transatlantic aspects. His publications in English include Political Violence in the Weimar Republic: Fight for the Streets and Fear of Civil War (2009) and the edited volumes Raising Citizens in the ‘Century of the Child’: The United States and German Central Europe in Comparative Perspective (2010) and Engineering Society: The Role of the Human and Social Sciences in Modern Societies, 1880–1980 (2012).

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13 March

War, Nationalism, and the Making of Germany in the Early Nineteenth Century

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

Pointing to the ‘nationalization of the war and the militarization of national feelings’, historians commonly regard the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars as the threshold of a new era of nationalism and nation-states. In Germany, the wars against the French Emperor served as a national foundation myth, much like the Declaration of Independence in the USA and the revolution in France. The impact of these wars, however, is often overestimated. They were less a revolutionary caesura than part of a long-lasting, evolutionary process of nationalization.

Ute Planert is Professor of Modern History and History Didactics at the University of Wuppertal. Her research focuses on the global history of the Napoleonic era, nationalism, gender, and war and society. Recent publications include Der Mythos vom Befreiungskrieg (2008); ‘International Conflict, War, and the Making of Modern Germany, 1740–1815’, in Oxford Handbook of Modern German History (2011); and the edited volumes Decades of Reconstruction: Postwar Societies, State-Building, and International Relations (with James Retallack, forthcoming 2014) and The Impact of Napoleon’s Empire: European Politics in Global Perspective (forthcoming 2015).

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20 March

The literary history of the Upper Rhine in the later Middle Ages: Carthusians, Dominican nuns and Knights Hospitaller

Keynote lecture to: The Culture of the Upper Rhine Valley in the Late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance

7 May

Changing Concepts of Conversion: The Basel Mission in South India and the Emergence of a Contact Religiosity, 1834–60

Venue: Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Gordon Room (G34)

GHIL in co-operation with the Christian Missions in Global History Seminar,
Institute of Historical Research, University of London, School of Advanced Study

When Basel missionaries went to India in the nineteenth century, they interacted closely with the people there, both Indians of various religious affiliations and Europeans. They tried to understand local cultures and religions so that they could better convert the locals. They immersed themselves in local thinking and practices, which in turn modified their own religiosity. This paper examines these modifications by focusing on the example of conversion, the central concern of the missionaries in India. The paper contributes to a deeper understanding of contact religiosity.

Dr Judith Becker is project leader of the research group ‘Missionary Images of Europe in Contact with the Other, 1700–1970’, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and based at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz. She has just finished a research project on the transformation of the values of European Protestant missionaries in contact with others in the nineteenth century. Her publications include Gemeindeordnung und Kirchenzucht: Johannes a Lascos Kirchenordnung für London (1555) und die reformierte Konfessionsbildung (Leiden, 2007); Die Begegnung mit Fremden und das Geschichtsbewusstsein (ed., with Bettina Braun, 2012); and Europe as the Other: External Perspectives on European Christianity (ed., with Brian Stanley, 2013).

This lecture will be held at 5.30 p.m. at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU, in the Gordon Room (G34).

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29 May

The Individual and the Community: New Research on the History of National Socialism


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

Historiography has long focused on the National Socialist regime’s structures and methods of rule. More recent research, by contrast, concentrates on the role of society, highlighting consent and cooperation, perpetrating and participating, relations between the public and private spheres, and processes of individualization and collectivization. These recent studies are inspired by such approaches as the cultural history of the political and the history of emotions, and incorporate sources such as photographs and diaries.

Michael Wildt is Professor of Twentieth-Century German History at the Humboldt University in Berlin. He specializes in the history of National Socialism, the Holocaust, and violence and political orders in the twentieth century. His main publications include An Uncompromising Generation: The Nazi Leadership of the Reich Security Main Office (2009); and Hitler’s Volks - gemeinschaft and the Dynamics of Racial Exclusion: Violence against Jews in Provincial Germany, 1919–1939 (2012).

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3 June

Breakthrough to America. Aby Warburg, his Kulturwissenschaft and the New World

Aby Warburg’s journey to the American Southwest of 1895/96 is known as pivotal for his theoretical notions about the production of culture. On a trip which was initiated by the search for a new challenging topic, the young art historian set out to visit the newly discovered archaeological sites in Colorado, and moved on to Arizona and New Mexico to study the living culture of the ‘native’ Pueblo Indians. The impressions he gathered during several months through his exposure to native Indian symbolism in images and rituals – later re-interpreted in the well-known Snake Ritual Lecture – and through his first-hand experience of the unique superposition of diverse cultures, had a lasting impact on his scholarship: in Warburg’s almost prophetical view the peculiar characteristic of modern America made it as much exemplary as possibly receptive for a new methodology in the study of art and culture.

8 July

Textbook Controversies and the Demand for a Past: The Public Lives of Indian History

Venue: German Historical Institute London

The thriving public life of history in India is in inverse proportion to the dwindling interest in and development of academic history across India today. Recent debates and discussions about school textbooks allow us to return to the troubled relationship between these worlds of history writing, which will be critical to a meaningful response to the challenges faced by academic history, in schools and beyond.

Janaki Nair teaches history at the Centre for Historical Studies, JNU. Her research interests include the histories of law, the city, labour and gender relations, as well as visual traditions and cultures. Her recent publications include: Mysore Modern: Rethinking the Region under Princely Rule (2011) and The Promise of the Metropolis: Bangalore’s Twentieth Century (2005).

Please register by sending us an email to trg(ghi)

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4 November

Ignorance, Indifference, Inaction? The Volksgemeinschaft and the Holocaust

GHIL in cooperation with the Faculty of History, University of Oxford

Germans could learn about the Holocaust, if they only wanted to. Some of them did. But what exactly did they know and what did they do with their knowledge? Obviously attitudes towards the ‘final solution’ varied hugely. And concrete action included participation in plundering and killing on the one hand, and resistance and rescuing Jews on the other. In some cases, murderers rescued and resisters murdered. Nevertheless, the majority of the Volksgenossen remained passive. The Holocaust neither became a crucial test for the Nazi regime nor did it mobilize the approval of the masses. Based on ego-documents such as diaries and letters, the lecture discusses the still challenging question of how ordinary Germans responded to the genocide of the Jews.

Birthe Kundrus is Professor of Social and Economic History at the University of Hamburg. Her research specializes on German history, especially National Socialism and the German Empire, and on the history of violence and genocide. She is the author of Kriegerfrauen: Familienpolitik und Geschlechterverhältnisse im Ersten und Zweiten Weltkrieg (1995) and Moderne Imperialisten: Das Kaiserreich im Spiegel seiner Kolonien (2003), and the editor of Phantasiereiche: Zur Kulturgeschichte des deutschen Kolonialismus (2003). A volume edited jointly with Sybille Steinbacher, Kontinuitäten und Diskontinuitäten: Der Nationalsozialismus in der Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts, was published in 2013.

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27 November

The End of Modern Statehood? Globalization and the Nation-State

GHIL in cooperation with the Seminar in Modern German History, Institute of Historical Research, University of London

Globalization seems to be threatening the most successful form of modern statehood: the nation-state. The political autonomy of national governments and the capacity for self-government of national societies seem to be waning in a world of growing global cultural and economic interrelations. This lecture will examine such diagnoses from a historical perspective. It will argue that modern statehood has developed in response to globalization since the nineteenth century; the nation-state is neither static nor self-contained. Rather, it is a product as well as an actor of globalization. Therefore globalization is responsible for the nation-state’s genesis as much as for its current transformation.

Julia Angster is Professor of Modern History at the University of Mannheim. She earned her Ph.D. and her Habilitation at the University of Tübingen; from 2010 to 2012 she was Professor of British and North American History at the University of Kassel. Her fields of research include German contemporary history, transatlantic relations, the British Empire, and international relations. She is the author of Erdbeeren und Piraten: Die Royal Navy und die Ordnung der Welt 1770–1860 (2012); Reform und Krise: Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1963–1982 (2012); and Konsenskapitalismus und Sozialdemokratie: Die Westernisierung von SPD und DGB (2003).

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