German Historical Institute London

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Seminars 2016

12 January

Madeleine Herren (Basel)
Claiming a Connected World: The Arctic from Mussolini to the United Nations (1928–46)

In May 1928 the crash of an Italian airship over the North Pole prompted international rescue operations and a media hype around the globe. The lecture will argue that this accident signalled an epistemic shift in the understanding of globality. From the 1920s the Arctic was transformed from an ‘empty space’ into a new imaginary of connectedness, visible today in the emblem of the UN.

Madeleine Herren is Professor of History and Director of the Institute for European Global Studies at the University of Basel. She has published widely on European and global history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, internationalism, and the history of international organizations. Her books include Internationale Organisationen seit 1865: Eine Globalgeschichte der internationalen Ordnung (2009) and Transcultural History: Theories, Methods, Sources (co-authored, 2012).

26 January

Amanda Vickery (London)
Reputation Management in Late Eighteenth-Century Europe: Angelica Kauffman, the Women and the Men

This lecture deals with the economic success and reputation management of the Swiss–Austrian artist Angelica Kauffman (1741–1807), focusing on her London career from 1766 to 1781. She was one of only two female artists admitted to the fledging Royal Academy. The lecture is a study in the art of female public relations. Kauffman achieved unique recognition and spectacular commercial success, all the while sustaining a reputation for ingenuous innocence. How did she pull it off?

Amanda Vickery is Professor of Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London. She is the prize-winning author of The Gentleman’s Daughter (1998) and Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (2009). In 2014 she researched and wrote ‘The Story of Women and Art’ for BBC2.

1 March

Paul Readman (London)
Historical Pageants and the Medieval Past in Twentieth-Century Britain

Many thousands of large-scale historical pageants were performed in Britain across the twentieth century. In these spectacular re-enactments of history, myth, and folklore, the medieval past loomed large, even in modern centres of industry such as Manchester and Birmingham. This lecture considers what this ‘pageant fever’ tells us about the place of the past and the relationship between local and national identities in modern British social and cultural life.

Paul Readman is Professor of Modern British History at King’s College London. His publications include Land and Nation in England (2008); as co-editor, The Land Question in Britain, 1832–14 (2010); Borderlands in World History, 1700–1914 (2014); and Walking Histories, 1800–1914 (2016). His present research focuses on historical pageants and the place of the past in modern Britain, and on meanings of landscape in England between c.1750 and c.1950.

15 March

Andreas Bihrer / Julia Ilgner (Kiel / Freiburg)
Narrating the King: Historiographical and Literary Representations of Alfred the Great in German–English Discourse on Power in the Nineteenth Century

In nineteenth-century Germany public opinion about the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great was shaped both by leading historians and well-known poets of the time. This interdisciplinary lecture will analyse how historians such as Gervinus or Winkelmann established influential narratives, while Wilhelminian poets like Fontane and Dahn worked towards Alfred’s ‘refunctionalization’ and heroic ‘reinterpretation’.

Andreas Bihrer is Professor of Medieval History at Kiel University. He specializes in diocese history, historiography and hagiography, and Anglo-Saxon history from a European perspective. He is the author of Begegnungen zwischen dem ostfränkisch-deutschen Reich und England (2012); Reformverlierer 1000–1800, ed. with Dietmar Schiersner (forthcoming 2016); and Die Angelsachsen in Europa (forthcoming 2017).

Julia Ilgner is a Ph.D. student at Freiburg University specializing in the genre of the German historical novel. She is co-editor of Arthur Schnitzlers Filmskripts and Transformations of History (both 2015).

3 May

Richard J. Evans (Cambridge)
Writing the History of Nineteenth-Century Europe

In the era of global history, is it still possible to write European history? How should it be periodized? Does it make sense to try to cover the huge variety of subjects that have formed the focus of historical research in recent decades? This talk attempts to answer these and other questions raised in the writing of volume 7 of the new Penguin History of Europe, The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815–1914, to be published this September.

Sir Richard is President of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, and Provost of Gresham College in the City of London. He is the author of numerous books on modern German and European history, and is currently preparing a biography of the historian Eric Hobsbawm.

This lecture is available as a MP3 download (52 min, 36 MB)

17 May

Willibald Steinmetz (Bielefeld)
Writing a History of Nineteenth-Century Europe: Challenges, Conundrums, Complexities

This lecture deals with ways of narrating the history of Europe in the nineteenth century. How should we define Europe? What were its specific features in the nineteenth century? One suggestion is that nineteenth-century Europeans were obsessed with comparisons and competitions. Another idea is that they were caught in endless paradoxical demands for equality and recognition of difference.

Willibald Steinmetz is the current Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Political History at Bielefeld University. Among his publications in English are the edited volumes Writing Political History Today (2013), and Political Languages in the Age of Extremes (2011).

This lecture is available as a MP3 download (50 min, 32.5 MB)

31 May

Johannes Paulmann (Mainz)
How Close is the Nineteenth Century? Contemporary Reflections on a History of Europe

The nineteenth century has just passed from being a memory of the living into the cultural memory of Europe. To some, it seems to have become a very distant past. This talk shows how historians have interpreted the period facing their own contemporary issues. It discusses the changing frames which bring the nineteenth century close to us, or, indeed, have turned it into a foreign country.

Johannes Paulmann is Director of the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz. His publications include Pomp und Politik: Monarchenbegegnungen in Europa zwischen Ancien Régime und Erstem Weltkrieg (2000); The Mechanics of Internationalism: Culture, Society, and Politics from the 1840s to the First World War (2001); and Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid in the Twentieth Century (2016).

This lecture is available as a MP3 download (51 min, 34.4 MB)

21 June

David Cannadine (Princeton)
Rewriting the British Nineteenth Century

The nineteenth century was incontrovertibly the ‘British century’, in which the UK seemed to dominate the globe, and when, for good or ill, ‘British history’ took place in many other parts of the world as well. At a time when global history has become so prominent, this seems an appropriate opportunity to revisit the years 1800 to 1906.

Sir David is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University. He is the author of numerous books on the history of modern Britain and its empire, capitalism, philanthropy in nineteenth and twentieth century America, and the history of historiography. He was recently appointed editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

This lecture is available as a MP3 download (65 min, 40.9 MB)

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).


Seminars — Spring 2016  (PDF file)
Seminars — Summer 2016 Narrating the Nineteenth Century: New Approaches  (PDF file)
Seminars — Autumn 2016  (PDF file)