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I was an undergraduate at Cornell University and went to graduate school at the University of Chicago, where I studied with Leonard Krieger, a once famous historian, now largely, but regrettably and unjustifiably, forgotten. I received my Ph.D. from Chicago in 1980 and have been at MU since 1984, since 2003 as Curators’ Professor of History. From 2005 to 2010, I was chair of the history department.
My scholarship is best described as social history, although there is plenty of political and religious history in it as well. My research and writing have dealt with nineteenth century Europe, and primarily Germany, although I have made occasional forays into the eighteenth and twentieth centuries and to other parts of the continent. One important focus of my work has been the history of religion. My first book, Popular Catholicism in Nineteenth Century Germany (1984), was about popular religion, its social context, and its political ramifications. The essay “Kirchengeschichte or the Social and Cultural History of Religion?” Neue Politische Literature 43 (1998): 13-35, sums up my more recent thoughts on the topic.
Another central element of my scholarship has been the study of popular politics. One strand of this work involves the mathematical analysis of elections, the chief results of which, a study of general elections in Germany from 1871 to the First World War, was published as The Kaiser’s Voters: Electors and Elections in Imperial Germany (1997). Less forbidding and more extensive has been my work on the revolution of 1848. This began with a history of that revolution in western Germany: Rhineland Radicals: The Democratic Movement and the Revolution of 1848-1849 (1991). I followed this up with a history of the 1848 revolutions in all of Europe, The European Revolutions, 1848-1851 (1994). A second, revised edition of this book appeared in 2005. A further follow up was a general history of Europe in the age of the French Revolution, Revolutionary Europe: 1780-1850 (2000). Most recently, I applied the insights from the study of the 1848 revolution to consider a twentieth century German revolution, the East German uprising of 1953. See the recent works list below.
Staring in 1995, I investigated another, somewhat different, social history topic, the interrelationship of property, family and the law in the everyday life of southwestern Germany during the nineteenth century. The chief source for this scholarship has been civil court records. When people sue each other, they reveal a lot of things they might have preferred to remain private, and provide historians with lots of interesting information unavailable elsewhere. Most of the results of this study appeared in 2005, Property and Civil Society in South-Western Germany, 1820-1914, published by Oxford University Press. A spinoff from this work, also related to my new scholarly project, appeared in 2010 in the Historische Zeitschrift, the flagship publication of the historical profession in Germany. It is listed in the “recent works” section below.
In 2009, Pearson/Longman published a sequel to Revolutionary Europe 1780-1850, entitled Europe 1850-1914: Progress, Participation and Apprehension. This general history of Europe, covering political economic, social, cultural, artistic and scientific developments, emphasizes, as the subtitle indicates, the economic, scientific and technological progress of the era, the enormous and dynamic growth in social and political participation, and the apprehension that such changes incurred. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914, with which the book ends, and its enormously destructive effects on Europe, introducing an age of Total War and totalitarian governments, shows that such apprehensions were not unjustified.
My most recent work involves a new genre for me, namely biography. I have written a life of the founder of communism, Karl Marx. The idea for such a project grew out of my previous works on the revolution of 1848 (in which Marx participated) and on the nature of property in the nineteenth century, both of which led me to the conclusion that many of the standard ideas about Marx suffer from an overdose of contemporaneousness. One of the major points of the work will be to portray the communist revolutionary not as our contemporary but as a figure of the nineteenth century, an era quite different from ours. The book is entitled, Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life, and will be appearing with a trade publisher (rather than a university or textbook press), Horace Liveright, an imprint of the New York publishing house W.W. Norton, in March 2013. About the same time, a German-language version, Karl Marx: sein Leben, sein Jahrhundert will be published by the C.H. Beck Verlag in Munich. Spanish and Brazilian editions are in the works.
As I think about future projects, my interests have been turning increasingly toward the more recent past, the second half of the twentieth century. I am currently exploring two new ideas. One is a book about the city of Berlin between the airlift of 1949 and the building of the Wall in 1961, the only place in the world during the highpoint of the Cold War that the two hostile power blocs shared the same space. Another idea is more ambitious: a global history of the entire second half of the twentieth century, the years 1945 to 2001.
Property and Civil Society in South-Western Germany, 1820-1914, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Edited, Germany 1800-1870. “Short Oxford History of Germany.” Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
“Reforms, Movements for Reform, and Possibilities of Reform: Comparing Britain and Continental Europe,” in Arthur Burns and Joanna Innes (eds.), Rethinking the Age of Reform: Britain 1780-1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 312-30.
Among the courses I teach regularly are History 2520, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, History 4670, Modern Germany, 1750-1918 and History 4680, Germany in the Twentieth Century. On occasion, I also teach History 1510, the History of Modern Europe since the French Revolution, History 4470, Quantitative Methods in Historical Study, History 8570, Graduate Readings in Modern European History, and History 4971, the undergraduate seminar in modern European history.
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Department of History ... College of Arts and Science ... University of Missouri