Research Projects

Press and Politics in West Germany: the Papers of Countess Marion Dönhoff (Current)

(See Home Page)

The German Weekly Die Zeit and the Bonn Republic, 1946-1989

Die Zeit, West Germany’s leading weekly, embodied the country’s twisted path from a post-dictatorial society to a more liberal country. Sixty years ago, Die Zeit was founded under the supervision of the British occupation authorities in Hamburg. Taking the name from The Times and copying the layout of Goebbel’s intellectual paper Das Reich, Die Zeit was initially a nationalist paper, which agitated against parliamentary democracy and the Nuremberg trials. However, under the influence of David Astor’s friend Marion Dönhöff and the Cambridge graduate Rudolf Walter Leonhard, it changed its position, popularising British debating culture and attracting contributions from the highest echelons of the Western establishment (Helmut Schmidt, Ralf Dahrendorf etc.) and finally setting the pace for new ideas on détente and on social and political reform. Die Zeit provides a unique angle to analyse the wider liberalisation of West German bourgeois milieus between 1949 and 1989.

 

Institutes of International Affairs, 1920-1973

After the First World War, members of the British, American and German delegations to the Paris Peace Conference founded the British Institute of International Affairs, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Hamburger Institut für Auswärtige Politik. The experts on foreign affairs believed that it was possible to use scientific research to engineer German democracy and to stabilise the global political and economic system. They organised transnational meetings such as the Königswinter Conferences in order to strengthen international law, free trade and parliamentary democracy. This book traces the impact of the institutes on Germany after the two World Wars from the Paris Peace Conference to the fall of the Weimar Republic and from post-war reconstruction to Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik. It charts a new history of the Western institutes and the post-war Königswinter Conferences and argues that the pragmatic internationalism embraced by these think tanks contributed to a fundamental liberalisation of the Federal Republic’s foreign policy.

 

Debating Foreign Affairs: The Public and British Foreign Policy

What role did public debates play in British foreign policy since 1867? This was the central question, which guided a an international conference in Mülheim and a volume of essays. Among historians, a consensus has evolved that domestic change (democratisation, the rise of new social classes), the development of media and communication technologies (The Times, telegraph), and external influences (imperial rivalries) have changed the way British foreign policy has been debated, conducted, and executed with regard to the public since 1867. Studies on the national media, British discourses, classes, ‘elite and public opinion’, politicians, or institutions usually contribute to our understanding of the British domestic agenda. However, attempts to combine and compare these studies are a rarity. The aim of the project was to bring together the latest research on 19th and 20th century foreign policy debates to contribute to our understanding of the long-term evolution of the relationship between the public and British foreign policy since 1867. To sharpen the focus, the contributions have mainly been limited to the so-called ‘attentive’ or ‘informed public’. This is constituted by party committees, parliamentarians, newspapers, researchers, and interest groups. Within the research groups, scholars from Germany and Great Britain, among them John MacKenzie, Anne Deighton, Daniel Gossel, Jürgen Elvert, and Gottfried Niedhart, assessed the impact of mass media, bilateral societies, conferences, news management, and party debates on British foreign policy since 1867. The case studies ranged from imperial propaganda and Beaverbrook’s Empire Crusade to the vexed questions of German rearmament and European integration in the second half of the 20th century. The proceedings of the conference have been published by Christian Haase. (See publications)

 

British-German Relations in the 19th and 20th Century

Prof. Mommsen, one of Germany's most prominent historians, asked me to work at his research assistant and entrusted editorial work for one of his edited books on 19th and 20th century British-German relations to me. The background research, which I conducted, concerned British-German security relations, European integration, and post-war relations (See publications). The significance of this book lies in the multidisciplinary approach to the British-German relations in the 19th and 20th century, taking into account cultural transfers and comparative history.

 

System Change and Everyday-History: Berlin in the 20th Century

The research project 'political culture and system change' analysed the reflection of system changes in German history in the biographies of Germans of Jewish faith, on which I published my first article. The significance of the research project was to explore patterns in the biographical construction of historical memory depending on ascribed racial categories in Nazi Germany. (See publications)