I had the pleasure of leading a small group of North American graduate students on a two-week archival seminar in 2013 and 2014, a then long-running GHI program that has since been discontinued. The idea was to familiarize students with Germany’s archival landscape as well as to give them an opportunity to learn a type of German handwriting called Kurrentschrift. Clelia Caruso organized the first of these, and I organized the second.
Below are the history courses I have taught in and around Washington, DC, in the past twenty years or so. See also the teaching category on my blog.
Courses at George Mason University, since 2006
Hist 100: Western Civilization
I taught many different versions of this course between 2006 and 2013. Trained in European history and with only one semester to work with each time, I tended to focus on the early modern and modern eras, although sometimes I ranged further back. Here are some syllabus samples:
This was the first project in which I brought together social history, cultural history, and war. It began as an investigation into why Bavarian soldiers earned a reputation for atrocities in 1870–71. The need to explain both their good and their terrible relations with French civilians led me to consider factors such as social background, gender norms, nationalism, identity, morale, leadership, discipline, logistics, personal and tactical security, and normative images of war. There is still a lot to unpack in this emblematic and instructive moment in the modern history of war and society.
My dissertation research into Wilhelm Groener was initially a social and cultural history of the Imperial German officer corps on the eve of World War One. The more I learned about Groener’s work, though, the more important military culture and expertise became in their own right. Thus, my dissertation deals with officering and war-planning in two distinct sections.
A powerful need to earn a living keeps coming between me and the further inquiry needed to bring these two levels of analysis together, but I continue to be interested in questions of culture, expertise, and war, on the one hand, and the complicated social operations of cognition, on the other. Meanwhile, I have made my dissertation available on the open web, starting with the Internet Archive and then adding it to Humanities Commons.
While pursuing my MA in Augsburg, Germany, I had the opportunity to participate in a political science seminar in which we examined a variety of texts known as “mirrors for princes,” texts that taught one how to rule or how to raise a future ruler.
The occasion for the topic was the university’s acquisition of a wonderful old library, the Oettingen-Wallersteinsche Bibliothek. Each seminar participant was able to work with an original in this library. After the seminar, we wrote biographical texts to contextualize our mirrors for princes, and we selected excerpts from these sources to go with our analysis. The result was Fürstenspiegel der Frühen Neuzeit, edited by Hans-Otto Mühleisen, Theo Stammen, and Michael Philipp (Frankfurt a.M.: Insel Verlag, 1997).
My specific contribution to that collection was “Christof Vischer: Wie man junge Fürsten und Herren aufferzihen solle, 1573,” pp. 219–27 (biography and interpretation) and pp. 228–51 (excerpts).
Nowadays it is possible to view a high-quality scan of Vischer’s book online at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, which is where I obtained the screenshots featured on this page.
While on staff at the German Historical Institute from 2010 to 2021, I sometimes took on short-term projects outside of my regular obligations. These publications required varying degrees of involvement, depending on author needs and my availability.
Simone Lässig, “History, Memory, and Symbolic Boundaries in the Federal Republic of Germany: Migrants and Migration in School History Textbooks,” in Migration, Memory, and Diversity: Germany from 1945 to the Present, ed. Cornelia Wilhelm (New York: Berghahn Books, 2016), chap. 5.
Jan C. Jansen, “Creating National Heroes: Colonial Rule, Anticolonial Politics, and Conflicting Memories of Emir ’Abd al-Qadir in Algeria, 1900s–1960s,” History and Memory 28, no. 2 (2016): 3–46, https://doi.org/10.2979/histmemo.28.2.0003.
Hartmut Berghoff, Jürgen Kocka, and Dieter Ziegler, “Introduction: Business in the Age of Extremes in Central Europe,” in Business in the Age of Extremes: Essays in Modern German and Austrian Economic History, ed. idem (New York: Cambridge University Press and German Historical Institute Washington DC, 2013), 1–12. (cotranslator)
Uwe Spiekermann, “Redefining Food: The Standardization of Products and Production in Europe and the United States, 1880–1914,” History and Technology 27, no. 1 (2011): 11–36, https://doi.org/10.1080/07341512.2011.548971.
Arndt Engelhardt and Ines Prodöhl, “Introduction” to “Kaleidoscopic Knowledge: On Jewish and Other Encyclopedias,” special section, ed. Engelhardt and Prodöhl, Jahrbuch des Simon-Dubnow-Instituts/Simon Dubnow Institute Yearbook 9 (2010): 233–45. (cotranslator)
Jan Logemann and Uwe Spiekermann, “The Myth of a Bygone Cash Economy: Consumer Lending in Germany from the Nineteenth Century to the Mid-Twentieth Century,” Entreprises et Histoire 59, no. 2 (2010): 12–27, https://doi.org/10.3917/eh.059.0012.