Generational Perspectives on Modern German History: From Sonderweg to Global Networks

German Historical Institute London
Heather Jones, University College London; David Jünger / Claudia Siebrecht, University of Sussex; Daniel Steinbach, University of Copenhagen
Daniel Steinbach

In honour of Professor Alan Kramer, Trinity College Dublin

With the kind support of:
The German Historical Institute; The Department of History, University College London; The German History Society; The Sussex Weidenfeld Institute Centre for German-Jewish Studies; the DAAD; The University of Sussex Research Opportunities Fund

In the past twenty years, the idea of assessing generational influences upon historical actors has become well-established in both German and Anglophone historiography. This approach can be defined as the in-depth study of how membership of a specific demographic age cohort influences a historical actor’s cultural beliefs and behaviour and how distinct collective patterns can be seen emerging within and across generational cohorts in historical periods that differ to those of other generational segments living at the same time. The theoretical basis for this kind of approach to writing history was already pioneered by the 1990s with the work of Neil Howe and William Strauss. It has much older antecedents in Karl Mannheim’s 1928 sociology work on the ‘Problem der Generationen.’ The conceptual basis for the study of generations in history is also well developed.

However, a generational methodology has rarely been applied scientifically to historians themselves. While there has been some reference to generation and its effects upon historians’ interests and writings – for example in discussions around the French Annales School which is often considered in terms of four ‘generations’ or Jay Winter and Antoine Prost’s work to divide the historiography of the First World War of the past hundred years into generational groups – there has been no broader comparative attempt to explore how generation has shaped historians of twentieth century Germany working in both the UK, Ireland and Germany itself. This matters both in terms of thematic ideas that have shaped German history debates and in terms of the rise of new methodologies. What is the connection (if any) between the major ideas that have emerged in the historiography during this period, such as the Sonderweg, to the birth cohort of the historians who espoused them? In more recent times, what is the relationship between the rise of first, comparative, entangled and transnational history, and second, global history, approaches and the historians who developed these new methodologies? How did the spread of gender history, from the late 1970s-early 1980s onwards, map onto generational divides? What is the future of generational distinctions as the large tranche of historians of modern and contemporary German History hired during the expansion of European universities in the late-1960s and 1970s retire? And what new trends are currently emerging that illustrate future generational cohort approaches among historians? This one-day conference will assess these questions.



9.30 – 9.50: Conference Introduction
The problématique: applying a generational cohort approach to historians of modern German history.
Speakers: Claudia Siebrecht, Heather Jones, Daniel Steinbach

First session: The ‘Sonderweg’ Generation
Chair: Gerhard Wolf
Speakers: Michael Wildt, Svenja Bethke,

11.00-11.20 Coffee Break

11.20 - 12.35:
Second session: The 1968 and Post-1968 Generation
Chair: Anthony McElligott,
Speakers: Gerhard Hirschfeld, Alan Kramer, Paul Betts

12.35 – 13.45 Lunch

13.45 - 15.00:
Third session: The Rise of the Global History Generation
Chair: Mark Jones,
Speakers: Tanja Buehrer, Dirk Moses, David Motadel

15.00-15.20 Coffee break

15.20 - 16.45 Round Table ‘Generations and Agendas in German History’
Chair: Alan Kramer
Speakers: Richard Evans, Nick Stargardt, Christina von Hodenberg

With a concluding comment by Alan Kramer


Heather Jones, University College London
Claudia Siebrecht, University of Sussex
Daniel Steinbach, University of Copenhagen

Generational Perspectives on Modern German History: From Sonderweg to Global Networks, 09.07.2019 London, in: H-Soz-Kult, 21.06.2019, <>.