I am interested in the intersection between social and military history and especially in the social and cultural impact of warfare in Europe. I have worked on a wide-range of subjects, from German political culture and national identity, to POW and veterans’ affairs, to the role of film in illuminating historical consciousness. My most recent manuscript Dragonslayer, the Legend of Erich Ludendorff in the Weimar Republic and Third Reich will appear with Cornell University Press in April 2021. Dragonslayer argues that despite Erich Ludendorff’s interwar political failures and relative personal isolation, he remained a powerful symbol of Germany’s past military prowess and the embodiment of many Germans’ fantasies of revenge for the lost war. The work follows Ludendorff’s life from the end of the war until his death in 1937 and traces the construction of a legend around him that gives insight into the political cultures of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich.
A new project, in its infancy, is a transnational study of the military and sports in the twentieth century. It grows out of my first book, where I encountered the strange fact that the association of Afrika Korps veterans staged an annual game of football (soccer) against a British 8th Army team. By the late 1950s, the aging veterans called off the contest against the (unaging) British conscripts. Having seen CSKA Moscow play when it was still the official team of the Soviet Army and attended numerous American football and hockey games while a visiting professor at the United States Air Force Academy, I began to wonder how armed forces justified the expense of sports teams and why soldiers (and veterans) participated. Some of the answers are obvious. Sports builds fitness, promotes teamwork and aggressiveness. For soldiers, sports represent some small escape from military routine and an enjoyable leisure time activity. Those varied aims produce friction that I believe will reveal something of the nature of armed forces as both formal institutions using violence and as individuals and small groups pursuing their own aims. For the Afrika Korps veterans, for example, the football match exemplified the supposedly “fair fight” that they and Rommel had waged in North Africa in contrast to the “war of annihilation” that occurred on the Eastern Front. Since sports also resonate in the broader society, the study of these activities will allow me to trace the adaptation of armed forces to a globalizing world.
I offer courses on European social, military, and film history. I can prepare graduate students in both German social and military history, or provide guidance to those interested in Europe as a primary or comparative field. I especially enjoy teaching comparative courses which seek to understand the way in which modern societies organize for and are transformed by war.