Since arriving at Birmingham in 1998, I've held an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship in Berlin, a J. Walter Thompson Fellowship at Duke University and was Professeur invité at the Université Paris-II. I am currently Head of the School of History and Cultures at Birmingham, and am closely involved in the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary History.
I currently teach a final-year undergraduate Special Subject on ‘Imperialism and the Global Environment’ and co-teach the two core modules of the MA in Contemporary History: ‘Mass Society and Modernity’ and ‘Globalization since 1945’. I also supervise or co-supervise a number of PhD and Master’s students, as well as a handful of undergraduates writing their final-year dissertations.
I am able to offer postgraduate supervision in a number of areas, including various aspects of European and global environmental history since the late 19th century, the history of the media and publicity in twentieth-century Europe, and the social and cultural history of Germany since the late nineteenth century.
My broad interests are in global environmental history and the social and cultural history of twentieth-century Europe. I am currently working on an environmental history of the heyday of European imperialism, from roughly 1880 to 1960. The project explores the environmental transformations and interconnections associated with the explosive growth of commodity production and global trade in the tropical regions under European control - transformations that still visibly shape our world today - and how they fitted into broader patterns of social, cultural and political change. This concerns not only the impact of European (British, French, German, Dutch, Belgian) attempts to harness tropical ecosystems for economic gain, but also the role of indigenous patterns of resource use and colonial conservation efforts. I am also currently co-editing, with Paul Betts, a volume on ‘Heritage in the Modern World’, which reconsiders the role of historical preservation (of both the man-made and the ‘natural’) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from a global perspective.
In a wholly different vein, I have recently co-edited a book (with Fabrice d’Almeida and Pamela Swett) on pleasure and power under National Socialism, which explores the role of consumption, tourism, amusements, luxury goods and the like in sustaining, and at times undermining, Nazi authority.
My previous research has had two principal foci: the history of mass communications, publicity and popular culture; and the history of the former East Germany. In 2008 I completed a social history of the mass media in Germany which focuses on how the rapid expansion of modern communications and commercial entertainment fitted into the wider development of social, political and cultural life from the late Imperial period (c. 1890s) through the Third Reich. I also co-edited a volume with Karl-Christian Führer on media and society in 20th-century Germany. Prior to that, my first book explored the building of socialism in East Germany ‘from below’, and my second book offered the first overview of historiographic debates surrounding East Germany and its legacy.