Professor Corey Ross MA, PhD

Professor Corey Ross

Department of History
Professor of Modern History

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am Professor of Modern History. My primary research interests are in global environmental history and modern European social and cultural history.


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 recently held a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and am currently (2018-21) on a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship.  From January to June 2021 I will take up the Vincent Wright Chair at Sciences-Po Paris.  I was previously Head of the History Department and from 2012-2017 was Head of the School of History and Cultures.  I am closely involved in the Centre for Modern and Contemporary History and the Birmingham Seminar for Environmental Humanities


I am currently on research leave, but normally teach, among other things, 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’. 

Postgraduate supervision

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.  I am currently supervising two PhD students: one working on the social and environmental history of oil exploitation and refining in Algeria and France (with Simon Jackson), and one working on processes of democratization in Germany in the late 1980s-early 1990s (with Jan Palmowski, Univ. of Warwick).

Find out more - our PhD History  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My broad interests are in global environmental history, the history of empire, and the social and cultural history of twentieth-century Europe. My last book was an environmental history of the heyday of European imperialism, from roughly 1880 through the end of the colonial period to the present (Ecology and Power in the Age of Empire, 2017; winner of the 2018 George Louis Beer Prize, AHA). The book explores the environmental transformations and interconnections associated with the explosive growth of commodity production and global trade in the tropical regions under European (mainly British, French, German, Dutch, Belgian) control - transformations that still visibly shape our world today - and how they fitted into broader patterns of social, cultural and political change.

I am currently writing a book (tentatively titled Liquid Empire) on the history of European empire through the lens of water.  Focusing temporally on the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries, and geographically on the European colonies of Asia and Africa, it tells the story of how different technologies, institutions, and forms of knowledge transformed human engagements with water in the colonial world, and how aquatic nature was reshaped in the process—with lasting consequences for the post-colonial world 

My previous research has focused on a variety subjects: the history of mass communications, publicity and popular culture; the global history of preservation, and the history of post-war Germany. In 2015 I co-edited (with Paul Betts) a Past & Present supplement 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 2008 I published 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 Imperial period through the Third Reich. I also co-edited a volume (with Karl-Christian Führer) on media and society in 20th-century Germany, and another volume (with Fabrice d’Almeida and Pamela Swett) on pleasure and power under National Socialism, which explores the role of consumption, tourism, amusements, and luxury goods in sustaining, and at times undermining, Nazi authority.  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.



  • Ecology and Power in the Age of Empire: Europe and the Transformation of the Tropical World (Oxford University Press, 2017).
  • with P. Betts, (eds), Heritage in the Modern World: Historical Preservation in Global PerspectivePast & Present Supplement no. 10 (Oxford University Press, 2015).
  • with P. Swett, F. d'Almeida (eds), Pleasure and Power in Nazi Germany (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011).
  • Media and the Making of Modern Germany: Mass Communications, Society and Politics from the Empire to the Third Reich (Oxford University Press 2008).
  • with K. C. Führer (eds), Mass Media, Culture and Society in Twentieth-century Germany (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006).
  • The East German Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives in the Interpretation of the GDR (London: Arnold, 2002).
  • Constructing Socialism at the Grass-Roots: The Transformation of East Germany, 1945-65 (London: Macmillan, 2000). 

Journal articles, issues

  • (forthcoming) ‘Nature, Labour, and the Making of Ecological Peripheries’, International Review of Social History vol. 63 (2020).
  • (co-edited special issue) with F. Uekötter, Nature and Nations, International Journal for History, Culture, Modernity vol. 7 (2019).
  • ‘The Plantation Paradigm: Colonial Agronomy, African Farmers and the Global Cocoa Boom, 1870s-1940s’, Journal of Global History vol. 9 (2014), 49-71.
  • ‘The Tin Frontier: Mining, Empire and Environment in Southeast Asia, 1870s-1930s’, Environmental History vol. 19 (July 2014), 454-79.
  • ‘Zwischen geteilter Kultur und zerteilter Gesellschaft: Zur Sozialgeschichte der neuen Medien in der Weimarer Republik’, Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht vol. 62 no. 9/10 (Sept/Oct 2011), 530-45
  • ‘La professionnalisation de la publicité et de la propagande dans l’Allemagne de Weimar’, Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’Histoire, no. 101 (Jan-Mar. 2009), 9-26.
  • ‘Writing the Media into History: Recent Works on the History of Mass Communications in Germany’, German History, vol. 26, no. 2 (2008), 299-313.
  • ‘Mass Culture and Divided Audiences: Cinema and Social Change in Inter-war Germany’, Past & Present, no. 193 (Nov. 2006), 157-95.
  • ‘Mass Politics and the Techniques of Leadership: The Promise and Perils of Propaganda in Weimar Germany’, German History, vol. 24, no. 2 (2006), 184-211.
  • ‘East Germans and the Berlin Wall: Popular Opinion and Political Authority Before and After the Border Closure of August 1961’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 39, no. 1 (2004), 25-43.
  • ‘Zwischen politischer Gestaltung und sozialer Komplexität. Überlegungen zur Debatte über die Sozialgeschichte der DDR’, Jahrbuch für historische Kommunismusforschung, vol. 11 (2003), 140-64.
  • ‘Before the Wall: East Germans, Communist Authority, and the Mass Exodus to the West’, Historical Journal, vol. 45, no. 2 (2002), 459-80.
  • ‘Grundmerkmal oder Randerscheinung? Zum Stellenwert von Opposition und Dissenz in der DDR-Geschichte’, Deutschland Archiv, vol. 35, no. 5 (Sept./Oct. 2002), 747-60.
  • ‘“Sonst sehe ich mich veranlasst, auch nach dem Westen zu ziehen”: Zum Zusammenhang von Republikflucht, SED-Herrschaft und DDR-Bevölkerung vor dem Mauerbau’, Deutschland Archiv, vol. 34, no. 4 (2001), 613-27.

Chapters in books

  • (forthcoming) ‘The Better Angels of Which Nature? Violence and Environmental History in the Modern World’, in: Philip Dwyer, Mark S. Micale (eds), The Darker Angels of Our Nature: History, Violence, and the Steven Pinker Controversy (London: Bloomsbury, 2020).
  • (forthcoming) ‘Earth: The Lithosphere in the Age of Commodities’, in: Stephen Mosley (ed.), A Cultural History of the Environment: Volume 5, The Age of Commodities (London: Bloomsbury, 2021).
  • (forthcoming) ‘Commodities, Trade, and Ecological Transformation in the Modern Era’, in: William Clarence-Smith, Jonathan Curry-Machado, Jean Stubbs, Jelmer Vos (eds), Oxford Handbook of Commodity History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021).
  • ‘Developing the Rainforest: Rubber, Environment and Economy in Southeast Asia’, in: Gareth Austin (ed.), Economic Development and Environmental History in the Anthropocene: Perspectives from Asia and Africa (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 199-218.
  • ‘Tropical Nature as Global Patrimoine: Imperialism and International Nature Protection in the Early Twentieth Century’, in P. Betts, C. Ross (eds), Heritage in the Modern World: Historical Preservation in Global Perspective (supplement of the journal Past & Present, 2015), 214-39.
  • with P. Betts, ‘Modern Historical Preservation: Towards a Global Perspective’, in P. Betts, C. Ross (eds), Heritage in the Modern World: Historical Preservation in Global Perspective (supplement of the journal Past & Present, 2015), 7-26.
  • ‘ Mass Media and Commercial Entertainments in Germany and Britain: Global Change and National Contexts before the Second World War’, in: Christiane Eisenberg, Andreas Gestrich (eds), Cultural Industries in Britain and Germany (Augsburg: Wissner, 2012), 92-109.  
  • ‘Cinema, Radio and “Mass Culture” in the Weimar Republic: Between Shared Experience and Social Division’, in: J. A. Williams (ed.), Revisiting Weimar Culture (New York: Palgrave, 2011), 23-48.
  • ‘Radio, Film and Morale: Wartime Entertainment between Mobilization and Distraction’, in: C. Ross, F. d’Almeida, P. Swett (eds), Pleasure, Power in Nazi Germany (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011), 154-74.
  • with F. d’Almeida, P. Swett, ‘Introduction: Pleasure and Power under National Socialism’, in: idem (eds), Pleasure and Power in Nazi Germany (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2011), 1-15.
  • ‘Visions of Prosperity: The Americanization of Advertising in Inter-war Germany’, in: P. Swett, J. Wiesen, J. Zatlin (eds.), Selling Modernity: Advertising in Twentieth-Century Germany (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 52-77.
  • ‘Entertainment, Technology and Tradition: The Rise of Recorded Music from the Empire to the Third Reich’, in: K. C. Führer, C. Ross (eds.), Mass Media, Culture and Society in Twentieth-century Germany, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006), 25-43.
  • with K. C. Führer, ‘Mass Media, Culture and Society in Twentieth-Century Germany: An Introduction’, in: K. C. Führer, C. Ross (eds), Mass Media, Culture and Society in Twentieth-century Germany (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006), 1-22.
  • ‘Projecting England, Selling Germany: Propaganda, Public Relations and Advertising after the First World War’, in: Arnd Bauerkämper, Christiane Eisenberg (eds), Britain as a Model of Modern Society? German Views, (Augsburg: Wißner-Verlag, 2006), 205-23.
  • ‘Historians, Unification and the “New National Paradigm”’, in: J. Breuilly, R. Speirs (eds.), The Two German Unifications: A Comparative Analysis, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004), 261-73.
  • ‘“Wird der Frieden nicht am Werkbank verteidigt?” Die Soldatenwerbung in der DDR in den 50er und frühen 60er Jahren’, in: Hans Ehlert, Matthias Rogg (eds), Militär, Staat und Gesellschaft in der DDR. Forschungsfelder, Ergebnisse, Perspektiven, (Berlin: Ch. Links, 2004), 439-57.
  • ‘“Protecting the Accomplishments of Socialism?”: The Militarization of the GDR’, in: Patrick Major, Jonathan Osmond (eds), The Workers’ and Peasants’ State: Communism and Society in East Germany, 1945-71, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), 78-93.

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