I work on the bare necessities of life: the food we eat, the energy we consume, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the raw materials that underpin the world of modern technology. We usually take it for granted in Western post-war societies that these things are cheap and abundant, but that situation is exceptional: for most of human history, stuff was precious, scarce, and the cause of endless conflicts. Historians tend to be negligent about these essentials in an age of abundance, but that is a Eurocentric perspective. In the Global South, a history without material stuff never made much sense.
Bringing stuff back in requires rearrangements in scholarly boundaries. I used to call myself an environmental historian, but I have grown somewhat disaffected with that name (though I still run the Birmingham Seminar for Environmental Humanities [BISEMEH])."Environment" evokes thinking in terms of side effects, as if the core business of resource allocation was the province of other academic pursuits such as agricultural history, mining history, forest history, etc. It is time to write on a grander canvas, and that is what I did in recent years. You can see outlines of this new history in my opus magnum, a materialistic history of the modern world. This book is out in German ("Im Strudel"), and I hope to have the English original published soon.
The recent crisis of Western democracy has triggered an ongoing project that explores new approaches to political history. Centred on Germany but with wider ambitions, I work on what one might call a "post-heroic" history of democracy. Looked upon closely, democracy is really complicated, and it needs to succeed in more than one respect - but you would not know that from quite a few books where it is clear from page one who the good guys are. I am currently working on a history of nuclear power in Germany, which I am writing as a model for this new history of democracy.
Finally, I have always worked at the interface of history and current affairs. I am the author of numerous outreach publication, I write an op-ed column for the German news site Focus Online, and as convener of Birmingham's Contemporary History MA, I have started a video blog in the Spring of 2021, where I provide historical commentary on matters of the day. See an overview of these videos and some additional information.