Professor Frank Uekotter

Professor Frank Uekotter

Department of History
Honorary Research Fellow

I am a Professor of Environmental Humanities working on environmental issues, both past and present, in a global context.


  • PhD Bielefeld University, 2001
  • Habilitation, Bielefeld University, 2009


I studied history, political science and the social sciences at the universities of Freiburg and Bielefeld in Germany, the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA. I earned, or at any rate was awarded, a PhD from Bielefeld University in 2001, where I continued to work for several years. Among other things, I organized a conference on the environmental history of Nazi Germany for the German ministry for the environment and spent some time at the German Historical Institute in Washington DC in 2005.

I moved to Munich in 2006, helped by a generous Dilthey grant from the Volkswagen Foundation. I taught at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University and helped to build the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, an institute for advanced studies in the environmental humanities run in collaboration by Munich University and the Deutsches Museum. It is during these years that I realized that environmental history, in addition to being an exciting field of historical scholarship, holds a huge potential for ongoing environmental debates. I also moved beyond my primary focus on German and U.S. history towards a more global perspective on the past. I joined Birmingham University in September 2013.


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. "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.


Recent publications


Uekötter, F 2021, Einfach war Gestern: Über Umweltpolitik in unruhigen Zeiten. 1 edn, Oekom Verlag. <>

Uekötter, F 2020, Der deutsche Kanal: Eine Mythologie der alten Bundesrepublik. 1 edn, Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart. <>

Uekötter, F 2020, Im Strudel: Eine Umweltgeschichte der modernen Welt. Campus, Frankfurt. <>


Uekötter, F 2022, 'Proxy wars: the Deutsches Museum and the peaceful atom', Technikgeschichte, vol. 89, no. 1, pp. 63 - 86.

Uekötter, F 2022, 'The revolt of the chemists: biofuels, agricultural overproduction and the chemurgy movement in New Deal America', History and Technology, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 429-445.

Uekötter, F 2021, 'How the Greens went mainstream' Foreign Policy. <>

Uekötter, F 2021, 'Umweltgeschichte in Umbruchszeiten: von der Entgrenzung eines Forschungsfeldes', Geschichte für heute, vol. 14, no. 1, 1, pp. 7-22.

Uekötter, F 2020, 'Von den großen zahlen, dem stillen sterben und der sprachlosigkeit der menschheit: Eine kurze geschichte des artenschutzes', Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte.

Uekötter, F 2019, 'Der Wald im Zeitalter seiner medialen Reproduzierbarkeit: Wenn man vor lauter Wäldern den Baum nicht mehr erkennt', Indes. Zeitschrift für Politik und Gesellschaft, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 35-41.

Ross, C & Uekötter, F 2019, 'Introduction', HCM. International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity, vol. 7, pp. 737-740.

Uekötter, F 2019, 'Umweltpolitische erfolge und misserfolge der zivilgesellschaft: von der nachhaltigkeit der revolte', Politische Ökologie, vol. 156, pp. 17-23. <>

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Uekötter, F 2020, It's the Entanglements, Stupid. in Journal for the History of Environment and Society. vol. 5, pp. 103-111. <>


Uekötter, F 2019, Halbwertszeiten: Das friedliche Atom als Mikrokosmos der bundesdeutschen Geschichte. in S Brandt & T Dame (eds), Kernkraftwerke: Denkmalwerte und Erhaltungschancen. Notebooks of the German National Committee, vol. 68, ICOMOS, Berlin, pp. 25-30.

Uekötter, F 2019, Halbwertszeiten: Das friedliche Atom als Mikrokosmus der bundesdeutschen Geschichte. in Kernkraftwerke: Denkmalwerte und Erhaltungschancen. Berlin, pp. 25-30.


Uekötter, F 2022, 'Roundtable: should agricultural historians care about the new materialism', Agricultural History, vol. 96, no. 1-2, pp. 223–224.

View all publications in research portal