Christian Goeschel

Dr

  • Room N2.9 Samuel Alexander Building, History, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester

    M13 9PL Manchester

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Personal profile

Biography

I am an expert of modern Europe, with a principal focus on Italy and modern Germany. I have a strong interest in the comparative and transnational history of twentieth-century Europe and am increasingly interested in the history of Europe in the world.

Before joining the University of Manchester, I worked for several years at Birkbeck, University of London, and the Australian National University. I read History at the University of York as an undergraduate and did postgraduate research at the University of Cambridge where I obtained my M.Phil. and Ph.D.

 I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a former Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence. 

 At Manchester, I lead the 'Politics, Institutions, and Ideas' research group, together with Prof. Frank Mort. We also lead the Cultures of Diplomacy research network, together with Dr Thomas Tunstall-Allcock.  

Outside Manchester, I co-convene the international Rethinking Modern Europe seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and sit on the editorial advisory board of European History Quarterly.

 

Research interests

My research focuses on the history of Europe in the twentieth century, with a particular, but not exclusive interest in Germany and Italy. I study the intersection of politics with culture and society in a European and global perspective. 

 

My work to date, based on several years of fieldwork in Germany and Italy and informed by years of teaching the wide spectrum of modern European and global history to undergraduate and postgraduate students, has covered the following broad areas:

1. In my earlier work on Suicide in Nazi Germany (Oxford University Press, 2009, German translation, Suhrkamp Verlag, 2011), I examined the Third Reich’s end in an orgy of self-immolation and explored how these events fit into the wider pattern of self-destruction in Modern Germany. I developed a new methodology for the historical analysis of suicide, by exploring suicide at three distinct, but interrelated levels: the social, the discursive and the individual-emotional. I proposed a new social and cultural history, one firmly grounded within both theory and social structures, while also bringing back the individual into the analysis. 

2. Together with Nikolaus Wachsmann, I examined repression in pre-war Nazi Germany. Based on archival fieldwork in Germany, Britain and the USA, it prompted further research into discipline and terror in modern dictatorships as well as throwing light on the causes of genocide. The results were a book The Nazi Camps, 1933-1939: A Documentary History (Nebraska University Press, 2012) and a 2010 special issue of the Journal of Contemporary History.

3. Following my work on repression in Nazi Germany, I developed an interest in organised crime in Germany from 1918 to the aftermath of defeat in 1945. I explored this subject with a two-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Birkbeck, University of London. In May 2013, I published a major article in the History Workshop Journal. My interest in this theme was driven partly by one of the longest-lasting myths about the Third Reich that whatever bad things Hitler and the Nazis did, at least they clamped down on crime. Yet networks of organised crime survived the Nazi takeover of power in 1933 and continued to exist throughout the Third Reich and the post-war period when they played a major role on the black market. This fact casts into doubt that the Nazis ever managed to control all aspects of German everyday life. While working on this project, I became increasingly aware of the necessity to extend my work’s scope beyond Germany. After all, organised crime was and is a global phenomenon. Particularly the rich Italian literature on the mafia prompted me to think about the connections between Italian and German crime syndicates. 

4. As a result of my interest in transnational connections between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, I have recently completed a major monograph Mussolini and Hitler: The Forging of the Fascist Alliance, published by Yale University Press in August 2018 and by Tantor Media as an audio book. The book, based on several years of fieldwork in Italy and Germany, has been translated into German, Italian, Danish, and Arabic, Romanian and Brazilian. In the book, I propose a history of ‘fascist entanglement’, which is more than a comparative history. I study the crossovers and exchanges amongst both leaders and their regimes, Europe’s first and most significant fascist dictatorships. Through a study of this relationship, I address some of the central interpretative problems involved in exploring these regimes and their leaders: I focus on the rituals, ceremonies, gestures and material culture surrounding the Mussolini-Hitler relationship and argue that these aspects constituted political outcomes. Seemingly peripheral aspects of politics, such as photographs, newsreel, illustrated magazines and books, dress codes, gift exchanges, salutations, and meeting venues helped to create the Axis alliance as a menacing display of friendship and unity. I aim to overcome the increasingly self-referential debates on ‘generic fascism’ by examining the prototypical fascist diplomatic relationship, one constructed by the Fascist and Nazi regimes as an ‘emotive friendship’ which rested largely on a propaganda construction of ‘face-to-face’ meetings. This style of diplomacy, which represented the alleged friendship of Mussolini and Hitler, two supposedly ordinary young men, was constructed by the regimes in contradistinction to the allegedly secretive diplomacy of the ‘Western plutocracies’, led by old privileged men. I thus demonstrate that the aggressive Nazi-Fascist New Order found its representation in a new style of face-to-face, masculine diplomacy that destroyed the liberal international system manifested by the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations.

5. I have organized a number of international conferences in Australia, Italy, Germany, and Britain. I have established, with Professor Naoko Shimazu (Yale/NUS, ARI, Singapore) a network on the global cultural history of diplomacy, and with Dr Hannah Malone (Max Planck Institute for the History of Emotions, Berlin) a network on the transnational and comparative cultural history of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

6. I enjoy explaining my research on Europe to general audiences via newspapers and magazines, public lectures, and TV programmes. For instance, in 2019, I was one of the featured expert commentators on the three-part BBC 2 TV programme on the ‘Rise of the Nazis' (broadcast on PBS in 2020 and on ZDF in 2021). I was also historical consultant for an episode of Italy's flagship History TV series La Grande Storia that was informed by my published work on Mussolini and Hitler.

I welcome inquiries from students interested in doing research on the history of modern Germany and Italy and on the cultural history of diplomacy.

 
 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Areas of expertise

  • DD Germany
  • Nazi Germany; Weimar Germany
  • DG Italy
  • Fascism

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