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My research weaves together political, intellectual, economic, and business history to investigate Germany's place in the world - and what German history reveals about the history of imperialism, international order, globalization, and global economic governance. In addition to my dissertation, I maintain an interest in the history of liberalism in Germany, the history of Germans in Latin America, and the long histories of empire, trade, and the "Great Divergence." Below are some of my more recent projects. 

Shaping an Interconnected World: Hamburg, Germany, and the Transformation of Interdependence, 1880-1974


Photo: Staatsarchiv Hamburg.

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My dissertation, “Shaping an Interconnected World: Hamburg, Germany, and the Transformation of Interdependence, 1880-1974,” is a history of Germany’s political and economic interactions with the world told through the port city of Hamburg. The project uncovers unknown German enthusiasm for liberal internationalism in the interwar period; reveals how imperial collapse encouraged affinities between erstwhile free traders and the Nazi party; and shows how the renovation of German liberal imperialism provided the raw material for contemporary Germany’s position as a world power defined by economic might.

Beneath these findings is the discovery that Hamburg supplied a fulcrum for the transition from a world of economic integration knit together by formal empires to one of globalization contested by international orders, post-imperial powers, post-colonial states, and private firms. Hamburg’s merchant capitalists and politicians foresaw—and sought to manage—this transition, turning Hamburg into a seismic experiment in ordering interdependence after empire. This experiment in shaping an interconnected world, I argue, proved foundational not only for the Federal Republic of Germany, but also for the architecture of postwar global economic governance.

Photo: Stiftung Warburg Archiv, Hamburg Blankenese.

Central European History 56, no. 4 (December 2023): 535-552.

Recent debates among historians and in public have concerned the links between German colonialism and imperialism before the First World War and the Nazi regime and its crimes. This article analyzes the career of Franz Heinrich Witthoefft, a Hamburg merchant who shaped pre-1914 imperial expansion and interwar liberal internationalism—and sought to do the same with Nazi empire.  It argues that empire’s strongest legacy was its absence, an absence that created ambivalent possible futures and blurred the line between liberal and illiberal avenues to German power and international order. This blurriness offers an end-run around problematical attempts to narrate Nazism as little more than an extreme expression of global patterns and around untenable notions of German exceptionalism.


Photo: Staatsarchiv Hamburg.

An Empire of Merchants? German Shipping, Commercial Interests and Imperial Ambitions from Latin America to Hamburg, 1888-1918

German History (forthcoming 2025).


Historians of Germany and of Germans have increasingly turned a global, transnational lens on their subject. This turn has been especially fruitful for Imperial Germany (1871-1918) and its overseas imperial expansion and Weltpolitik ("world policy"). At the same time, global and transnational approaches demand histories of Germany and Germans that do not default to the rise and fall of state projects. This article capitalizes on the generative tension between new scholarship on Imperial Germany’s state aspirations and recent research on "Germans abroad" that has decentered the nation-state. It does so by focusing on a group of Germans for whom these historiographical problems were central preoccupations: German overseas merchants and firms. How did German firms inspire, engage, adapt, and ignore Weltpolitik? Using the history of mercantile shipping and its reception in Latin America, this article argues that firms took an active interest in Germany’s more robust pursuit of world status, but that interest showed little appreciable change from long-standing patterns of Hanseatic commercial aspirations. It was the Great War—not Weltpolitik—that recast their political imaginaries.

Photo: Biblioteca Tornquist, Banco Central de la República Argentina.

The Federal Republic:

Politics, Society & Culture

Conference, Spring 2023. Princeton University.
Organized with Yair Mintzker & Harold James.


Image: Jennifer Loessy, Princeton Center for Collaborative History.

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