Michael Geyer, a leading expert in transnationalism as well as modern German history, has received a prestigious Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, which each year honors renowned scientists and scholars from abroad.
These awards are based primarily on the scholar’s entire academic record. In addition, awardees are invited to conduct an original research project of their own design in close collaboration with an appropriate colleague in Germany over a period of six to twelve months. The honor includes a grant of about $65,000.
Geyer, the Samuel N. Harper Professor in History and the College, will spend a sabbatical next year studying in Berlin at the Zentrum für Zeithistorische Foschung. “I hope to complete a book titled Catastrophic Nationalism: Defeat and Self-destruction in German History,” he said.
For the project, he is studying a wide variety of archival records as well as artistic and literary sources, including pamphlets and films, related to World War I and World War II. Geyer is examining the periods of the close of the wars, from 1917 to 1923 and from 1942 to 1946, respectively, studying how and why nations end wars and why they continue to fight.
“In particular,” said Geyer, “I hope to make sense of the decision in 1918 to end war without recourse to a last desperate battle and the reverse choice in the Second World War.” Why, he asks, was the Nazi regime able to pursue war to the point of self-destruction, even if the nation rejected the Nazi suicide strategy. “The death-toll of the last year of the war, when all was lost for Nazi Germany, was higher than for the entire preceding period between 1939 and mid-1944, with casualty rates never dropping below 300,000 and peaking at over 500,00 per month,” Geyer said.
Geyer is co-author of Shattered Past: Reconstructing German Histories, a reflection on the nature of modern German history. His recent work has focused on the history of Globalization, leading to the forthcoming The Global Condition in the Long 20th Century.
Among his other books are German Armaments: Policies and Politics 1860-1980, and with Konrad Jarausch, Shattered Past: Reconstructing German Histories. Geyer also edited The Power of Intellectuals in Contemporary Germany, published by the University Press, and two volumes on the history of religion, Nation und Religion—Religion und Nation as well as Die Gegenwart Gottes in der modernen Gesellschaft (both Wallstein Verlag).
Geyer completed his education in Germany and received a D. Phil. in 1976 from Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg. Before joining the Chicago faculty in 1986, he was a postdoctoral fellow at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, and taught at the University of Michigan.