Prof. Dr. Sebastian Conrad



Global History


Global History, (Post-)colonial History, Intellectual History

Koserstraße 20
Raum A 355
14195 Berlin
Camilla Bertoni


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Sebastian Conrad holds the Chair of Modern History at Freie Universität Berlin. He joined the faculty in 2010 after teaching for several years at the European University Institute in Florence. He was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg) in Berlin, a visiting professor at the Ècole des Hautes Études in Paris, and a visiting scholar at the University of California, Santa Barbara; in the spring 2017, he held the Theodor Heuss Chair at the New School, New York.

Sebastian Conrad is the director of the MA “Global History”,a joint-degree program at Free University and Humboldt University, Berlin; he is also the director of the graduate school “Global Intellectual History”.  He is currently a Principal Investigator of the Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script” and of the Cluster of Excellence “Temporal Communities”. Moreover, he is one of the directors of the Forum of Transregional Studies in Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Geschichte und Gesellschaft, of Past & Present (2012-2019), of Modern Intellectual History, and of Esboços: histories in global contexts. Together with Andreas Eckert and Margrit Pernau, he is the editor of the book series Globalgeschichte (Campus publishers). He is on the advisory board of the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo. He is an elected member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and of the Academia Europaea.

For a full CV, see PDF

In our globalizing times, the traditional framework of looking at the past as enshrined in national containers no longer seems adequate. In order to make historical studies relevant for current public debates, more capacious frameworks are needed to account for the entanglements and interactions that made the modern world. This insight very much resonates with my own academic trajectory. During my training in both German and Japanese history, I acutely felt the constraints that the institutional framework and different disciplines (history and East Asian Studies) imposed on students, and on historians more general. For the past decades, therefore, I have been grappling with ways in which to look at the past beyond the confines of isolated compartments.

After spending several years in Japan and researching the way in which historians in West Germany and Japan came to terms with the national past after fascism and defeat in World War II, The Quest for the Lost Nation: Writing History in Germany and Japan in the American Century (University of California Press, 2010); in it, I pursue a form of transnational comparison that is very much informed by postcolonial approaches. Due to the constraints of the German academic labor market – you are considered a historian proper only when writing about German national history – my second book turned to a classical topic of the German past, namely nationalism. In Globalisation and the Nation in Imperial Germany (Cambridge University Press, 2010), I offer a global perspective on the transformations of German nationalism in the late nineteenth century, by looking at the way in which migration and global integration deeply affected the way in which the nation was negotiated in the Kaiserreich. An important dimension of Germany’s global connections were mediated by empire; crucially, these imperial structures reach beyond the formal, territorial colonies and need themselves be placed in the global context of the time, a theme I explore in German Colonialism: A Short History (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

In recent years, I have grappled with the question of how to write global history, and how it relates to related approaches like postcolonial studies and world systems. Globalgeschichte: Eine Einführung (C.H. Beck, 2013) is an introductory account, very much designed as a textbook for students. By contrast, What is Global History? (Princeton University Press, 2016) – recently dubbed “the new gold standard of its field“ (Cyrus Shayegh) – discusses on a more theoretical level the implications of a global approach for the notions of space and time, for the concepts that historians use, and the politics of global history.

Putting these ideas into practice, I have recently published volume 4 of the book series A History of the World, with the title An Emerging Modern World, 1750-1870 (Harvard University Press, 2018); my own book-length chapter on “A Cultural History of Global Transformation” will appear as a stand-alone paperback (forthcoming, 2020). It also includes a version of my most downloaded article, “Enlightenment in Global History: A Historiographical Critique,” American Historical Review 117 (2012).

Currently, I am working on three independent projects. Most advanced is “Global Beauty”, a history of the human body as a site of global contestation since the late nineteenth century. The book will look at the ways in which global integration has had effects on the way in which bodily beauty is theorized, expressed, and shaped across different geographies. The second project is a study of the “Enemies of Globalization” that will look into the different ways in which historical actors since the early modern period struggled with, and rebelled against, what they perceived as central features of globalization. The third, more long-term project is a global history of the past 1000 years, written for a broader audience and highlighting the crucial (often unexpected) turning points that have shaped the modern world.

Graduate Students Former Graduate Students

For more on my publications, see my Academia site.

Selected Publications


"What Is Global History?"

Princeton University Press, 2016

Chinese: Quanqiushi shi shenme (Zhongxin chuban jituan/CITIC Press) 2018; Chinese (complex) edition from Gusa publisher, Taipei, Taiwan, 2016; Spanish edition: Historia Global: Una nueva visión para el mundo actual, Barcelona (Critica) 2017; Russian edition from NLO (New Literary Observer Publishing House) 2018; Chinese edition from China CITIC Press 2018. Taiwanese edition: Quan qiu shi de zai si kao (Gusa publisher) 2016; Spanish: Historia Global: Una nueva visión para el mundo actual (Critica) 2017; Russian: Chto takoe global’naya istoriya (New Literary Observer Publishing House) 2018; Estonian: Mis on globaalne ajalugu? (Tallinna Ülikool) 2018; Portuguese: O que é a história global?, Lisbon (Edições 70) 2019. Translations into Turkish, and Japanese under contract.

Review by Serge Gruzinski in the Guardian

"Globalgeschichte: Eine Einführung"

C.H. Beck, 2013

Swedish edition: "Globalhistoria: En Introduktion," translated by Johanna Holmberg, Lund (Studentlitteratur) 2015.

Italian edition: "Storia globale. Un'introduzione," translated by Nicola Camilleri, Rome (Carocci editore) 2015.

Chinese edition: Quanqiushi daolun, translated by Chen Hao, Beijing (Shangwu yinshuguan), 2018.

"German Colonialism – A Short History"

Cambridge University Press, 2012

German edition: "Deutsche Kolonialgeschichte", C.H. Beck, 2008 (4th edition 2019)

Review by Richard Evans in the London Review of Books

"Globalisation and the Nation in Imperial Germany"

Cambridge University Press, 2010

German edition: "Globalisierung und Nation im Deutschen Kaiserreich", C.H. Beck, 2006

"The Quest for the Lost Nation: Writing History in Germany and Japan in the American Century"

University of California Press, 2010

German edition: "Auf der Suche nach der verlorenen Nation. Geschichtsschreibung in Westdeutschland und Japan, 1945-1960", Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999

Selected Journal Articles

"Nothing is the Way it Should Be": Global Transformations of the Time Regime in the Nineteenth Century, in Modern Intellectual History vol. 15, no. 3 (2018), 821-848.

"The Dialectics of Rememberance: Memories of Empire in Cold War Japan", in Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 56, no. 1 (2014), 4–33.

"Viewing Regionalisms from East Asia", in American Historical Association Pamphlet, 2013 (together with Prasenjit Duara).

"Rethinking German Colonialism in a Global Age", in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vol. 41 (2013), 543–566.

"Enlightenment in Global History: A Historiographical Critique", in American Historical Review, vol. 117 (2012), 999–1027.

""The Colonial Ties are Liquidated": Modernization Theory, Post-War Japan and the Global Cold War", in Past & Present, vol. 216 (2012), 181–214.

Most recent edited volume

Sebastian Conrad and Jürgen Osterhammel, A History of the World. An Emerging Modern World 1750-1870Harvard University Press, 2018.

German edition: Geschichte der Welt. Wege zur modernen Welt 1750-1870, C.H. Beck, 2016.

For a full list of publications, see PDF
OSA Geschichte