James Retallack

James Retallack

Professor; Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies
Professor, Joint Initiative in German and European Studies






Room 120N, 1 Devonshire Place





After graduating from Trent University in 1978 I studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and received my D.Phil. in 1983. I joined the University of Toronto in 1987, where I am now Professor of History and German Studies. I served as Chair of the German Department from 1999 to 2002.

I teach undergraduate and graduate courses, and supervise Ph.D. field preparations and dissertations, in German and European history from 1770 to 1945. My research has been assisted by grants and other awards from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the TransCoop Program, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto, the SSHRC, the Killam Program at the Canada Council for the Arts, and the John S. Guggenheim Foundation. In 1993-4 I spent a year with my family at the Free University Berlin as a Humboldt Research Fellow and Visiting Professor in the Political Science department. I also held a Visiting Professorship in History at the University of Göttingen in 2002-3 when I was awarded the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Prize by the Humboldt Foundation. I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2011.

I have organized a number of international conferences at the University of Toronto and elsewhere. I sit on the Editorial Advisory Board of German History, the journal of the German History Society (UK). I also serve (with Simon Dixon and Mark Mazower) as General Editor of Oxford Studies in Modern European History.


My current research and writing are supported by a Killam Research Fellowship; this work will continue in 2017-18 with the support of a John S. Guggenheim Research Fellowship. My book Red Saxony: Election Battles and the Spectre of Democracy in Germany, 1860-1918 has a publication date of 27 April 2017. I published a related essay as “Mapping the Red Threat: The Politics of Exclusion in Leipzig before 1914,” Central European History 49, nos. 3/4 (December 2016): 1–41. I delivered the 2016 Jacob-&-Wilhelm-Grimm Lecture at the University of Waterloo on 25 October 2016, entitled “Democracy in Disappearing Ink: The Politics of Exclusion in Germany before Hitler.” (Event Page) (Webcast)

Research interests

My research interests include German regional history, nationalism, antisemitism, Social Democracy, electoral politics, modern warfare, biography and historiography. Having recently completed a study of elections and political culture in Imperial Germany, I am now working on a new biography of the German Social Democratic leader August Bebel.

Working titles

Red Saxony: Election Battles and the Spectre of Democracy in Germany, 1860-1918. Oxford: Oxford University Press, April 2017. ISBN: 978-0-19-966878-6. Cloth and Ebook. (Description) (Overview and Table of Contents)

Decades of Reconstruction: Postwar Societies, State-Building, and International Relations, from the Seven Years War to the Cold War (Publications of the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.), edited by Ute Planert and James Retallack. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, April 2017. ISBN: 978-1107165748. Cloth and Ebook.

The “Workers’ Emperor”: August Bebel’s Struggle for Social Justice and Democratic Reform in Germany and the World (1840-1913). Planned monograph in the early stages of research.

Germany’s Second Reich: Portraits and Pathways. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015. Cloth, paperback, and ePub. Pp. xviii, 332, 25 illust. “Highly recommended” (CHOICE) (Opinion)

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