James Retallack

Professor, Department of History
Affiliated Faculty, Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies
Headshot of James Retallack

Areas of interest

  • Conflict, Violence and Genocide
  • Cultural and Intellectual
  • Europe
  • State, Politics, and Law



Professor Retallack attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and received his D.Phil. in 1983. He joined the University of Toronto in 1987. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in European history from 1770 to 1945. He is no longer taking on new graduate supervisions.

His research interests (1830-1918) include German regional history, nationalism, antisemitism, elections, Social Democracy, and historiography. He has published 20 book-length works as author or editor, of which some are listed further below. His website lists 61 refereed journal articles and book chapters. His present research project is a biography of the German Social Democratic leader August Bebel.

Among his online publications is an open access digital anthology of documents and images for the German Historical Institute, Washington DC: Forging an Empire: Bismarckian Germany (1866-1890). A 2nd revised edition was published online in February 2023 with about 25 percent added content.

Professor Retallack has held grants, fellowships, and research prizes from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the SSHRC of Canada, the Jackman Humanities Institute, the Killam Program at the Canada Council for the Arts, and the John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He has held Visiting Professorships at the Free University Berlin (1993-4) and the University of Göttingen (2002-3) and he was Visiting Scholar at Stanford University (1983-85) and at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal (2014).

He serves as General Editor for two series: “Oxford Studies in Modern European History” for Oxford University Press, and “German and European Studies” for University of Toronto Press. He was inducted as a elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2011

Awards & recognition

  • Hans Rosenberg Book Prize, Central European History Society, American Historical Association, USA, 2017  (for Red Saxony)
  • Hans Rosenberg Article Prize, Central European History Society, American Historical Association, USA, 2016  (since renamed the Annelise Thimme Article Prize)  (for “Mapping the Red Threat”)
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Trent University, 2019
  • Friedrich-Wilhelm-Bessel Research Prize, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, 2001