James Retallack

James Retallack

Professor of History
Affiliated Faculty, Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies






Room 2084, Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St. George St.




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 now hold the rank of University Professor. 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 book Red Saxony: Election Battles and the Spectre of Democracy in Germany, 1860-1918 was published in April 2017; a paperback edition will be published in April 2020. Red Saxony won the Hans Rosenberg Book Prize for the Best Book of 2017, awarded by the Central European History Society (CEHS) of the American Historical Association in 2019 (laudatio).

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), pp. 1–41: in 2018 it won the Hans Rosenberg Article Prize for Best Article in 2015 and 2016, also awarded by the CEHS (laudatio).

Research interests

My research interests include German regional history, nationalism, antisemitism, Social Democracy, electoral politics, modern warfare, biography and historiography.

recent publications

Red Saxony: Election Battles and the Spectre of Democracy in Germany, 1860-1918. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-19-966878-6. Cloth and Ebook. (30% discount flyer) (Description) (Overview and Table of Contents) (Opinion)

 “August Bebel: A Life for Social Justice and Democratic Reform,” Archiv für Sozial­geschichte 58 (2018), pp. 145-161.

 „‚Rotes Königreich‘ oder Hort des Konservatismus? Sachsen im späten Kaiserreich“, in Der gespaltene Freistaat. Neue Perspektiven auf die sächsische Geschichte 1918-1933, edited by Konstantin Hermann, Mike Schmeitzner, and Swen Steinberg (Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2019), 27-41. (German) (English)

 “The »Non-Voter«: Rethinking the Category,” co-authored with Marc-André Dufour, in Parlamentarismuskritik und Antiparlamentarismus in Europa, edited by Marie-Luise Recker and Andreas Schulz (Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 2018), 235-252.

“After the ‘German Civil War’ of 1866: Building the State, Embracing the Nation,” in Decades of Reconstruction: Postwar Societies, State-Building, and International Relations from the Seven Years’ War to the Cold War, edited by Ute Planert and James Retallack (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 198-215.

working titles

August Bebel: A Life for Social Democracy. Planned monograph in the early stages of writing. (140,000 words)

Wahlpolitik und Demokratie im Deutschen Kaiserreich. (Beiträge zur Geschichte des Parlamen­tar­is­mus und der politischen Parteien) (Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, forthcoming 2020). (Revised German edition of Red Saxony.) (300,000 words)

„August Bebel: Ein Sozialdemokrat gegen Eroberungskrieg und ‚Verpreußung‘.“ Commissioned article for the exhibit catalogue Krieg Sieg Nation – Wie das deutsche Kaiserreich entstand, curated and edited by Gerhard Bauer and Katja Protte, Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr, Dresden, forthcoming March 2020. (preprint)

2nd revised edition of Forging an Empire: Bismarckian Germany (1866-1890), ed. James Retallack. Published online in English and German as volume 4 of the 10-volume digital history anthology, German History in Documents and Images. German Historical Institute, Washington, DC.  In press.

Exclusionary Politics and State Security in Germany, 1848-1918. Planned monograph in the early stages of writing (100,000 words).

The Hitler Diaries Hoax and Other Tales: Frauds and Famous Feuds in German History. Planned teaching text in the early stages of writing (80,000 words).


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