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 and 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 John S. Guggenheim Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto, the SSHRC, and the Killam Program. 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 as General Editor of Oxford Studies in Modern European History.


In December 2021, University of Toronto Press will publish German Social Democracy through British Eyes: A Documentary History, 1870-1914 in simultaneous cloth, paperback, and eBook editions. Est. 390 pp., 2 maps, 30 illustrations. (A discount of 25 per cent is offered on the UTP website: pb. $28.46).

My book, Red Saxony: Election Battles and the Spectre of Democracy in Germany, 1860-1918 (Oxford, 2017), was published in paperback in August 2020. (30% paperback discount flyer). Red Saxony won the Hans Rosenberg Book Prize for the Best Book of 2017, awarded by the Central European History Society (CEHS) 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. It won the Hans Rosenberg Article Prize (since renamed the Annelise Thimme 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, German Social Democracy, labour movements, electoral politics, biography, and historiography.

recent publications


James Retallack, German Social Democracy through British Eyes: A Documentary History, 1870-1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, January 2022. Pp. xxii, 392, 30 illustrations, 15 tables, 2 maps. Simultaneous cloth, paperback, EPub, and PDF editions. Paperback ISBN: 978-1-48-752748-8. (Opinion)

James Retallack, Red Saxony: Election Battles and the Spectre of Democracy in Germany, 1860-1918. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xxiv, 698, incl. 16 colour plates, 32 illustrations, 45 tables, 7 maps. Cloth ISBN: 978-0-19-966878-6, published at Oxford Scholarship Online 2017, eBook ISBN: 978-019-177904-6. Paperback 2020, ISBN: 978-0-19-886656-5.

  • Awarded the 2017 Hans Rosenberg Book Prize for the best book in central European history published by a resident of North America, by the Central European History Society of the American Historical Association (laudatio). Forthcoming in a revised German edition, 2022. (30% paperback discount flyer) (Description) (Overview and Table of Contents) (New Books Network Interview) (Opinion)

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, ed. Ute Planert and James Retallack. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xvi, 377, incl. 4 illustrations. Cloth and eBook ISBN: 978-1-107-16574-8.) Available through Cambridge Core. (Buy) (Description and Table of Contents). Paperback 2020. ISBN: 978-1-316-61708-3.

James Retallack, Germanys Second Reich: Portraits and Pathways (German and European Studies). Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press, 2015. Cloth, paperback, ePub. Pp. xviii, 332, 25 illust. (Opinion)

journal articles

“August Bebel. Ein Sozialdemokrat gegen Eroberungskrieg und ‘Verpreußung,’” in Krieg. Macht. Nation. Wie das deutsche Kaiserreich entstand, ed. Gerhard Bauer, Katja Protte, Armin Wagner, Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr (Dresden: Sandstein Verlag, 2020), pp. 58-65.

“‘Rotes Königreich’ oder Hort des Konservatismus? Sachsen im späten Kaiserreich,” in Der gespaltene Freistaat. Neue Perspektiven auf die sächsische Geschichte 1918-1933, ed. Konstantin Hermann, Mike Schmeitzner, Swen Steinberg (Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2019), pp. 27-41.

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

working titles

August Bebel: A Life for Social Democracy. Planned monograph in the early stages of writing. (275,000 words)

Wahlpolitik und Demokratie im Deutschen Kaiserreich. (Beiträge zur Geschichte des Parlamen­tar­is­mus und der politischen Parteien) (Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, forthcoming 2022).

2nd revised and expanded 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. The second edition is expected to be fully online by late 2021.

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).


Newsletter Signup Sign up for the Munk School Newsletter

× Strict NO SPAM policy. We value your privacy, and will never share your contact info.