In the context of the 175-year anniversary of the revolutions of 1848/49, on June 15, the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg and the State Centre for Political Education Saxony-Anhalt host a public panel discussion on the current significance of these historical events. How can we engage with the revolutions’ legacies without reducing the complexities and ambivalences of this so called ‘milestone’ of German democratic history to a mere opportunity for self-gratulatory contentedness?


  • Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Hachtmann, Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam
  • Prof. Dr. dr. h.c. Dieter Langewiesche, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen,
  • Prof. Dr. Hedwig Richter, University of the Bundeswehr, Munich
  • Prof. Dr. Manfred Hettling, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
  • Prof. Dr. Theo Jung, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

All are welcome.

Date: June 15, 5 to 7 pm

Venue: Franckesche Stiftungen, Franckeplatz 1, Haus 1, Freylinghausen-Saal, 06110 Halle a.d. Saale

Funding: State Centre for Political Education Saxony-Anhalt.

I received notice that I’ve been appointed to the Advisory Board of the newly established Foundation Sites of German Democratic History (Stiftung Orte der deutschen Demokratiegeschichte).

The Foundation aims to promote consciousness of and public engagement with the eventful and complex history of German democracy in a Eurpean and global context. It was established by the German Bundestag in 2021. It is currently in development and will start its activities later this year.

On March 27, I’m invited to speak at the opening of a new exhibition in the Reichstag-building in Berlin. The exhibition addresses one of the major achievements of the 1848/49 revolution: the Imperial Constitution adopted by the National Assembly on 27 March 1849. It’s center piece is the original constitution document itself (one of three originals, actually, but the only parchment version), signed by 405 Members of Germany’s first national parliament.

More information on the exhibition, planned by Klaus Seidl and Hilmar Sack of the parliament’s scientific service, an be found here.

A catalogue is in the making and will be available soon through this link.

[Edit, March 29, 2023]: A short video capturing the ceremony, including a snippet from an interview I gave on the historical significance of the 1848 revolution, is to be found here.

[Edit, May 12, 2023]: A video of my talk is now available online through this link.

For Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, a journal published by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische bildung) and aimed at a wider audience, I wrote a short survey on the history of the Revolutions of 1848/49.

Fragen an 1848/49. Ein Forschungsüberblick, in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 73, Nr. 7-9 (2023), 17–23.

In it, I address the various historiographical approaches to the revolutions since its failure in 1849 and try to answer the question why debates on this theme have gone relatively quiet in recent years.

The whole issue can be read and dowloaded for free here.

For a volume edited by Wolfram Pyta and Rüdiger Voigt, I wrote a contribution addressing the intersections of gender and power during the French Second Empire.

Die Öffentlichkeit weiblicher Arkanpolitik. Kaiserin Eugénie im Zweiten Kaiserreich

[The Publicity of Female Arcane Politics: Empress Eugénie in the Second Empire]

Focusing on Empress Eugénie de Montijo, the essay considers the question of female power in the Second Empire (1851-70) from a twofold perspective. On the one hand, I gauge the actual scope of her political agency – as Napoléon III’s wife, potential future regent, and mother of the crown prince, as a public figure, and as a well-connected and willful political actor in her own right. On the other, Eugénie’s real impact is contrasted with its contemporary imagination during the Second Empire and the Third Republic, which regularly framed the Empress as a paradigmatic figure of uncontrolled and irrational female influence behind the scenes and as a prime reason for the Empire’s eventual demise.

On December 3, 2022, my PhD supervisor Willibald Steinmetz turned 65. At a small reception for colleagues and friends in Bielefeld, he was presented with a celebratory edited volume of essays on dreams titled Erträumte Geschichte(n): Zur Historizität von Träumen, Visionen und Utopien.

In my contribution, titled

Der Traum der quantitativen Psychologie und die Geschichte: neue Perspektiven für die Digital Humanities

[The Dream of Quantitative Psychology and History: New Perspectives for Digital Humanities]

I consider some recent developments in the field of historical dream research against the background of the new tools recently emerging from the field of digital humanities. As very extensive databases of dream reports have become available (some including more than 50.000 reports), the question of their analysis has come to the fore in new ways. In a first step, I sketch the historical development of the quantitative historical dream research that has been booming in recent years. Second, I critically examine the field’s methods, which have increasingly moved into areas of sophisticated data mining on the basis of self-learning algorhithms.

My text not only considers an area of research that Willibald Steinmetz has been active in (e.g. here) recently, but also re-engages with some fundamental questions of heuristics and hermeneutics that he addressed in his own PhD thesis, Das Sagbare und das Machbare. I’m grateful to Willibald Steinmetz for his unwavering support and friendship throughout the years and to the editors, Jens Elberfeld, Kristoffer Klammer, Sandra Maß and Benno Nietzel, for their excellent work organizing the volume and the whole celebration.

After a remarkably smooth editing process, Popular Agency and Politicisation in Nineteenth-Century Europe: Beyond the Vote, has now been published in the Palgrave Studies in Political History series. Edited by Diego Palacios Cerezales (Madrid) and Oriol Lujàn (Barcelona), the volume encompasses contributions on a wide variety of political practices and spaces, opening new perspectives on the politicization processes that shaped nineteenth-century Europe.

Most chapters were first discussed in the Conference Beyond the Vote: New Perspectives on 19th Century Politicisation, held in Madrid/online in January 2021.

My own chapter, titled

Plebiscites on the Streets: The Politics of Public Acclamation in Early Nineteenth-Century Europe

addresses the dynamics of performative displays of enthusiasm and disdain in public confrontations between rulers and ruled.

While acclamations remain a familiar phenomenon today, they tend to be understood as an atmospheric, rather than a functional, element of political life. In consequence, the historical variability of their practice and impact remains understudied. Building on a survey of current research, this contribution addresses the forms, functions and situations of acclamation in Europe during the Age of Revolutions.

Focusing on the tensions between the practice’s symbolic holism – suggesting a direct expression of the communities’ undivided will – and its underlying complexities as a mode of collective action, it argues that acclamations gained a historically unique impact during the (post-)revolutionary period. While other opportunities for political articulation and participation remained sharply constrained, these public vocalizations presented one of the very few available modes of regular political engagement. At the same time, public interactions between rulers and ‘the people’ gained new performative significance against the background of experiences of political upheaval and regime change.

A consideration of a wide range of case studies from across the continent shows how practices of acclamation and their reception became part of a transnationally entangled contestation of political legitimacy, constituting an ephemeral, but momentous mode of popular politics.

Many thanks to the editors for their hard work in getting this excellent volume together.

I’m grateful to announce that my second book (Habilitation) Qui tacet: Die Politik des Schweigens im Europa des langen 19. Jahrhunderts (Qui tacet: The Politics of Silence in Nineteenth-Century Europe) – which I’m currently preparing for publication – has been awarded the 2022 Book Prize of the Wolf-Erich-Kellner Memorial Foundation. The prize is curated by the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation for Freedom and honors publications that address the history and intellectual foundations of liberalism. The award ceremony will held on 10 November 2022 at the Foundation’s annual Liberalism Colloquium in Berlin.

The list of previous laureates includes many excellent historians, among them my long-term mentor Jörn Leonhard and my former colleague Fabian Rausch.

My sincere thanks go out to the jury.

More information about the Colloquium can be found here and a short summary of the award ceremony here.

On Friday, 21 October, I will be part of the workshop “Ruling the Assembly. Procedural Fairness, Popular Emotion, and the Access to Democracy, 19th-20th Century”, held in the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam.

The organizers, Anne Heyer (Leiden), Anne Patterson (Nijmegen), and Henk te Velde (Leiden), seek to explore how politicians and citizens in the 19th and 20th century tried to resolve the tension between reasonableness and accessibility of political debate, both in and outside Western European parliaments. Political practices are central to this analysis. What did political newcomers have to do in order to be listened to? What meaning did parliamentary rules have for citizens participating in public political discussions? And above all, how did they develop norms and practices for the conduct of democratic politics? To answer these questions, they develop a political-cultural approach in which the rules of political debate are not self-evident, but rather the subject of an ongoing political struggle about the democratisation of the political system.


9.30-10.00: Registration

10.00-10.30: Introduction: Two Traditions of Deliberation? Henk te Velde, Leiden University

10.30-11.15: Keynote | Public Politics and Public Spheres in the Making of Democracy, Jon Lawrence, University of Exeter

11.15-11.30: Coffee break

11.30-12.15: The Art of Making Oneself Heard: Political Audibility in and beyond Europe’s Second Chambers in the Late Nineteenth Century, Josephine Hoegaerts, University of Helsinki. Discussant: Maartje Janse, Leiden University

12.15-13.30: Lunch

13.30-14.15: In All Seriousness: Laughter in Bismarck’s Reichstag, Theo Jung, Freiburg University. Discussant: Ido de Haan, Utrecht University

14.15-15.00: Gatherings of Laughter: Public Meetings in the Early Stages of Democratization, Belgium, 1872-1893, Martin Schoups, Ghent University. Discussant: Adriejan van Veen, Radboud University

15:00-15.30: Coffee break

15.30-16.15:  Ruling the Rally in the Name of Democracy: Political Parties and ‘Popular’ Voices in West Germany’s Electoral Communication, 1940s to 1960s, Claudia Gatzka, Freiburg University. Discussant: Carla Hoetink, Radboud University

16.15-16.45: Learning from the Outside: Parliament’s Response to Popular Meetings in Germany and The Netherlands, 1870-1914, Anne Heyer, Leiden University & Anne Petterson, Radboud University

16.45-17.00: Conclusion

17.00-18.00: Drinks

Attendance is free. More information on registration can be found here.

In the coming months, the University of Passau organizes a series of 10-minute lunchtime lectures on silence. Most contributions come from law and sociology, but other disciplines are also represented.

My own contribution on 30 November addresses Niklas Luhmann’s theoretical exploration of silence from the perspective of systems theory and its implications for sociological (and historical) research.

All lectures (in German) can be attended on zoom as well as offline.

[Edit (Feb. 22, 2023): the lectures are now available online on this website.]