Jürgen Osterhammel, born in Wipperfürth, Germany, in 1952. Ph.D. from the Universität Kassel. Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the Universität Konstanz.
Fellow (1 September 2001 – 30 June 2002)
My original plan to write a comparative study of processes of territorial expansion and empire-building evolved into the grander project of a global history of the nineteenth-century. As a specialist in modern Chinese history as well as in the British Empire, I approach this enormous subject from a non-Western point of view, although I consider a certain amount of ‘Eurocentrism’ to be indispensable for a century that saw Europe ascendant to an unprecedented degree. I used my ten months at NIAS to devise a conceptual framework for a topical and non-encyclopaedic history of the time between, roughly, 1790 and 1890. Preliminary reflections on time, space and historical memory in various civilizations led to a theoretical introduction that will support the narrative. In particular, I devised a periodization taking account of various ‘Zeitschichten’ or layers of time (R. Koselleck) on a global and on regional scales.
My research concentrated on empire, migration, the worlds of labour, the emergence of networks of communication and the development of metropolitan life. Chapters on these subjects were completed, others were prepared for further elaboration. The splendid library resources in the Netherlands, made available by the untiring librarians at NIAS, enabled me to deepen my treatment especially of Asia and Africa.