Big news from Fordham History’s Professor David Hamlin! On 13 July, Cambridge University Press published Germany’s Empire in the East; Germans and Romania in an Era of Globalization and Total War. Where many studies of European empire in the twentieth century focus on imperial projects in the global south, Professor Hamlin’s book demonstrates the place of central and eastern Europe in that story and the important role of economic forces played in shaping global empires. The book tells how the Germans, when “confronted with the global economic and political power of the western allies… turned to Eastern Europe to construct a dependent space, tied to Germany as Central America was to the US.” We reached out to Hamlin for some comments on the process and how the ideas for the book emerged.
The book was many years in the making; in part because it changed as I researched and wrote it. Initially, I was expecting to explore how Germany transformed Romania into a dependency well before the First World War; it would be a story emphasizing continuity. Instead, I found myself crafting a story of the impact of the First World War on German policy; it became a story of discontinuity. Rather than a story narrowly about the longue durée of German imperial ambitions, it became an examination of how the disruption of commercial, financial, and legal links during the war reshaped how Germans viewed the international economy, and thus their links to their neighbors. From that emerged a German variant of western imperialism, one that was a response to the conscious restructuring of global markets during the war.
The model of the modern research university assumes that a Professor’s research will shape and inform what he or she teaches. That certainly was true for me. I have gradually assigned greater weight to the First World War in my course on the Third Reich (Hitler’s Germany) as well as reshaping how I discuss Hitler’s dream of Lebensraum. In my courses on European diplomatic history, I have added discussions of competing ideas of political and legal order and tried to link more clearly the experience of the First World War to the international goals of the Nazi Party. I also try to link the British experience of economic warfare and the significance of global economic mobilization in the First World War to Neville Chamberlain’s policies in the late 1930s.
Congratulations Professor Hamlin, we look forward to seeing where your research will take you next.