Magnus Zeller,  The Orator (Der Volksredner) , 1920. LACMA.

Magnus Zeller, The Orator (Der Volksredner), 1920. LACMA.

current book project

Heartbroken: Democratic Emotions & the Unravelling of the Weimar Republic, 1918–1933. My current book project tackles an urgent & unresolved cluster of questions about rationality, human nature, & democratic stability. The first major history of political emotions in Weimar Germany, this project reveals the startling & imaginative ways in which interwar intellectuals, activists, elected officials, & ordinary citizens grappled with the nature of democratic feelings after the First World War. Heartbroken restores to life the ways in which Weimar democrats conceived of & cultivated an astonishing range of democratic emotions (from love & desire to nostalgia & righteous anger) before explaining how & why this passionate political imagination eroded in the early 1930s—& with it, Weimar democracy itself.

Unjustly forgotten journalists, politicians, activists, & campaign strategists are placed alongside major luminaries such as Thomas Mann & Max Weber. The project draws on a diverse range of printed & archival sources to explore how the citizens of Weimar wrestled with the problem of democratic emotions in several spheres of political action: parliamentary debate, policymaking & bureaucratic regulation, intellectual & literary life, electioneering, activism, & the law. And it draws to the surface the contested, capacious visions of human nature & the ideal democratic self that structured Weimar political life in surprising & significant ways.

The result is a novel interpretation of the character & the collapse of the Weimar Republic. & by tracing the civic consequences of foundational ideas about emotion & human nature, the book proposes an alternative way of approaching the success & failure of modern democratic states. Ranging among the subfields of modern European & German history, the history of democracy, & democratic theory, Heartbroken contends that how citizens imagine & understand each other as political creatures deeply matters, much more than we have realized, for the sustainability of democratic institutions.

See a brief Q&A about my current project here.

The Stanford PhD dissertation on which this book project is based was awarded the Elizabeth Spilman Rosenfield Prize (2019) for Outstanding Dissertation Writing by the Department of History, Stanford University.

journal articles & review essays

"Weimar Historiography & the Paradox of Recovery.” (Historiographical review essay commissioned by Central European History; in preparation.)

“Rational Republicanism & Its Historians.” (Research article; in progress.)

future projects

I have also begun work on a new book project about how pioneering efforts to write the very first queer histories in western Europe and the United States (c. 1860–1940) shaped the birth of modern sexual identity & the consolidation of history as a professional discipline. I have shared the earliest fruits of this project at conferences in Princeton & Washington, DC, & am currently at work on a pilot research article.