Historian of Germany, Europe, Beer, & Food
My research agenda places Germany in the world to investigate how the nation takes
shape in global context and how it in turn shapes what we understand to be global,
from commodity flows to geopolitics.
My name is Robert Terrell
I am a historian of modern Germany and Europe and am particularly interested in the ways that politics and culture are formed at the intersections of capitalism, geopolitics, and translocal flows of people, goods, and ideas.
To date my research has been funded by the J. William Fulbright Program, the German Historical Institute in Washington D.C., the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, and the German Academic Exchange Service. Findings and papers have been presented across the U.S., in England, and in Germany.
I am assistant professor of history at Syracuse University and I have also taught at the University of California, San Diego and Temple University.
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While finishing my B.A. in history, and for a few years afterward, I worked as a chef in a number of upscale restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina. I always found myself interested in the histories behind traditional preparations and techniques and the ways traditionally peasant foods have become haute cuisine. I was also interested in the idea of national cuisines, their realities, histories, mythologies, and stereotypes. After struggling to open a southern Italian trattoria in the depths of the 2008 recession, I decided to bring my interest in history together with my passion for food, cooking, and their connections to the formation of cultures and identities.
In 2011, I earned my M.A. in European History from Villanova University, where I was advised by Paul Steege. The next fall I began my Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego where I was advised by Frank Biess. In 2017, I moved from San Diego to Philadelphia, where I taught courses at Temple University and fell hard for the City of Brotherly Love. I defended my dissertation in the spring of 2018 and have been a faculty member in the department of history at Syracuse University since the autumn of that year.
When I am not researching, writing, or teaching, I enjoy cooking, baking sourdough bread, surfing, swimming, gardening, hiking, rock climbing, camping, and trying to find interesting new experiences from new beers to hidden parks.
I am currently revising my first book manuscript entitled, “The People’s Drink: The Politics and Culture of Beer in Twentieth-Century Germany.” The book contends that over the course of the 20th century, beer became a means of negotiating and defining cultural and political conceptions of German identity. In a century of extreme structural and social change, the drink provided a useful way for producers, consumers, public health officials, barley farmers, tax officials, politicians, marketers, and many more to fashion and articulate ideas of Germanness that were rooted in continuity and tradition. On a variety of scales, from the local to the global, beer became a site for formulating ideas of what it meant to be German in everything from local consumer cultures to global stereotypes.
My second project, tentatively titled, “Islam in a Global Metropolis: Postcolonial and Anticolonial Politics in Weimar Berlin” traces the legacies of Imperial German ambitions in the Middle East during the Weimar Republic. Considering the Republic, “a postcolonial state in a still colonial world,” the work looks at German and post-Ottoman geopolitics, Muslim migration to Germany, the Persian rug market, and the sale of German luxury goods in the League of Nations mandate states.
As a whole my research agenda highlights continuities across distinct and often radically different regimes while balancing a shifting geographical scale. Global historians have highlighted the larger contexts in which the German nation takes shape while local and regional historians have emphasized how localism has reacted to and constituted national projects. My work contributes to a growing body of scholarship which demonstrates how local, regional, national, and global contexts intersect, even across multiple political regimes.
I am interested in working directly with graduate students in modern German history, especially but not uniquely those interested in the history of consumption and commodities, the history of Islam, and global and transnational histories. I am also happy to work alongside my colleagues with graduate students in thematically or geographically related fields.
I have taught broadly in German, European, and global history. My favorite courses cover the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and strive to integrate local and global histories. At Syracuse University, I regularly teach a course on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust as well as on Europe since 1945, and I offer thematic courses in commodity history and food history. Looking ahead I look forward to developing classes on the history of alcohol, and the history of Islam in Europe.
Please consult my CV for a full list of my teaching experience.
Download full curriculum vitae here: terrell-cv.pdf