Robert Terrell

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.


Robert Terrell

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 from the local to the global remain inextricable from capitalism, geopolitics, and translocal flows of 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 have taught World and European history at the University of California, San Diego and Temple University in Philadelphia.

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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 an southern Italian trattoria in the depths of the 2008 recession, I decided to bring my passion for history together with my passion for food and cooking.

I earned my Master's in European History from Villanova University in 2011 where I was advised by Paul Steege. The next fall I began my Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego where I have been advised by Frank Biess. Since early 2017 I have been living in Philadelphia, PA, teaching courses at Temple University and enjoying the City of Brotherly Love.

When I am not researching, writing, or teaching, I enjoy cooking (particularly Indian food at the moment), surfing, swimming, gardening, hiking, camping, and hanging out with my now-very-senior dog.


My dissertation, “The People’s Drink: Beer, Bavaria, and the Remaking of Germany, 1933-1988,” contends that beer, and a particularly Bavarian conception of beer, emerged part and parcel of contests over the fate of Germany. The seismic shifts wrought by dictatorship, world war, occupation, economic boom and bust, late modern globalization, and the Cold War exerted crucial transformative pressure on the history beer and its symbolic and material value. Beer and beer consumption, which had long been part of everyday life, took on multiple important meanings both within and beyond Germany. On the one hand, the work details how Bavarian and German brewers reacted to national and global pressures ranging from Nazi centralization projects to Western European integration and the recession of the 1970s. On the other, I demonstrate how local, regional, and national practices and cultures radiated outward, for example, how Oktoberfest celebrations and Beer Cellars around the world came to inform global conceptions of Germany itself.

My second project 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. Few seek to demonstrate how local, regional, national, and global contexts intersect, and yet fewer do so across multiple political regimes.


I have taught undergraduates in formats ranging from discussion sections in a five-term sequence in World History, to designing and conducting courses on a number of aspects of European History. Such classes have included a Modern Europe survey, a seminar on Europe since 1945, and another on the history of commodities and consumption.

I am prepared to teach courses at all levels in European and global history as well as introductory courses in the history of the modern Middle East. In addition to developing courses on commodities, consumption, and especially food and drink, I am particularly excited to develop courses in two directions. The first focuses on the history of European decolonization in the twentieth century, placing special emphasis on the importance of the First World War. The second is a transregional approach to the histories of Europe and the Middle East, whether as a survey from Napoleon to the present, or as a seminar on migration and knowledge transfer.

Please consult my CV for a full list of my teaching experience.


Download full curriculum vitae here: terrell-cv.pdf