James Sheehan

James Sheehan, professor of history emeritus at Stanford, is the author of German History, 1770-1866, and many other books.

The First World War​ was decided on the Western Front where, after the failure of Ludendorff’s spring offensive in 1918, the German army’s ability to fight finally collapsed under the combined weight of Britain, France and the United States. But while the war was won (it might be more accurate to say, lost) in the west, its immediate origins and most lasting consequences were in...

Echoes from the Far Side: The European Age

James Sheehan, 19 October 2017

Max Weber​ defined power as ‘the ability of an individual or group to achieve their own goals or aims when others are trying to prevent them from realising them’. The pursuit of power was not, as Richard Evans seems to suggest in his introduction, a distinctive feature of 19th-century Europe. What changes over time is not the fact that people seek power, but the means by which...

Prussian Chic: Frederick the Great

James Sheehan, 28 July 2016

On 17 August 1991​, the 205th anniversary of Frederick the Great’s death, his body returned to Potsdam. It was the end of a circuitous journey that began in 1943, when, as allied bombing raids reached deep into the Reich, the king’s remains were moved from Potsdam’s Garrison Church to the safety of a potash mine in the Thuringian forest. This is where American troops...

‘He was​ the greatest man since the Deluge.’ This assessment of Alexander von Humboldt by King Frederick William IV of Prussia, which Andrea Wulf quotes in her fine new biography, may be a slight exaggeration, but it reflects Humboldt’s extraordinary reputation among his contemporaries. On the centennial of his birth, 14 September 1869, elaborate celebrations were held all...

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