Professor Holger  Afflerbach

Professor Holger Afflerbach

Professor of Central European History

+44 (0) 113 34 36457

Summary: German, Italian and Austrian history 19th / 20th centuries; History of International Relations; Military history of the First and Second World Wars; Naval and Atlantic History


I studied Modern and Medieval history, Italian and German literature at the Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf and the Universitá degli Studi di Napoli. My PhD (a biography of the Prussian Minister of War and German Chief of Staff, General Erich v. Falkenhayn (1861-1922), was funded by a scholarship of the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation and supervised by Wolfgang J. Mommsen.  

Afterwards I started a major research project on international relations before 1914 (The Triple Alliance and European Great Power Politics, 1881-1915) which I completed as an Alexander-von-Humboldt-scholar in Vienna (1996-1998). I was awarded my Habilitation at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf in 1999 and got there in 2003 a honorary professorship.

From 1999 to 2002 I taught at the University of Düsseldorf. At the same time I won a major research grant by the Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation for research on Wilhelm II as Supreme Warlord during World War I. The result - a 1100 pages edition - was published in 2005 by the Historical Commission of the Bavarian Academy of Science. 

In August 2002 I became DAAD Professor of Modern German History at Emory University in Atlanta. Among other things I organised a large international conference in 2004 on the outbreak of war in 1914 which was opened by President Jimmy Carter.

I left Atlanta in summer 2006 after accepting my current position at the University of Leeds.

Research interests

My expertise lies in the following fields:

  • History of Europe in both World Wars, especially World War I with particular reference to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German, Austrian and Italian history in a European context
  • International relations in Europe since 1870, especially between Bismarck and 1914
  • History of War, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries

Current research projects:

1. Auf Messers Schneide - Wie das Deutsche Reich den Ersten Weltkrieg verlor (On a knife's edge - How Germany lost the First World War)

I am working on my actual project: a history of Germany, and German strategy, during the First World War. I worked on this project during a year at the Historische Kolleg, Munich. I was Senior Fellow in this wonderful place in 2012/13 (details are here (in German):

In 2014/15 I was Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. A link  to this excellent institution is here:

During my stay in Munich I produced a collected volume on War Aims during the First World War (Holger Afflerbach (Ed.): The Purpose of The First World War. War Aims and Military Strategies, Munich: De Gruyter/Oldenbourg 2015): 

2. Now completed: the encyclopedia of the First World War

I am Section Editor (together with Roger Chickering, Georgetown) for the section "Power" of "1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War".

3. Completed in 2012 and 2013: How fighting ends - a History of Surrender

I organised in cooperation with Professor Hew Strachan, University of Oxford, and the GHI London, an International conference on the topic: 'How fighting ends - a History of Surrender'. This conference took place in Leeds in June 2009; 32 top scholars from nine countries were invited to present their research on the topic. The outcome is an edited volume on the History of Surrender. This book was published in 2012 by Oxford University Press.

I wrote also a single authored book on surrender, on military honour and defeat, on fighting to the death in European history. The book (in German)  (Die Kunst der Niederlage. Eine Geschichte der Kapitulation) was published by CH Beck, Munich, in March 2013. Details are here:  An Italian translation of this book was published in June 2015.

How Fighting Ends A History of SurrenderCover L'arte della resa

Past Research:

Among my previous book publications are   

  • An edited volume (co-edited with David Stevenson, LSE) on the outbreak of World War I (An Improbable War? The Outbreak of World War I and European Political Culture before 1914) was published in 2007. Second Edition, PB, 2012;

  • a collection of sources on Wilhelm II as Supreme Warlord in World War I: Wilhelm II als Oberster Kriegsherr. Quellen aus der militärischen Umgebung des Kaisers 1914-1918 (Munich 2005);
  • my study of the Triple Alliance, entitled 'Der Dreibund'. (Vienna 2002);
  • a book on the history of the Atlantic Ocean (Das entfesselte Meer. Die Geschichte des Atlantik, 2nd edition Munich 2002) which was directed towards a broader audience;


  • In 1997 I co-edited (with Christoph Cornelissen) a book on "Victors and Vanquished - 1945 as a turning point";     
  • the biography of the Prussian War Minister and Chief of General Staff Erich von Falkenhayn (Munich 1994, 2nd edition 1996).

  • I have published more than 50 scholarly chapters and articles to journals and books and around 70 shorter pieces and research reviews.

Postgraduate Supervision

I can offer supervision in the following areas:

  • Military history 19th and 20th centuries, especially both World Wars
  • International Relations 19th/early 20th century
  • German, Italian and Austrian history 19th / 20th centuries

Current research students

  • Nicholas Graham works on: "In search of a democratic axis: British intelligence on France and America, 1936-40‘ (Co-Supervision with James Harris)
  • Doug Douds works on the staff culture of the Potomac Army (Co-supervision with John Gooch)
  • Claudio Biltoc works on Romania during the Cold War.(Co-Supervision with John Gooch)
  • Brian McCrary works on a history of the US Marinecorps from 1898-1941.(Co-Supervision with John Gooch)
  • Dauti Daut works on a history of Great Britain and Albania under Ottoman rule from 1878-1914 (Co-supervision with Nir Arielli) 
  • Claude Berube works on the American Navy in the Jacksonian period. (Co-supervision with John Gooch)
  • Jessica Huckabey works on the American perception of the Gorshkov Navy during the Cold War. (Co-Supervision with John Gooch)

Past research students

  • Christopher Phillips worked on logistics on the Western Front during the Great War. (Co-supervision with Alison Fell). His viva was in late 2014. Dr. Phillips is now teaching at Trinity and All Saints, Leeds. 
  • Patricia Brown finished in 2012 an MA by Research on the fate of British (including Dominions) PoWs in Ottoman custody during the First World War. She is reflecting on enlarging her study into a PhD, maybe in cooperation with Turkish scholars.
  • Patrick Bourne finished his PhD "Frank Lascelles: A Victorian Ambassador" in January 2011. I "inherited" Patrick from my colleague Keith Wilson when he retired, and supervised him until completion. Dr. Bourne works now for a Museum in Leeds.
  • Kirsten Zirkel finished her PhD in 2007 at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität. Her PhD thesis is published: "Vom Militaristen zum Pazifisten. General Berthold von Deimling - eine politische Biographie", Essen (Klartext), 2008. (Frieden und Krieg. Beiträge zur Historischen Friedensforschung 9). Dr. Zirkel works now for McKinsey in Düsseldorf.
  • Michael Obst finished his PhD in 2008 at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität. His PhD thesis: "Einer nur ist Herr im Reich. Kaiser Wilhelm II als politischer Redner", was published by Schoeningh in 2010 and a volume with sources in 2011. Dr. Obst is co-owner of a publishing house (Arco Verlag) which specializes in German-Bohemian literature.
  • Chad Fulwider got his PhD at Emory University in 2008. I left Emory in summer 2006, therefore Astrid Eckert took over and finished supervision of this PhD. Chad wrote about: "The Kaiser's most Loyal Subjects? The German View of America and German-Americans during World War I." Dr. Fulwider is now Assistant Professor at Centenary College in Shreveport, LA, USA.

Teaching Areas

  • History of Imperial Germany
  • Military history, 19th and 20th century
  • International relations, 1850-1919
  • Naval history / Atlantic history