Dr Sebastian Gehrig

MPhil (Cantab), Dr phil (Heidelberg), FRHistS

Department of History

Senior Lecturer in Modern European History

Senior Lecturer in Modern European History, Dr Sebastian Gehrig
Profile picture of Senior Lecturer in Modern European History, Dr Sebastian Gehrig
S.Gehrig@sheffield.ac.uk

Full contact details

Dr Sebastian Gehrig
Department of History
Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
Sheffield
S3 7RA
Profile

I am a historian of modern Europe and international history. In my work, I have always been particularly fascinated by the implications of the past for contemporary politics, culture, and society.

My research interests focus on themes in modern and contemporary history that place the history of Europe into its wider international contexts. I have published and continue to work on the politics of law and human rights during the Cold War. In particular, my work explores the clash of competing ideologies of law within the United Nations (UN), state-socialist approaches to international criminal law (with a focus on anti-fascism and anti-racism doctrines), citizenship rights and freedom of movement, and sovereignty doctrines in the twentieth century. I am also interested in the history of cultural diplomacy and conflicts over German cultural sovereignty during the Cold War (with a particular focus on Sino-German relations), Maoist ideology and its influence on militant subcultures in Europe during the 1960s and 70s, and radical politics of the 1970s. My current major research project explores the history of treason in 20th century Germany.

After studying history and politics at the University of Göttingen, I obtained an MPhil in Historical Studies from the University of Cambridge and completed my doctorate at the University of Heidelberg. Before joining Sheffield, I taught at University College London, the University of Oxford, and the University of Roehampton.

Qualifications
  • Dr phil, University of Heidelberg
  • MPhil, University of Cambridge
Research interests

My main research interests focus on the impact of institutional structures and legal frameworks on the individual. My first book Legal Entanglements: Law, Rights, and the Battle for Legitimacy in Divided Germany, 1945-1989 examines the political and socio-cultural history of German law across the Iron Curtain and situates it in wider international legal conflicts over ‘divided countries’ and decolonisation. The book reveals how central concepts of German legal tradition such as sovereignty, self-determination, citizenship, basic rights, and human rights were reconfigured during the Cold War. I trace how different people, groups, and institutions drove this change. While the work of governmental officials, diplomats, and legal scholars set new confrontational parameters to infringe on the other Germany’s legal sphere, high court judges, state prosecutors, and lawyers and their defendants created pressures on both German governments by putting law into practice. Meanwhile, state-sponsored human rights groups advocated against the ideological other within the United Nations and international law organisations and connected German conflicts to decolonisation and the emerging global human rights regime. This constant interplay between different legal arenas made up Germany’s legal Cold War. The new international law issue of ‘divided countries’—in contrast to the concept of ‘partition’ so often employed in colonial contexts at the end of empire—, turned German-German disputes over a once shared legal heritage into a wider struggle between West German Rechtsstaat ideas and East German frameworks of socialist legality and law. This deeper conflict about the very nature of the law made divided Germany into a legal hotspot in which wider international ideological conflicts over law and rights during the Cold War manifested.

My current major research project focuses on the history of treason, the national security state, and rights of the individual in the twentieth century. I am interested in the social dynamics triggered by the expansion of definitions of high treason following the First World War. Since then, it has no longer been easy to tell where opposition ended and treason against the people, the state, or one’s country began. Perhaps surprisingly, ordinary people became more likely to be accused of ‘endangering the state’ after 1945. The project explores the emotional dynamics of trust and betrayal that underpinned popular notions of loyalty and betrayal, which in turn drove such accusations of treasonous behaviour. Over the course of the twentieth century, these dynamics have deeply permeated society, triggered the expansion of the surveillance state, and shaped today’s digital national security state with its enormous capability of data collection and profiling of dangerous individuals.

Publications

Books

  • Gehrig S (2021) Legal Entanglements Law, Rights and the Battle for Legitimacy in Divided Germany, 1945-1989. Berghahn Books. RIS download Bibtex download

Edited books

  • Gehrig S & Papadogiannis N (Ed.) (2015) The Personal is Political: Sexuality, Gender, and the Left in Europe during the 1970s.. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S, Baumann C & Büchse N (Eds.) (2011) Linksalternative Milieus und Neue Soziale Bewegungenin den 1970er Jahren. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S, Mittler B & Wemheuer F (Eds.) (2008) Kulturrevolution als Vorbild? Maoismen im deutschsprachigen Raum. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles

Chapters

  • Gehrig S (2021) Deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit und "Deutschenfähigkeit": Das Teso-Urteil und die Debatten um Migration und bundesdeutsche Selbstbilder in den achtziger Jahren In Löhnig M (Ed.), Beginn der Gegenwart. Studien zur juristischen Zeitgeschichte der 1980er Jahre (pp. 25-62). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S (2014) Friend or Foe? The People’s Republic of China in West German Cold War Politics In Crowe D & Cho JM (Ed.), Germany and China: Transnational Encounters since the Eighteenth Century (pp. 233-248). London: Palgrave Macmillan. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S (2011) Sympathising Subcultures? The Milieus of West German Terrorism In Klimke M, Scharloth J & Pekelder J (Ed.), Between Prague Spring and French May: Opposition and Revolt in Europe, 1960-1980 (pp. 233-250). New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S (2011) Einleitung: Protest und gesellschaftlicher Wandel in den 1970er Jahren In Gehrig S, Baumann C & Büchse N (Ed.), Linksalternative Milieus und Neue Soziale Bewegungen in den 1970er Jahren (pp. 11-32). Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S (2011) "Zwischen uns und dem Feind einen klaren Trennungsstrich ziehen“: Linksterroristische Gruppen und maoistische Ideologie in der Bundesrepublik der 1960er und 1970er Jahre In Gehrig S, Mittler B & Wemheuer F (Ed.), Kulturrevolution als Vorbild? Maoismen im deutschsprachigen Raum (pp. 153-178). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. RIS download Bibtex download

Book reviews

  • Gehrig S (2020) Marco Duranti, The Conservative Human Rights Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). Sehepunkte : Rezensionsjournal für Geschichtswissenschaften, 20(2). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S (2019) Sammelrezension: Emotionale Politik und Politik der Emotionen, H-Soz-Kult. H-Soz-Kult. Kommunikation und Fachinformation für die Geschichtswissenschaften. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S (2018) Gregor Feindt, Bernhard Gißibl, Johannes Paulmann (eds), Kulturelle Souveränität. Politische Deutungs- und Handlungsmacht jenseits des Staates im 20. Jahrhundert (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016). H-Soz-Kult. Kommunikation und Fachinformation für die Geschichtswissenschaften. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S (2017) Sammelrezension: Meinhof, Mahler, Ensslin – biographische Erklärungsversuche. H-Soz-Kult. Kommunikation und Fachinformation für die Geschichtswissenschaften. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S (2014) Jacco Pekelder, Ich liebe Ulrike – Die R.A.F. und die Niederlande 1970-1980 (Münster: agenda, 2012). Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, 54. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S (2014) Alexander C. Cook: Mao’s Little Red Book. A Global History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). H-Soz-Kult. Kommunikation und Fachinformation für die Geschichtswissenschaften. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gehrig S (2012) Sven Reichardt/Detlef Siegfried (eds), Das Alternative Milieu – Antibürgerlicher Lebensstil und linke Politik in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und Europa 1968-1983 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2010). Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, 52. RIS download Bibtex download
Grants

I have held various grants including from the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust, the Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation, and the German Research Foundation.

Teaching interests
  • Modern European History
  • 20th Century Germany
  • History of Germany in the wider world
  • History of the modern state and national security
  • history of treason 
  • Cold War history
  • History of human rights and international law
  • Sovereignty, law, and United Nations politics
  • Political militancy and violence
  • Gender politics and left-wing sub-cultures
Teaching activities

Undergraduate:

  • HST3207: The National Security State, Treason, and Individual Rights during the Twentieth Century (special subject)
  • HST21015: Uses of History,
  • HST117: The Making of the Twentieth Century
Professional activities and memberships

I am an Associate Member of the Karl-Jaspers-Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies at the University of Heidelberg and an Affiliate Member of the Centre for German Transnational Relations at King's College London. I am also one of the convenors of the Modern German History Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), School of Advanced Studies, London.

Administrative roles

Within the department, I serve as Digital Media and Communications officer

Memberships

  • Royal Historical Society (RHS)
  • German History Society (GHS)
  • German Studies Association (GSA)
  • Verband der Historikerinnen und Historiker Deutschlands (VHD)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)