The Professor Sir Ian Kershaw Collection

Ref: Special Collection
Title: The Professor Sir Ian Kershaw Collection

Scope: A collection of books from the personal library of Professor Sir Ian Kershaw, historian, author and university academic, covering a wide range of historical subjects including medieval history, the social history of twentieth-century Germany, and Nazism and the Third Reich.

Dates: 1847-
Extent: c1600 vols.
Name of creators: Ian Kershaw

Administrative / biographical history:

Ian Kershaw was born in Oldham, Lancashire in 1943. He was educated at Counthill Grammar School and St Bede's College, Manchester, before studying for a BA in History at the University of Liverpool. He followed this with a DPhil at Merton College, Oxford, editing a manuscript of the accounts of Bolton Priory in the late 15th and early 16th century, and producing his thesis Bolton Priory, 1286-1325 : an economic study in 1969.

Following his time at Oxford, Professor Kershaw took a post as lecturer in medieval history at the University of Manchester. He began learning German to assist in his research of the German peasantry in the Middle Ages. As his language skills improved he became increasingly interested in what was happening in Germany and how it was coping with the legacy of the Second World War. On a visit to West Germany in 1972 he encountered an aging Nazi who remarked that 'if you English had come in with us, we'd have destroyed Bolshevism' and that 'the Jew is a louse'. This outburst shocked him and prompted him to research the social history of the Nazi era in Germany. He eventually abandoned his work on the medieval period and was able to move to a post teaching modern history at Manchester.

In 1975, he joined Martin Broszat's 'Bavaria Project' where he examined how ordinary people viewed Hitler. As a result of this work he wrote his first book on the Third Reich, The 'Hitler Myth': Image and Reality in the Third Reich, which was first published in German in 1980 as Der Hitler-Mythos: Volksmeinung und Propaganda im Dritten Reich. He saw the framework of the Nazi state and the social conditions at that time as far more significant than the personality of Hitler as an explanation for the way Nazi Germany developed.

He was Visiting Professor of Modern History at the Ruhr University in Bochum, West Germany from 1983 to 1984, and from 1987 to 1989 he was Professor of Modern History at the University of Nottingham. In 1989 he took up the post of Professor of Modern History at the University of Sheffield where he remained until his retirement in 2008.

Throughout his career Professor Kershaw has written numerous books on Nazism, the Third Reich and Hitler. His books, particularly the two volume biography of Hitler, have been translated into many languages and been awarded several prizes.

Professor Kershaw is widely regarded as one of the world's leading experts on Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. He was the consultant to the BAFTA-winning BBC-TV series, 'The Nazis: A Warning from History', BBC2's 'War of the Century', German television (ZDF)'s 'Hitler: eine Bilanz', and 'Holokaust', BBC's 'Timewatch' programmes on 'Operation Sealion' (planned invasion of Britain), Himmler, and 'The Making of Adolf Hitler', and to the BBC TV series 'Auschwitz'.

Professor Sir Ian Kershaw was knighted in 2002 for services to history. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Historical Society.

  • Related collections: Fascism in Europe Collection; Mendelson Collection
  • Source: Donated by Professor Sir Ian Kershaw in 2008
  • System of arrangement: Numerical
  • Subjects: Germany--History--20th century; Fascism; National socialism
  • Names: Kershaw, Ian
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Finding aids: In the process of being listed and catalogued