I am a historian of Europe in the World, specializing in histories of science, statecraft, and the global environment. My research examines how human communities have thought and acted on planetary scales since the nineteenth century, including as mediated by race, gender, religion, and class. While much of my scholarship concerns modern Europe and North America, with a particular interest in Germany, the US, and the USSR, I conceive of these places broadly and seek to contextualize them in worldwide frames and the history of the longue durée. My methodology entails following unexpected questions across geographical borders and disciplinary boundaries, a practice that has taken me to more than one hundred archives and special collections libraries in twenty countries.
My current book project, The Year of the Earth (1957-1958): Cold War Science and the Making of Planetary Consciousness, explains how environmental science helped to concentrate wealth and power in the Global North following the retraction of European empires. I show how the invention of Earth as an imagined set of physical systems was essential for new forms of empire and tactics of wealth accumulation. To tell this story, I focus on the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year (IGY), the first global study of our planet as a unified environment. The IGY involved tens of thousands of scientists and citizen volunteers from most countries. Its organizers (a remarkable team of rivals representing both sides of the Iron Curtain) publicly depicted their program as vital for global economic development. But acquiring comprehensive environmental data—including data related to “extreme” regions like the upper atmosphere, deep ocean, north and south poles, and outer space—allowed the Cold War superpowers and their allies to exercise global military and commercial force while claiming to support decolonization across the Global South. I published an article about these themes with the Journal of Global History in 2020.
My first book, Chosen Nation: Mennonites and Germany in a Global Era, appeared with Princeton University Press in 2017. This book tells the surprising story of a predominantly rural and historically pacifist religious community that developed a broad fascist constituency across three continents in concert with rising transnational sensibilities. Chosen Nation offers a multifaceted perspective on nationalism’s emergence across Europe and the world, and in 2018, it was shortlisted for the European Studies Book Award. This project inspired my passion for multi-continental archival research, and it prompted me to turn the tools of global and transnational history to the study of environmental science and planetary thought. My scholarship has also informed a broad effort in the Mennonite denomination to reckon with its troubled history of involvement with Nazism and the Holocaust. Since 2015, an academic conference series on these topics has been held in Canada, Germany, Paraguay, and the United States. I have published related articles in German Studies Review and Antisemitism Studies.
Support for my scholarship has come from the American Historical Association, the Fulbright Commission, the German Academic Exchange Service, NASA, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. I have held fellowships at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, the European University Institute, Freie Universität Berlin, and the University of Sydney. My teaching and writing have received awards from the Associated Church Press, Harvard University, the Kansas Historical Foundation, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.
Chosen Nation: Mennonites and Germany in a Global Era (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017). Paperback 2019.
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"Europe's Final Frontier: Astroculture and Planetary Power since 1945," Contemporary European History, forthcoming.
“The Making of a Holocaust Denier: Ingrid Rimland, Mennonites, and Gender in White Supremacy, 1945-2000,” Antisemitism Studies 5, no. 2 (2021): 233-265.
“Terms of Racial Endearment: Nazi Categorization of Mennonites in Ideology and Practice, 1929-1945,” German Studies Review 44, no. 1 (2021): 27-46.
“A Benchmark for the Environment: Big Science and ‘Artificial’ Geophysics in the Global 1950s,” Journal of Global History 15, no. 1 (2020): 149-168.