A historian of modern Europe & Germany, I am principally interested in democratic culture: how ideas are developed, reshaped, & put to work by active citizens in modern democratic states. At the heart of my current research lies a cluster of unresolved questions about how political emotions relate to democratic stability. My research & teaching interests include the history of democracy, queer history, transnational histories of knowledge, intellectual history & political theory, & a range of issues related to historiography & method.
At UBC, I am a Sessional Lecturer in the Department of History as well as a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for European Studies. I hold a PhD in Modern European History from Stanford University. I completed my undergraduate training at the University of Toronto.
My research has been supported by grants & fellowships from the Stanford Humanities Center, the German Historical Institute, the Central European History Society, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Hoover Institution Library & Archives, The Europe Center at Stanford University, & others.
Convinced that historical thinking matters for public life & strengthens our common citizenship, I also write regularly on books & ideas for general audiences. You can find my essays & reviews in publications like The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Aeon Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, & elsewhere.
Please feel free to send me an email—or follow me on Twitter: @IanPBeacock.
Dissertation & Book Project
Heartbroken: Democratic Emotions, Political Subjectivity, & the Unravelling of the Weimar Republic, 1918–1933. My dissertation & current book project tackles a longstanding & still-unresolved set of questions about the relationship between political emotions & the stability of democratic institutions. Examining for the first time the ways in which German politicians, intellectuals, and activists grappled with the nature of democratic emotions after the First World War, this project tells a new story about the character & collapse of the Weimar Republic—Germany's first democratic experiment. My research unearths & restores to life a startling range of efforts by Germans to imagine & cultivate what they understood to be specifically democratic emotions (from love to desire to hatred) before narrating an equally haunting tale about how this passionate political sensibility eroded. In this way, the project proposes an alternative explanation for the disintegration of Weimar democracy. More broadly, by tracing shifting ideas about political emotions & human nature, it offers historians as well as political & social scientists a novel way of approaching the success & failure of modern democratic states. This research argues that how citizens imagine & understand each other as political creatures deeply matters, perhaps more than we have realized, for the stability & sustainability of democratic institutions.
See a brief Q&A about my current project here.
Journal Articles (Peer-Reviewed)
Book Reviews & Review Essays
Essays & Commentary
This course will introduce you to major themes in twentieth-century German history and historiography. We will examine continuities and discontinuities in German development from the Empire through World War I and the Weimar Republic, with a special emphasis on the causes of the breakdown of Weimar democracy and the rise of Hitler's National Socialism. The course will then turn to the Nazi revolution in politics and society, focusing on the place of racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Communism in Nazi ideology and practice. We will look at how Nazi ideology combined with the structure of the Nazi state and the cover of the Second World War to produce the unique horror of the Holocaust. The total defeat of Germany in 1945 and its subsequent reconstruction as two states again raises the question of continuities and discontinuities. We will trace the divergent, but linked histories of democratic West Germany and the Communist East, concluding with the dramatic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and subsequent reunification of the two states.
I teach European history from the Renaissance to the present, with a particular focus on 19th- and 20th-century Germany. My classroom teaching emphasizes the skills of good historians & democratic citizens alike: careful & critical reading, generous engagement with the ideas of others, & persuasive argumentation.
At UBC, I am currently teaching HIST 356: Twentieth-Century Germany (Spring 2019) and HIST 490P: Histories of Democracy (Spring 2019).
I previously taught at Stanford University, where I also co-directed a graduate pedagogy program & received several teaching prizes: