Professor Holger Afflerbach

Professor Holger Afflerbach


I was always passionate about history. My elementary school teacher told my parents: "He will study history" - and she was right! I studied Modern and Medieval history, Italian and German literature at the Heinrich Heine Universität Duesseldorf and the Universita degli Studi di Napoli. I wrote my PhD thesis on the Prussian Minister of War and German Chief of Staff, General Erich v. Falkenhayn (1861-1922), one of Imperial Germany's key protagonists during the First World War. The PhD was funded by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation and my thesis was supervised by Wolfgang J. Mommsen.  

After finishing my PhD and after a year as councellor in the German parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) I got funding for a major research project on international relations before 1914. The project run in close cooperation with Wolfgang Mommsen and was granted by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Cologne. The outcome was a large monograph entitled "The Triple Alliance and European Great Power Politics, 1881-1915" and several articles. I finished the project as a Feodor-Lynen scholar (a two years grant by the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Foundation) in Vienna, cooperating with Prof. Helmut Rumpler. I was awarded my "Habilitation" at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität Duesseldorf in 1999 and got there in 2003 a honorary professorship.

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

I was offered in August 2002 a DAAD Professorship of Modern German History at Emory University in Atlanta which I gladly accepted. Among other things I organised a large international conference in 2004 on the outbreak of the First World 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. I organized several conferences in Leeds and created and am responsible for our Master program in "War and Strategy" which is running since 2016. 

I wrote six books, published eight edited volumes and am the author of more than 150 chapters, articles and smaller pieces.


  • Programme Manager of our Master program
  • Director of Taught Postgraduate

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

Past 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 wrote a history of Germany, and German strategy, during the First World War which was published by C.HJ. Beck in Munich.

I got two very prestigious fellowships which enabled me to write this book. The first one was 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. 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.

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 100 shorter pieces and research reviews.
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • Magister Artium in History, German and IItalian Literature, Heinrich-Heine-Universitaet Duesseldorf
  • Dr. phil., Heinrich Heine Universitaet Duesseldorf
  • Habilitation, Heinrich Heine Universitaet Duesseldorf
  • Venia Legendi, Heinrich-Heine-Universitaet Duesseldorf

Professional memberships

  • Verrtrauensdozent, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
  • Arbeitskreis Militaergeschichte

Student education

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:

  • Christiane Askirk works on neutral Denmark during the Great War (Co-Supervision with Simon Ball).
  • Jim Di Crocco works on "Partnership in defeat. The US and the Fall of the Philippines in 1941/42 (Co-supervision with John Gooch).
  • Doug Douds works on the staff culture of the Potomac Army (Co-supervision with John Gooch).
  • Nicholas Graham works on: "In search of a democratic axis: British intelligence on France and America, 1936-40‘ (Co-Supervision with James Harris).
  • Eve Haskins writes a history of the city of Leeds during the Great War (Co-Supervision with Ingrid Sharp).
  • Brian McCrary works on a history of the US Marinecorps from 1898-1941.(Co-Supervision with John Gooch).
  • Harry Sanderson works on training in the British army during the Great War (Co-Supervision with Jessica Meyer).
  • Samuel Wallace works on the Tunisian Campaign in 1943 - a decisive defeat of the Axis Powers (Co-Supervision with Simon Ball).

Past research students:

  • Jessica Huckabey handed in her thesis on the American perception of the Gorshkov Navy during the Cold War in September 2018 and is awaiting her viva (Co-Supervision with John Gooch).
  • Dauti Daut wrote a history of Great Britain and Albania under Ottoman rule from 1878-1914 (Co-supervision with Nir Arielli). Dr. Daut lives as a journalist in London. 
  • Claude Berube analyzed the American Navy in the Jacksonian period. (Co-supervision with John Gooch). Dr. Berube is Director of the Naval Museum in Annapolis and Commander in the Naval Reserves.
  • 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 Duesseldorf.
  • 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 Associate Professor of History 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

Research groups and institutes

  • War Studies

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>