When German historian’s Jürgen Osterhammel’s The Transformation of the World was published in Germany four years ago, reviewers of the major newspapers were in complete agreement: this voluminous book of history would do more than change the way we looked at the 19th century. They saw a new kind of history at work here, not a sober historical treatise, but writing at its best, packed with facts and peppered with eye-opening insights, moving from panorama and zooming in to detail and back again. Osterhammel, a tenured professor at the University of Konstanz (next to the lake of the same name, separating Germany and Switzerland), is probably the best known of contemporary historians. The weekly Die Zeit called him “the Meryl Streep of the German humanities,” due to the number of awards he has garnered over the decades. He gave the commemorative speech at Angela Merkel’s 60th birthday last year.
Jürgen Osterhammel revised the text for the English-language edition of The Transformation of the World, translated by Patrick Camiller and published by Princeton University Press. The volume will soon be available in paperback. A very relaxed Jürgen Osterhammel reacted promptly and kindly to our enquiry to ask him a few questions about his book. We feel honored, because Osterhammel doesn’t grant many interviews.
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