Thyssen Lecture: Sebastian Conrad (Berlin) at the GHI London

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Date / time: 15 May, 5:30 pm

German Historical Institute London


The imperial and colonial contexts in which modern science and scholarship came of age haunt us to this day. Be it the origin of museum collections, the Eurocentrism of history textbooks and academic curricula, or the lack of minority ethnic university staff—the shadows of an imperial past loom large upon us today.

The German Historical Institute London is proud to collaborate with the Fritz Thyssen Foundation on a new lecture series on Science, Knowledge, and the Legacy of Empire consisting of eight lectures over fours years. Join us for the second lecture of the series given by Sebastian Conrad Professor of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin, on 15 May 2023 at the GHI London. He will talk about ‘Colonial Times, Global Times: History and Imperial World-Making’:


Colonial hierarchies were constituted not by military and economic power alone, but also by imperial world-views. Chief among their ingredients was a particular temporality. The expansion of the European (and, soon, American and Japanese) empires, and the grafting of imperial structures onto colonized communities, confronted large groups of people with new temporal norms. This ‘temporal invasion’ found expression in the proliferation of clocks as levers of punctuality and temporal discipline; the alignment of calendars and the concomitant synchronization of the globe; and the dissemination of history as the privileged way of linking past, present, and future. Consequently, as I will argue, historians emerged as imperial agents in their own right. They helped introduce ‘historical time’ and a cosmology that redefined narratives about the past and trajectories into the future in the colonizing/colonial world. How did historians achieve this revolutionary form of world-making? Was this only a colonial imposition, or must it be seen as a response to global conjunctures? What are the legacies of this refashioning of temporality in an age of imperial globality, and how does it resonate today?

Abstract by Sebastian Conrad


The lecture will be followed by a reception in the GHIL library. All are welcome to attend. Please register via our website:

Sebastian Conrad is Professor of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin. His work has focused on issues of coloniality/postcoloniality, global history, intellectual history, the history of nationalism, and the theory of history. At the Free University he directs the MA programme ‘Global History’ and the graduate school in ‘Global Intellectual History’. Among his publications are What is Global History? (Princeton University Press, 2016); German Colonialism: A Short History (Cambridge University Press, 2012); An Emerging Modern World, 1750–1870 (Harvard University Press, 2018, edited with Jürgen Osterhammel); and ‘Enlightenment in Global History’, American Historical Review, 117/4 (2012), 999–1027.

The Fritz Thyssen Foundation was established on 7th July 1959 in memory of August and Fritz Thyssen for promoting science and research. It was the first large private individual foundation promoting science and research to be founded in the Federal Republic of Germany after the Second World War. It supports research in the fields of history, language and culture, state, economics and society as well as medicine.

The German Historical Institute London, founded in 1976, is dedicated to the promotion of historical research in the United Kingdom and Germany. It focuses on the comparative history of Britain and Germany, the global and colonial history of the British Empire and Commonwealth, and the history of British-German relations and transfers. More recently, though its India Research Programme, the GHIL has also built close links with scholars in South Asia. The Institute runs academic lectures and conferences, supports international networks, provides research training, awards prizes to outstanding scholars, and offers advice to collaborative projects involving German and British researchers.