I joined Manchester after working for several years at Birkbeck, University of London, and the Australian National University.
I am an expert of modern Europe, with a principal, though not exclusive focus on Italy and modern Germany. I have a strong interest in the comparative and transnational history of twentieth-century Europe. In 2018, I published a monograph on the entangled history of Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany (Yale University Press, 2018). In this book, I ask how a new history of European fascism can be told through the perspective of the cultural history of diplomacy.
The fatal bond between Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler was one of the most significant political relationships of the twentieth century. No Western politicians met more frequently and with greater fanfare than the fascist leaders, united by an imperialist, expansionist and violent ideology. The dictators’ seventeen meetings between 1934 and 1944 frame the basic structure of my new book.
Rather than follow the path laid by historians interested in ‘generic fascism’, an increasingly self-referential field of study, I have been inspired by insights gained from the cultural history of diplomacy, the history of masculinity, and the history of performance.
Building on this scholarship and using sources such as itineraries, seating charts, and popular opinion reports that have been ignored by conventional political historians, I develop an analytical framework for deconstructing the performative nature of the Mussolini-Hitler relationship. More specifically, I demonstrate how Mussolini and Hitler came to represent a new style of one-on-one, face-to-face diplomacy to attack the post-1918 order, which, according to Fascist and Nazi propaganda, had been characterised by treaties, collective security and the League of Nations.
The New Order craved for by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany found its clearest manifestation in the staged friendship of the dictators. A powerful display of unity and friendship was created by Fascist and Nazi propaganda from the late 1930s onwards. This performance created its own political momentum which made both leaders stuck with each other. But their relationship also had repercussions for the millions of Italians and Germans who were living the war experience. Here is a case study of how political performances, amplified by the mass media, can take on their own political thrust.
The question of how ruthless leaders ‘taking back control’ of their countries brought the world to war was not my central question when I began researching the book in 2011, but it is a question that captured my attention as I was completing it in the summer of 2017.
Mussolini and Hitler is also available as an Audiobook. A Danish translation was published by Kristeligs Dagblads Forlag in 2018.
A German translation is forthcoming with Suhrkamp Verlag, and an Italian version with Laterza.
My earlier work was on the social and cultural history of Weimar and Nazi Germany, and my first monograph was the 2009 Suicide in Nazi Germany (Oxford University Press; German translation with Suhrkamp, 2011). I have also worked on repression and control in the Third Reich and have co-edited and co-authored with Nikolaus Wachsmann The Nazi Camps, 1933-1939: A Documentary History (Nebraska University Press, 2012) and a special issue of the Journal of Contemporary History.
I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a former Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence.
At Manchester, I lead the 'Politics, Institutions, and Ideas' research group, together with Prof. Frank Mort. We also lead the Cultures of Diplomacy research network, together with Dr Thomas Tunstall-Allcock.
I co-convene the international Rethinking Modern Europe seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and sit on the editorial advisory board of European History Quarterly.