Kershaw, Ian 1943-

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Kershaw, Ian 1943-


Born April 29, 1943, in Oldham, Lancashire, England; son of Joseph (a musician) and Alice Kershaw; married Janet Elizabeth Gammie; children: David Francis, Stephen Patrick. Education: Attended St. Bede's College; University of Liverpool, B.A. (with first-class honors), 1965; Merton College, Oxford, D.Phil., 1969.


Office—Department of History, 387 Glossop Rd., University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Historian, educator, and writer. University of Manchester, Manchester, England, began as assistant lecturer, 1968, became lecturer in medieval history, 1970, senior lecturer, 1979-87, and reader elect in modern history, 1987; University of Nottingham, Nottingham, England, professor and chair of modern history, 1987-89; University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England, professor of modern history, 1989—, has also served as chair of modern history. Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum, Bochum, Germany, visiting professor of contemporary European history, 1983-84.


Fellow of the British Academy, Royal Historical Society, Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.


Wolfson Literary Award, 2000; Bruno Kreisky Prize, 2000; British Academy Book Award, 2001, for Hitler: 1936-1945: Nemesis; Elizabeth Longford Historical Biography Prize, 2004, for Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and Britain's Road to War.


(Editor) Bolton Priory Rentals and Ministers' Accounts, 1473-1539, Yorkshire Archaeological Society (England), 1970.

(Editor) Bolton Priory: The Economy of a Northern Monastery, 1286-1325, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1973.

Der Hitler-Mythos: Volksmeinung und Propaganda im Dritten Reich, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (Stuttgart, Germany), 1980, revised edition translated as The "Hitler Myth": Image and Reality in the Third Reich, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1987.

Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria, 1933-45, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1983.

The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1985, 4th edition, 2000.

(Editor) Weimar: Why Did German Democracy Fail?, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1990.

Hitler: A Profile in Power, Longman (London, England), 1991.

(Editor, with Moshe Lewin) Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris, [London, England], 1998, Norton (New York, NY), 1999.

Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis, Norton (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor, with David Smith) The Bolton Priory Compotus, 1286-1325, Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 2000.

Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and Britain's Road to War, Allen Lane (New York, NY), 2004.

Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941, Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Author and presenter of television lecture Hitler's Place in History, 2005. Consultant to British Academy of Film and Television Arts-winning BBC-TV series, The Nazis: A Warning from History, BBC2's War of the Century, Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution, and German television's Hitler: eine Bilanz.


A scholar of modern and medieval history, Ian Kershaw has written extensively on the rise to power in the 1930s of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, more commonly known as the Nazi Party, under the leadership of Austrian-born Adolf Hitler. In his volumes examining this period, known as the Third Reich, Kershaw concentrates on the effect of propaganda on the German people and its relation to the Nazis' aggressive domestic and foreign policy. Although much has been written on this infamous era, a number of critics assert that Kershaw's analytical work adds a new dimension to this area of historical scholarship. To quote Istvan Deak in the New Republic, Kershaw "is, indeed, one of the great authorities on the Nazi period."

Kershaw's first effort in this field to be published in English was Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria, 1933-45. In this volume Kershaw attempts to uncover the attitudes prevalent among various strata of Bavarian society regarding Nazi policies and propaganda. He investigates the pre-Nazi ideological climate and concludes that Nazi propaganda built upon, rather than substantially transformed, preexisting public opinion.

In 1987, Kershaw's The "Hitler Myth": Image and Reality in the Third Reich appeared in English translation. Substantially revised from the 1980 German edition, Der Hitler-Mythos: Volksmeinung und Propaganda im Dritten Reich, the book surveys the Nazi propaganda machine, which successfully presented Hitler as the infallible Fuhrer and savior of all German-speaking peoples. The book also examines Hitler's plans for a thousand-year Reich, which was partially based on traits of existing political culture. Kershaw explores the relation of these myths to both the early success and later failure of Nazi Germany. He notes that Hitler and the Nazis rose to power on a program of economic reform that helped rescue Germany from near financial collapse. Once firmly entrenched, the state began an aggressive campaign to expand its borders and become an unrivaled world power. The volume details how this fatalistic Nazi crusade was assisted by the frenzy of propaganda whipped up around Hitler as supreme leader of the German Reich. Kershaw further examines how the mythology surrounding Hitler allowed him to go to far greater lengths than ordinarily possible for a head of state, and why these exorbitant actions led to his eventual defeat and suicide. In reviewing The "Hitler Myth" for the Times Literary Supplement, Jeremy D. Noakes deemed Kershaw's book "important for an understanding of the Third Reich, placing the discussion of Hitler's role on a new level of sophistication."

At the end of the twentieth century, Kershaw published a massive undertaking: a two-volume biography of Hitler running in excess of 1,800 pages. Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis together examine Hitler as a public figure who dominated through the sheer force of his personality. Hitler, 1889-1936 traces Hitler's formative years and his involvement with the nascent Nazi Party. Hitler, 1936-1945 covers the years of World War II, when the majority of Germans united behind Hitler to work toward his goal of world domination by a master race. Both volumes broaden their scope to include profiles of other important Third Reich leaders and the development of political and military movements in Germany through the first third of the twentieth century. To quote Walter Reich in the New York Times Book Review, readers of Kershaw's work "understand how Hitler could have become so identified with Germany, and it with him. Kershaw is able to clarify, perhaps better than any biographer who preceded him, what made Hitler's dictatorial power possible."

Kershaw's biographies of Hitler join a crowded field. Perhaps no figure of the twentieth century has been written about in greater volume. However, Kershaw was able to access sources that were previously unknown, and the sheer weight of his knowledge of the Third Reich infused the works with new insights. An Economist contributor remarked: "Kershaw combines impeccable scholarship with a narrative drive that sweeps the reader effortlessly back to the bizarre and deadly world created by Hitler and his circle of disciples. There is no cheap psycho-history. This is a book about what is really knowable." New York Times Book Review correspondent Ian Buruma noted that the Hitler Kershaw describes in Hitler, 1936-1945 "had the perfect personality for the successful cult leader. He was a malign guru, allowing his followers to project their fantasies onto him." Buruma went on to note: "He lived vicariously through the crowd, soaking up its energy." The reviewer also wrote: "Kershaw's brilliant account is a depressing book to read, not only because of what it tells us about Hitler but also because of what it says about the masses who followed him." In her History Today piece on the first volume, Hitler, 1889-1936, Jill Stephenson wrote: "No one knows Hitler better than Ian Kershaw." Stephenson added: "This is a book of the highest rank of scholarship."

In Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and Britain's Road to War, Kershaw examines Londonderry's pro-German feelings within the context of the British ruling class, many of whom shared Londonderry's political ideology. The author goes on to outline Lon- donderry's eventual political downfall and his subsequent efforts to meet secretly with German leaders in the hopes of unifying the two countries. "The book provides insights into both British politics and Anglo-German diplomacy in the appeasement era," wrote Frederic Krome in the Library Journal. Writing in History: Review of New Books, Bryan Mark Rigg noted: "Overall, Kershaw's well-written and researched book provides an interesting glimpse into British appeasement politics toward Germany from 1933-39."

Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941, focuses on the decision making that both led to World War II and influenced its ultimate outcome. In the process, the author discusses how things might have been different if other decisions had been made, such as England negotiating a peace agreement with Germany instead of going to war. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the author's "analysis focuses on the structure of decision making and its consequences." This analysis focuses on ten specific leadership decisions that Kershaw believes is essential to understanding the war. As with Kershaw's other books on Germany and World War II, Fateful Choices received widespread acclaim from the critics. "As with all good ideas, one wonders why this one had not been thought of before," wrote Antony Beevor in the Guardian. "Despite countless books about the second world war, this is the first to examine the key decision-making processes during this crucial early period in sequence, and how fortunate that it is Ian Kershaw bringing his immense knowledge and clarity of thought to the task." Andrew Rosenheim, writing in Publishers Weekly, commented: "It's a book that's full of surprises, overturning many popular perceptions about the war."



McElligott, Anthony, and Tim Kirk, editors, Working towards the Führer: Essays in Honour of Sir Ian Kershaw, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 2003.


American Historical Review, February, 1999, Norman M. Naimark, review of Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison, p. 159.

Booklist, January 1, 1999, Gilbert Taylor, review of Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris, p. 823.

Economist, September 30, 2000, "Walking with the Devil," p. 87.

Foreign Affairs, November-December, 1997, Stanley Hoffmann, review of Stalinism and Nazism, p. 166; March, 1999, Stanley Hoffmann, review of Hitler, 1889-1936, p. 146.

Guardian (Manchester, England), June 2, 2007, Antony Beevor, review of Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941; June 5, 2007, John Crace, "Ian Kershaw: Past Master," interview with author.

History: Review of New Books, spring, 2005, Bryan Mark Rigg, review of Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry, the Nazis, and the Road to War.

History Today, July, 1998, Mark Roseman, review of Stalinism and Nazism, p. 58; October, 1998, Jill Stephenson, review of Hitler, 1889-1936, p. 52.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1998, review of Hitler, 1889-1936.

Library Journal, January, 1999, Frederic Krome, review of Hitler, 1889-1936, p. 112; December 1, 2004, Frederic Krome, review of Making Friends with Hitler, p. 137.

National Review, March 8, 1999, Richard Lowry, "Rise of a Monster," p. 47; July 30, 2007, David Pryce-Jones, "Turning Points," p. 49.

New Leader, December 14, 1998, Sam Tanenhaus, review of Hitler, 1889-1936, p. 5.

New Republic, April 12, 1999, Istvan Deak, "The Making of a Monster," p. 44.

New Statesman, September 27, 2004, Richard Overy, review of Making Friends with Hitler, p. 79.

New Yorker, March 8, 1999, Jane Kramer, review of Hitler, 1889-1936, p. 87.

New York Review of Books, May 31, 1984, Istvan Deak, review of Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria, 1933-45, p. 37; March 18, 1999, Gordon A. Craig, review of Hitler, 1889-1936, p. 32; November 4, 1999, James Epstein, "Always Time to Kill," p. 57.

New York Times Book Review, January 31, 1999, Walter Reich, "The Devil's Miracle Man"; December 10, 2000, Ian Buruma, "Depravity Was Contagious."

Publishers Weekly, November 30, 1998, review of Hitler, 1889-1936, p. 55; October 9, 2000, review of Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis, p. 80; March 19, 2007, review of Fateful Choices, p. 51; March 26, 2007, Andrew Rosenheim, "Sir Ian Kershaw's Fateful Choices."

Reason, August-September, 1999, Michael McMenamin, review of Hitler, 1889-1936, p. 72.

Times Literary Supplement, July 1, 1983, J.D. Noakes, review of Der Hitler-Mythos: Volksmeinung und Propaganda im Dritten Reich, p. 689; January 8, 1988, Jeremey D. Noakes, review of The "Hitler Myth," p. 44.


International Movie Database, (September 8, 2007), information on author's film work.

January Magazine, nonfiction/ (December 8, 2000), Jonathan Shipley, "Reading Hitler's Rise."

University of Sheffield Web site, (September 8, 2007), faculty profile of author.