Wesleyan portrait of Erik  Grimmer-Solem

Erik Grimmer-Solem

Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Professor in the College of Social Studies

330 High Street, 205

Professor of History

330 High Street, 205

Co-Chair, College of Social Studies

Tutor, College of Social Studies

330 High Street, 205

Professor, German Studies

330 High Street, 205


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BA Brigham Young University
DPHIL Oxford University
MPHIL Cambridge University
MSC London School of Economics and Political Science

Erik Grimmer-Solem

Erik Grimmer-Solem is the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Professor in the College of Social Studies and Professor of History. His field of expertise is modern German history with specializations in economic history, economic thought, social reform, and imperialism. He is the author of The Rise of Historical Economics and Social Reform in Germany, 1864-1894 (Oxford University Press, 2003) and Learning Empire: Globalization and the German Quest for World Status, 1875-1919 (Cambridge University Press, 2019), along with more than thirty other publications. He has held fellowships and research awards from the University of Chicago, Leverhulme Trust, Thyssen Foundation, and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). At Wesleyan he has won both the Carol A. Baker and Binswanger teaching prizes. 

Prof. Grimmer-Solem's research on the Wehrmacht's role in the beginnings of the Holocaust in 1941 was discussed in German parliament and was reported on widely in newspapers, magazines, and public radio in Germany, including the national newsweekly Der Spiegel. This culminated in the renaming of a military base in Germersheim, Germany in 2015. His latest book, Learning Empire, seeks to reshape our understanding of Imperial Germany’s history by reconstructing the complex overseas entanglements of Germans in North and South America, Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Russia, and Ottoman Turkey.  By highlighting the impact of the world on German naval and colonial poilicy, his research offers a novel reinterpretation of the full arc of Imperial Germany’s history and thus a new perspective on the deeper origins of the First World War that highlights the prominent role of middle class scholars in shaping a German form of "liberal imperialism." Since the work of the historians Fritz Fischer and Hans-Ulrich Wehler in the 1960s and 70s, and the important critique of the German "Sonderweg" (special path) thesis by David Blackbourn and Geoff Eley in the 1980s, such deeper historical reinterpretations of Germany’s imperial past have only rarely been attempted. Grimmer-Solem's work makes it possible to view German history between 1875 and 1918 as concurrent with the rise and demise the first era of globalization, linked directly to the profound changes in the global system brought on by the emergence of Germany, the United States and Japan as new world powers. The primary ambition of this project is to bring the world back into German “World Policy,” where it has long been missing due to the dominant historiographical preoccupation with the domestic origins of German imperialism and the still very Eurocentric frame of German history. At the same time, it connects the history of American westward expansion and industrialization and the modernization of Meiji and Taishō-era Japan with Germany in ways that help overturn the exceptionalist master narratives still dominant in these two still very insular historiographies. This changes how we view both the “German question” and the history of the 20th century, and it invites reflection on the problem of disorder and instability accompanying globalization in the current century.

Before joining Wesleyan in 2002, Prof. Grimmer-Solem was a Harper Fellow at the University of Chicago (1999-2002), and prior to that, Lecturer in Modern European History at Balliol College, Oxford University (1999). He holds a D.Phil. in Economic and Social History from Oxford University (Nuffield College), an M.Phil. in European Studies from Cambridge University, an M.Sc. in International Political Economy from the London School of Economcs, and a B.A. in International Relations, Economics, and German from Brigham Young University. 

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

FALL 2022: M, W & F, 10-11:00 am & 3-4:00 pm; or by appointment


Fall 2022
HIST 172 - 01
IH: Modern Germany

Spring 2023
CSS 340 - 01
Jr Hist Tut: Post-Imper Hist

CSS 340 - 02
Jr Hist Tut: Post-Imper Hist

HIST 263 - 01
Inside Nazi Germany, 1933-1945