Historian in focus: Nadine Rossol

  • Date

    Wed 12 Jul 17

Dr Nadine Rossol

Nadine Rossol is an expert on twentieth century Germany, particularly the social and cultural history of the Weimar and Nazi periods. Nadine studied at the University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland and the University of Limerick in Ireland, gaining her PhD in German History from Limerick. She has taught at the University of Essex since 2010.

Her first book was called Performing the Nation in Interwar Germany: Sport, Spectacle and Political Symbolism, 1926-1936 and it was published in 2010. She has also published articles in a number of leading journals. She is currently involved in a number of research projects as well as teaching in the Department of History.

Our History Frontrunner, Iulia-Andreea Braila, talked to Nadine to find out more about her teaching and research interests.

Right now, you teach on four broad areas – policing in Europe, urban Germany, the Third Reich, and commemoration of the past after the Second World War (MA module). I was wondering which one would you say is your favorite and why?

"They all involve exciting aspects and developments, but I think from a student point of view it would have to be my second-year module on policing in 19th and 20th century in Europe because it has such a broad framework across different countries. It’s looking at a really interesting time period, but from a different perspective as we rarely think about the police and its relations to the citizens as a defining aspect of the political and social history of these two centuries. But actually, police forces link the state to the public in a range of ways. Police forces helped Europe’s 20th century dictatorships in their policies of persecution and extermination. Yet they also help us citizens in feeling safe, secure and protected. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, a close look at the police and its interactions with the public tells us a lot about political and social developments in different countries."

You’re also focusing some of your current research on a book about policing in Germany from 1920 to 1950. What drew you to focus on this country and particularly this time frame?

"When people study Germany, they tend to look at the Weimar Republic or the Nazis or the post-war reconstruction of Germany and the division between east and west of the country. But when we examine police forces from the 1920s to the 1950s, we can look for continuity over time, and whether or not political change has influenced policing in Germany. Looking at the relationship between the police and the public provides insight into how society and citizens are defined and re-defined across changing political regimes."

Would you say there was someone you looked up to during your studies?

"I had a fantastic PhD supervisor, who also happened to be my undergraduate teacher, so he inspired me to pursue a PhD."

Why did you pick History as your degree?

"I always enjoyed history at school, as I was always interested in finding out how people lived, what they did and what motivated them to do it, specifically whether this was shaped by personal motivation or the circumstances of the time. I was also fascinated by the connections between the arts and politics, especially artists, writers, architects and journalists who were politically active, and this probably still explains my fascination with the Weimar Republic — a time period in which the most creative artists wanted to change something about the political and social conditions they witnessed."

How do you find the balance between being a researcher and a teacher?

"It’s exciting to teach students about the things you’re researching and students also raise important questions, so teaching complements research. For example, the police module came about because I was doing research on it, so teaching gave me the chance to broaden my research and explore new areas."

I find that a lot of history students don’t know what to focus on after graduation and haven’t picked a career path yet. What would your advice be to them?

"I would say to try to experiment while you’re here at university. History opens doors to many different careers but you need to start looking to find out what interests you. This could mean doing something closely related to your degree, like research in libraries and archives or project managing, or developing leadership skills, managing people, or organizing activities. It could also mean finding out about a different passion you might discover at University and you want to pursue afterwards. Use the time you are here to explore and find out what it is you are really interested in and passionate about. Knowing what you enjoy doing is always the best basis for trying to find out what you want to do after graduation."