John C. G. Röhl (born 31 May 1938) is a British historian notable for his work on Imperial Germany and European history.
John Charles Gerald Röhl was born in the German Hospital in Dalston, east London, on 31 May 1938 to a German father, Dr. Hans-Gerhard Röhl, and an English mother, Freda Kingsford Woulfe-Brenan. She was the daughter of Captain Frederick Woulfe-Brenan, the Labour candidate standing against Lady Astor in the Plymouth Sutton constituency in the general elections of 1922, 1923 and 1924, and of Saffie Beechey Kingsford, great granddaughter of the Georgian portrait painter Sir William Beechey.
At the outbreak of war in 1939, John Röhl was taken by his parents first to Forst on the River Neisse in eastern Germany and then to Pécs in southern Hungary. His first languages were Hungarian and German. After the arrest of his father by the SS in late July 1944 the family moved to the relative safety of the remote Hungarian countryside, but in January 1945 with the imminent approach of the Red Army, Freda Röhl and her by then three children joined the stream of refugees heading westwards back to Germany. They were eventually reunited with Gerhard Röhl, who had been conscripted into a punishment battalion on the Russian front, in Ziegenrück in Thuringia, where they were liberated by the US Army led by General George S. Patton.
After the Potsdam Conference the Americans offered the family safe passage from the Soviet Zone of Occupation to their headquarters in Frankfurt-am-Main, where Gerhard Röhl became an interpreter and later the headmaster of the Helmholtz-Gymnasium, a large grammar school for boys. Freda Röhl returned to England with her two daughters in December 1945; John Röhl was sent under the auspices of the Red Cross to an international children's home in Adelboden, Switzerland. He was reunited with his mother and sisters in Manchester in December 1946.
Röhl attended Seymour Park Primary School and Stretford Grammar School, from where he won a state scholarship and a place to read History at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Before going up to Cambridge in 1958 he completed his national service as an airframe mechanic in the Royal Air Force stationed at RAF Geilenkirchen on the German-Dutch border near Aachen. At Cambridge Röhl achieved a First on both Parts of the Historical Tripos and in 1961 went on to work for a PhD under the supervision of Professor Sir Harry Hinsley. He spent the academic year 1962–63 in the archives of West and East Germany researching the history of Imperial Germany in the aftermath of Bismarck's fall from power in 1890. The dissertation was published under the title Germany without Bismarck: The Crisis of Government in the Second German Reich, 1890–1900 in 1967 and in German translation in 1969.
Röhl was appointed to a Lectureship in History in the School of European Studies at the then new University of Sussex at Brighton in 1964. He was promoted to Reader and in 1979 Professor of European History. Between 1982 and 1985 he served as Dean of the School of European Studies. He also taught Modern European History at the University of Hamburg and at the University of Freiburg. He was elected to a Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 1970, at the Historisches Kollegin Munich in 1986–87, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at Washington in 1989–90, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in 1994, and the National Humanities Center in North Carolina in 1997–98. He was given emeritus status by the University of Sussex in 1999.
After Germany without Bismarck (1967), Röhl edited the political correspondence of Prince Philipp zu Eulenburg-Hertefeld (1847–1921), the closest friend of Kaiser Wilhelm II until his fall from grace in a series of scandals in 1907–09, in three volumes under the auspices of the Historical Commission of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. This edition, published in the series Deutsche Geschichtsquellen des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts between 1976 and 1983, broke new ground, demonstrating the personal power wielded by the Kaiser, his court and his favourites as distinct from the state institutions in the monarchical-military system that had been bequeathed by Bismarck. A conference organised by Röhl, together with the cultural anthropologist Nicolaus Sombart in the Kaiser's palace on the island of Corfu in September 1979, marked the beginning of a shift in German historiography away from structuralism towards a greater interest in personalities, relationships, cultural assumptions, human emotions and the archival sources that reflected them. The conference papers, edited by Röhl and Sombart, were published by Cambridge University Press in 1982 under the title Kaiser Wilhelm II – New Interpretations: The Corfu Papers. A collection of essays on Wilhelm II and aspects of governance in Imperial Germany then followed entitled Kaiser, Hof und Staat (1987) and The Kaiser and his Court (1994) respectively.
In 1981, Röhl began further archival research for what was to become a three-volume biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II, published in German by the C. H. Beck Verlag in Munich between 1993 and 2008, and in English translation by Cambridge University Press between 1998 and 2014. The biography, which was awarded the Einhard Prize for European Biography in 2013, is considered an important contribution to the ongoing controversy on the origins of the First World War. A much briefer study of the Kaiser, Queen Victoria's eldest grandchild, has appeared under the title Kaiser Wilhelm II 1859–1941: A Concise Life (Cambridge University Press 2014).
In 1996. in collaboration with the geneticists Martin J. Warren and David Hunt, John Röhl exhumed the remains of the Kaiser's sister Charlotte Hereditary Princess of Saxe-Meiningen (1860–1919) in Thuringia and her daughter Princess Feodora of Reuss (1879–1945) in Poland. The analysis of their DNA showed that both women, a granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria respectively, had suffered from a form of the dominant genetic disorder porphyria variegata, so demonstrating the validity of the theory advanced earlier by Professor Ida Macalpine and her son Dr. Richard Hunter that this illness had been the probable cause of George III's "madness". These findings were published in the book Purple Secret. Genes, 'Madness' and the Royal Houses of Europe (1998).
Wilhelm II or William II was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia. He reigned from 15 June 1888 until his abdication on 9 November 1918 shortly before Germany's defeat in World War I.
William I or Wilhelm I of the House of Hohenzollern was King of Prussia from 2 January 1861 and the first German Emperor from 18 January 1871 to his death. William was the first head of state of a united Germany, and was also de facto head of state of Prussia from 1858 to 1861, serving as regent for his brother, Frederick William IV.
Frederick III was German Emperor and King of Prussia for ninety-nine days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Known informally as "Fritz", he was the only son of Emperor Wilhelm I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service. Although celebrated as a young man for his leadership and successes during the Second Schleswig, Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars, he nevertheless professed a hatred of warfare and was praised by friends and enemies alike for his humane conduct. Following the unification of Germany in 1871 his father, then King of Prussia, became the German Emperor. Upon Wilhelm's death at the age of ninety on 9 March 1888, the thrones passed to Frederick, who had by then been German Crown Prince for seventeen years and Crown Prince of Prussia for twenty-seven years. Frederick was suffering from cancer of the larynx when he died, aged fifty-six, following unsuccessful medical treatments for his condition.
Georg Leo Graf von Caprivi de Caprera de Montecuccoli, born Georg Leo von Caprivi, was a German general and statesman who succeeded Otto von Bismarck as Chancellor of Germany. Caprivi served as German Chancellor from March 1890 to October 1894. Caprivi promoted industrial and commercial development, and concluded numerous bilateral treaties for reduction of tariff barriers. However, this movement toward free trade angered the conservative agrarian interests, especially the Junkers. He promised the Catholic Center party educational reforms that would increase their influence, but failed to deliver. As part of Kaiser Wilhelm's "new course" in foreign policy, Caprivi abandoned Bismarck's military, economic, and ideological cooperation with the Russian Empire, and was unable to forge a close relationship with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. He successfully promoted the reorganization of the German military.
Chlodwig Carl Viktor, Prince of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, Prince of Ratibor and Corvey, usually referred to as the Prince of Hohenlohe, was a German statesman, who served as Chancellor of Germany and Prime Minister of Prussia from 1894 to 1900. Prior to his appointment as Chancellor, he had served in a number of other positions, including as Prime Minister of Bavaria (1866–1870), German Ambassador to Paris (1873–1880), Foreign Secretary (1880) and Imperial Lieutenant of Alsace-Lorraine (1885–1894). He was regarded as one of the most prominent liberal politicians of his time in Germany.
Alfred Ludwig Heinrich Karl Graf von Waldersee was a German field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) who became Chief of the Imperial German General Staff.
The Harden–Eulenburg affair, often simply Eulenburg affair, was the controversy in Germany surrounding a series of courts-martial and five civil trials regarding accusations of homosexual conduct, and accompanying libel trials, among prominent members of Kaiser Wilhelm II's cabinet and entourage during 1907–1909.
Nikolaus Heinrich Ferdinand Herbert, Prince of Bismarck was a German politician, who served as Foreign Secretary from 1886 to 1890. His political career was closely tied to that of his father, Otto von Bismarck, and he left office a few days after his father's dismissal. He succeeded his father as the 2nd Prince of Bismarck in 1898. He was born in Berlin and died in Friedrichsruh.
The Federal Foreign Office, abbreviated AA, is the foreign ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany, a federal agency responsible for both the country's foreign policy and its relationship with the European Union. It is a cabinet-level ministry. Since March 2018, Heiko Maas has served as Foreign Minister, succeeding Sigmar Gabriel. The primary seat of the ministry is at the Werderscher Markt square in the Mitte district, the historic centre of Berlin.
Philipp Friedrich Alexander, Prince of Eulenburg and Hertefeld, Count of Sandels was a diplomat and composer of Imperial Germany who achieved considerable influence as the closest friend of Wilhelm II. He was the central member of the so-called Liebenberg Circle, a group of artistically minded German aristocrats within Wilhelm's entourage. Eulenburg played an important role in the rise of Bernhard von Bülow, but fell from power in 1907 due to the Harden–Eulenburg affair when he was accused of homosexuality.
Lieutenant General Kuno Augustus Friedrich Karl Detlev Graf von Moltke, adjutant to Kaiser Wilhelm II and military commander of Berlin, was a principal in the homosexual scandal known as the Harden-Eulenburg Affair (1907) that rocked the Kaiser's entourage. Moltke was forced to leave the military service.
Achilleion is a palace built in Gastouri (Γαστούρι) on the Island of Corfu for the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, also known as Sisi, after a suggestion by the Austrian consul Alexander von Warsberg. Elisabeth was deeply saddened by the tragic loss of her only son, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria following the Mayerling incident in 1889, and a year later she had this summer palace built as a refuge.
The Daily Telegraph Affair was the uproar that followed the 28 October 1908 publication in British newspaper The Daily Telegraph of comments by German Kaiser Wilhelm II intended to improve German–British relations. It was a major diplomatic blunder that worsened relations and badly hurt the Kaiser's reputation; after that he played a much smaller role in deciding foreign policy. The episode had a far greater impact in Germany than overseas.
Gustav Freiherr (Baron) von Senden-Bibran was an admiral of the German Imperial Navy. His father was a Silesian landowner who had served in the Austro-Hungarian Cavalry. He entered the Prussian Navy at age 15, never married, and dedicated his life to building a strong German Navy.
Friedrich von Hollmann was an Admiral of the German Imperial Navy and Secretary of the German Imperial Naval Office under Emperor Wilhelm II.
The Wilhelmine Period comprises the period of German history between 1890 and 1918, embracing the reign of Emperor Wilhelm II in the German Empire from the resignation of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck until the end of World War I and Wilhelm's abdication during the November Revolution. It had remarkable impact on the society, politics, culture, art and architecture of Germany and roughly coincided with the Belle Époque era of Western Europe.
Paul Hoffmann was an officer of the Imperial German Navy, who rose to the rank of vice-admiral.
Die Entlassung is a 1942 German film directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner about the dismissal of Otto von Bismarck. It was one of only four films to receive the honorary distinction "Film of the Nation" by the Reich Propaganda Ministry Censorship Office.
Count Albrecht Friedrich Wilhelm Bernhard of Hohenau was a German nobleman.
Princess Charlotte of Prussia was Duchess Consort of Saxe-Meiningen as the wife of Bernhard III, the duchy's last ruler. Born at the Neues Palais in Potsdam, she was the second child and eldest daughter of Prince Frederick of Prussia, a member of the House of Hohenzollern who became Crown Prince of Prussia in 1861 and German Emperor in 1888. Through her mother Victoria, Princess Royal, Charlotte was the eldest granddaughter of the British monarch Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.