John C. G. Röhl

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John C. G. Röhl (born 31 May 1938) is a British historian.


Early life

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.

Dalston area of east London, England

Dalston is a district of London Borough of Hackney in London, England and is 4 miles (6.4 km) north-east of Charing Cross.

William Beechey British artist

Sir William Beechey was a leading English portraitist of the golden age of British painting.

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.

Forst (Lausitz) Place in Brandenburg, Germany

Forst (Lausitz) is a town in Brandenburg, Germany. It lies east of Cottbus, on the river Lausitzer Neiße which is also the German-Polish border, the Oder-Neisse line. It is the capital of the Spree-Neiße district. It is known for its rose garden and textile museum. The town's population is 18,651. In Forst, there is a railway bridge across the Neiße belonging to the line Cottbus–Żary which is serviced by regional trains and a EuroCity train between Hamburg and Kraków (2011). There is also a road bridge across the river north of Forst.

Lusatian Neisse river in Central Europe

The Lusatian Neisse, or Western Neisse, is a 252-kilometre (157 mi) long river in Central Europe. Its drainage basin area is 4,403 km2 (1,700 sq mi), of which 2,201 km2 (850 sq mi) in Poland. It rises in the Jizera Mountains near Nová Ves nad Nisou, Czech Republic, reaching the tripoint with Poland and Germany at Zittau after 54 kilometres (34 mi), and later forming the Polish-German border for a length of 197 kilometres (122 mi). The Lusatian Neisse is a left-bank tributary of the river Oder, into which it flows between Neißemünde-Ratzdorf and Kosarzyn north of the towns of Guben and Gubin.

Pécs City with county rights in Southern Transdanubia, Hungary

Pécs is the fifth largest city of Hungary, located on the slopes of the Mecsek mountains in the south-west of the country, close to its border with Croatia. It is the administrative and economic centre of Baranya County. Pécs is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pécs.

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.

Potsdam Conference

The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm in Potsdam, occupied Germany, from 17 July to 2 August 1945. The participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, represented respectively by Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin, Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, and President Harry S. Truman.

Frankfurt Place in Hesse, Germany

Frankfurt is a metropolis and the largest city of the German federal state of Hesse, and its 746,878 (2017) inhabitants make it the fifth-largest city of Germany after Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Cologne. On the River Main, it forms a continuous conurbation with the neighbouring city of Offenbach am Main, and its urban area has a population of 2.3 million. The city is at the centre of the larger Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region, which has a population of 5.5 million and is Germany's second-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr Region. Since the enlargement of the European Union in 2013, the geographic centre of the EU is about 40 km (25 mi) to the east of Frankfurt's central business district. Like France and Franconia, the city is named after the Franks. Frankfurt is the largest city in the Rhine Franconian dialect area.

<i>Gymnasium</i> (Germany) secondary school

Gymnasium, in the German education system, is the most advanced of the three types of German secondary schools, the others being Realschule and Hauptschule. Gymnasium strongly emphasizes academic learning, comparable to the British grammar school system or with prep schools in the United States. A student attending Gymnasium is called a Gymnasiast. In 2009/10 there were 3,094 gymnasia in Germany, with c. 2,475,000 students, resulting in an average student number of 800 students per school.


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 German Reich, 1890–1900 in 1967 and in German translation in 1969.

Stretford Grammar School

Stretford Grammar School is a grammar school located in Stretford, in the Trafford borough of Greater Manchester, England. It is located on a 15-acre plot in the heart of Stretford, Trafford.

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

Corpus Christi College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It is notable as the only college founded by Cambridge townspeople: it was established in 1352 by the Guild of Corpus Christi and the Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary, making it the sixth-oldest college in Cambridge. With around 250 undergraduates and 200 postgraduates, it also has the second smallest student body of the traditional colleges of the University.

Cambridge City and non-metropolitan district in England

Cambridge is a university city and the county town of Cambridgeshire, England, on the River Cam approximately 50 miles (80 km) north of London. At the United Kingdom Census 2011, its population was 123,867 including 24,506 students. Cambridge became an important trading centre during the Roman and Viking ages, and there is archaeological evidence of settlement in the area as early as the Bronze Age. The first town charters were granted in the 12th century, although modern city status was not officially conferred until 1951.

Life and career

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 Kolleg  (de ) in 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.

University of Sussex public research university in East Sussex, England

The University of Sussex is a public research university in Falmer, Sussex, England. Its campus is located in the South Downs National Park and is a short distance away from Central Brighton. The university received its Royal Charter in August 1961, the first of the plate glass university generation, and was a founding member of the 1994 Group of research-intensive universities.

University of Hamburg university in Hamburg, Germany

The University of Hamburg is a comprehensive university in Hamburg, Germany. It was founded on 28 March 1919, having grown out of the previous General lecture system and the Colonial Institute of Hamburg as well as the Akademic Gymnasium. In spite of its relatively short history, six Nobel Prize Winners and serials of scholars are affiliated to the university. The University of Hamburg is the biggest research and education institution in Northern Germany and one of the most extensive universities in Germany. The main campus is located in the central district of Rotherbaum, with affiliated institutes and research centres spread around the city state.

University of Freiburg Public research university in Freiburg, Germany

The University of Freiburg, officially the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, is a public research university located in Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The university was founded in 1457 by the Habsburg dynasty as the second university in Austrian-Habsburg territory after the University of Vienna. Today, Freiburg is the fifth-oldest university in Germany, with a long tradition of teaching the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. The university is made up of 11 faculties and attracts students from across Germany as well as from over 120 other countries. Foreign students constitute about 16% of total student numbers.


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 John 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).

An anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of various aspects of humans within past and present societies. Social anthropology, cultural anthropology, and philosophical anthropology study the norms and values of societies. Linguistic anthropology studies how language affects social life, while economic anthropology studies human economic behavior. Biological (physical), forensic, and medical anthropology study the biological development of humans, the application of biological anthropology in a legal setting, and the study of diseases and their impacts on humans over time, respectively.

Nicolaus Sombart was a German cultural sociologist, historian and writer.

Corfu Place in Greece

Corfu or Kerkyra is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the northwesternmost part of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality, which also includes the smaller islands of Ereikoussa, Mathraki and Othonoi. The municipality has an area of 610,9 km2, the island proper 592,8 km2. The principal city of the island and seat of the municipality is also named Corfu. Corfu is home to the Ionian University.


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