George Lachmann Mosse (September 20, 1918, Berlin, Germany – January 22, 1999, Madison, Wisconsin, United States) was a German-born American cultural historian. The author of over 25 books, on topics as diverse as constitutional history, Protestant theology, and the history of masculinity, he is best known for his studies of Nazism. In 1966, he and Walter Laqueur founded ''The Journal of Contemporary History'', which they co-edited.
Mosse was born in Berlin into a very prominent and wealthy German Jewish family. His maternal grandfather, Rudolf Mosse, founded what became Germany's largest advertising agency, and his media empire included the distinguished newspaper ''Berliner Tageblatt''. His father, Hans Lachmann-Mosse, commissioned the architect Erich Mendelsohn to redesign the iconic Mossehaus where the ''Tageblatt'' was produced until the Nazis closed it and forced the family to emigrate. George Mosse was educated at the famous Mommsen-Gymnasium in Berlin and from 1928 onwards at the elite boarding school Salem. In his autobiography, he described himself as a rebellious child. The headmaster at Salem, Kurt Hahn, imposed a demanding physical education regime upon its pupils. Although Mosse disliked the nationalistic ethos of the school, he conceded that its emphasis on character building gave him "some backbone." He much preferred individual sports, such as skiing, to team activities.
In 1933, with Hitler's rise to power, the Mosse family fled and separated. His mother, Felicia (1888-1972), and his sister, Hilde, went to Switzerland, while his father moved to France, where in 1939 he got a divorce, married Karola Strauch (the mother of Harvard physicist Karl Strauch), and emigrated to California. George Mosse moved to England, where he enrolled at the Quaker Bootham School in York. It was here, according to his autobiography, that he first became aware of his homosexuality. A struggling student, he failed several exams, but thanks to the financial support of his parents he was able to attend Cambridge University. Here he developed an interest in historical scholarship, attending lectures by amongst others G. M. Trevelyan and Helen Maude Cam. While he was at Cambridge, his hostility to fascism was deepened by the Spanish Civil War (although he later averred that he had little idea about what was actually going on).
In 1939, his family relocated to the United States, and he continued his undergraduate studies at Haverford College, earning a B.A. in 1941. He went on to graduate studies at Harvard University, where he obtained a scholarship reserved for students born in Berlin-Charlottenburg. His 1946 Ph.D. dissertation on 16th- and 17th-century English constitutional history, supervised by Charles Howard McIlwain, was subsequently published as ''The Struggle for Sovereignty in England'' (1950).
Mosse's first professional position as an historian was at the University of Iowa, where he focused on religion in early modern Europe and published a concise study of the Reformation that became a widely used textbook. In 1955, he moved to the University of Wisconsin–Madison and began to lecture on modern history. His ''The Culture of Western Europe: The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, an Introduction'' (1961), which summarizes these lectures, was also widely adopted as a textbook.
Mosse taught for more than thirty years at the University of Wisconsin, where he became the John C. Bascom Professor of European History and Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies, while concurrently holding the Koebner Professorship of History at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Beginning in 1969, Mosse spent one semester each year teaching at the Hebrew University. He also held appointments as a visiting professor at the University of Tel Aviv and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. After retiring from the University of Wisconsin, he taught at Cambridge University and Cornell University. He was named the first research historian in residence at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
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