Spotlight on Heidi Mehrkens

Mehrkens_image (2)Heidi Mehrkens grew up near Bremen in northern Germany. As a trained journalist, she had already spent time working for newspapers and on the radio when fresh inspiration for the future struck and she decided to go to university. She studied modern and medieval history in combination with law at the Technical University Braunschweig and nurtured a special interest in art history whilst working as a freelance museum guide for the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum.

She then joined a DFG-sponsored research project focussing on France and Germany in times of war (18th-20th centuries), supervised by Professors Ute Daniel and Gerd Krumeich, and completed her PhD in 2005. Her doctoral thesis on the Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871 considered the implementation of the law of nations and French and German mutual perceptions of a strongly nationalised warfare; her first book Statuswechsel: Kriegserfahrung und nationale Wahrnehmung im Deutsch-Französischen Krieg 1870/71 was published in German in 2008.

Statuswechsel_cover (2)Generous post-doctoral scholarships granted by the German Historical Institutes in London and Paris offered her the opportunity to live and work abroad for almost two years whilst also expanding her academic teaching experience as assistant professor in Braunschweig. In 2012 she came to the School of History as a Research Fellow in Late Modern History, joining the AHRC-funded project Heirs to the Throne.

Heidi is currently writing a book on interactions between royal heirs and representatives of the constitutional state in Great Britain, France and Prussia between 1815 and 1914. While some royal heirs inherited seats and actively gave speeches in parliament, others were frustrated in their attempts to participate in the political process. Throughout the 19th century successors were denied active political participation; leaving them with the choice between concealing their ambitions and confronting the constitutional representatives or even the monarch as head of the dynasty. From the opposite end of the scale, politicians, political parties or cabinet ministers approached and dealt with the royal heir with very different agendas in mind. Their efforts to shape the future monarchy (as well as current politics) by actively influencing – or excluding – the successor to the throne can illuminate how spheres of influence between the royal and the constitutional elements of the state were constantly being re-negotiated.

Portrait of Louis-Philippe of Orleans with his two eldest sons, the Duke of Chartres (future Duke of Orleans) and the Duke of Nemours by Louis Hersent (1830).

Portrait of Louis-Philippe of Orleans with his two eldest sons, the Duke of Chartres (future Duke of Orleans) and the Duke of Nemours by Louis Hersent (1830).

Although her main focus is on research, she also runs the project’s website, where one can read about the “Heirs-Team” and their favourite topics, for example Heidi’s essay on the Prince, the President and the Cholera. She has recently co-edited a book, Sinngeschichten: Kulturgeschichtliche Beiträge für Ute Daniel (Böhlau, 2013), which assembles thirty-five essays on the history of the senses and sense in history. Another recent exciting project was a workshop at the German Historical Institute Paris about new approaches to German 19th-century political history, resulting in the edited volume L’espace du politique en Allemagne au XIXe siècle: Revue d’histoire du XIXe siècle, n° 46, 2013/1. Future book projects will most certainly include a comparative history of the experience of disempowerment in 19th-century Europe and a biographical study of King Louis-Philippe I Orleans, focusing on his (self-)perception as a teacher and father figure.

Heidi teaches transnational political and cultural history of 19th-century Europe with a special interest in alliterations (monarchy, military and media). This semester she is a lecturer and tutor for MO1008: Themes in Late Modern History.

On a mission to liberate the (academic) world from tense muscles and back pain, Heidi, who used to work as a fitness instructor in a gym, is a qualified yoga teacher and runs classes in Edinburgh and for School of History staff-members. She loves music and dance and enjoys watching football on TV (even though both of her favourite teams from Braunschweig and Bremen are currently straining her support to its limits…).

About standrewshistory
With over forty full time members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from S cotland to Byzantium and the Americas to the Middle East and South Asia.Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching and tutorials allowing for in depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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