Jürgen Osterhammel Named 2017 Toynbee Prize Winner

The Toynbee Prize Foundation has selected Jürgen Osterhammel as the recipient of the 2017 Toynbee Prize. The Prize, given every other year to a distinguished practitioner of global history will be formally awarded at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Denver, Colorado on January 6, 2017.

Osterhammel is Professor of History at the University of Konstanz. He is perhaps best known to readers of global history for his global history of the nineteenth century, which appeared as Die Verwandlung der Welt in German in 2009. A revised and updated version of Verwandlung appeared in English translation as The Transformation of the World with Princeton University Press in 2014. Reviewers called it “doubtlessly the most significant achievement of a German-speaking historian in the 21st century thus far.” It has or will be translated into 9 languages and has been published in six editions since its appearance.

However, The Transformation of the World marks only one of Osterhammel’s many interventions into the field of global history. His 2003 co-authored book with Niels P. Petersson Geschichte der Globalisierung (in its 2005 English translation, Globalization: A Short History) met, like Transformation, with an enthusiastic reception and was translated into many languages. And Osterhammel was the co-editor, with former Toynbee Prize Foundation Trustee Akira Iriye, of A World Connecting, a synthetic attempt by several leading historians to write the history of the world from 1870 to 1945. A World Connecting forms one volume in a larger six-volume series published in German by C.H. Beck and English by Harvard University Press. A new book, Decolonization: A Short History,  co-authored with Jan C. Jansen, is forthcoming with Princeton University Press in 2017.


Beyond these achievements in the field of global history, Osterhammel is also a noted specialist in the field of Chinese history, having written several monographs on Chinese encounters with European imperialism, the a brief interpretative history of the Chinese Revolution, and China’s relationship with international society more generally. A revised and updated version of an earlier book, Die Entzauberung Asiens (The Disenchantment of Asia) on the uses of Asia in European arguments during the long 18th century is also forthcoming with Princeton University Press.

Osterhammel received his Promotion from the University of Kassel in 1980 and completed his Habilitation, a second doctoral degree common in Germany, at the University of Freiburg in 1990, following several years as a researcher at the German Historical Institute London. He has served as a Professor at the University of Hagen (in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland before moving to the University of Konstanz in 1999.

Osterhammel was chosen by unanimous consensus by a Selection Committee convened by the Toynbee Prize Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Jeremy Adelman, the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History and Director of the Global History Lab at Princeton University, noted that Osterhammel’s work demonstrates a “peerless grasp of multiple historiographic traditions, and an ability to combine lively empirical detail with brilliant conceptual insights.”

Selçuk Esenbel, Professor Emerita at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey, concurred, noting that Osterhammel’s work is marked by a “masterful synthesis of nineteenth century history from a global perspective that also  provides a systematic list of factors and themes which can be used as guidelines to analyze historical information from local history and assess connections to global processes.”

Osterhammel joins a distinguished roll of previous Toynbee Prize recipients: the diplomat and historian George Kennan, the social scientist Albert Hirschman, and, more recently, fellow historians Natalie Zemon Davis, William McNeill, Christopher Bayly, and Dipesh Chakrabarty.

Named after Arnold J. Toynbee, the Toynbee Prize Foundation was chartered in 1987 “to contribute to the development of the social sciences, as defined from a broad historical view of human society and of human and social problems.” The foundation awards the prestigious Toynbee Prize and sponsors global history regular sessions at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, international conferences, the online Global History Forum, as well as the journal New Global Studies.

The formal awarding of the 2017 Toynbee Prize will, take place at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Denver, Colorado on January 6, 2017 from 3:30 PM-5:00 PM in the Colorado Convention Center, Room 403. There, Professor Osterhammel will deliver a lecture on global history upon receiving the Prize.

More details about the 2017 Toynbee Prize Lecture will be forthcoming later this summer as the American Historical Association finalizes schedules for the Annual Meeting.


  1. Hanna Lehmann - Reply

    Congretulation to this choice . As neighbors and livinging in a very friendshiply way together with Jürgen Osterhammel and his wonderful family , we are so glad that he got this prize.
    For us he is more than a scientist for history. Jürgen is “integer” and his way of living is an example how career goes to gether with the sense of responsibility for social life .
    It could be an example for young scientists.

    With best wishes to Jürgen and to the foundation

    Hanna Lehmann and Rolf Disch

  2. Vitali Markov - Reply

    As Juergen Osterhammel’s former student, I can say that he never stops astonish by his brilliant writing and insightful lectures. Having a privilege to study under Professor Osterhammel at the University of Konstanz, I widened my horizons towards Asia and Transatlantic connection. The historical picture of Juergen Osterhammel is the one of the interconnected and interdependent world, where national states narratives disappear in one world historiography.

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