Born in Essen, Germany, Hamann studied history in Münster and Vienna and for a time worked as a journalist in her native Essen. In 1965 she married the historian and university professor Günther Hamann (1924–1994), moved to Vienna and obtained Austrian in addition to German citizenship. The couple have three children, one of them being the journalist and feminist Sibylle Hamann. She worked with her husband at the University of Vienna and in 1978 obtained her doctor's degree on the basis of a thesis on the life of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, which was published in book form that same year. She described her working method as follows: "(Coming from Germany) I had a different view of Austria, and I began to write with a certain detachment".
Hamann's 1999 book, Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship, examined how societal attitudes at the time shaped Hitler's anti-Semitic views during his time in Vienna between 1908 and 1913, and the effects of his inordinate fear of both infection and women. Following the publication of The Hidden Hitler by the historian and University of Bremen professor Lothar Machtan, Hamann investigated claims about Hitler's homosexuality and appears in the 2004 HBO documentary film, Hidden Fuhrer: Debating the Enigma of Hitler's Sexuality, by the American documentarians Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.
In 2005 Hamann released Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth, a biography of Winifred Wagner, the British-born woman who became a founding member of the Nazi Party and a close friend of Hitler. The publication earned her "Book of the Year" honors and Opernwelt (Operaworld) magazine and "Historical Book of the Year" honors from Damals history magazine. That same year she received the Presseclub Concordia "Concordia-Preis" in recognition of her work. She died on 4 October 2016 at the age of 76.
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- Heinrich Drimmel Preis (1978)
- Premio Comisso (1982)
- Donauland Sachbuchpreis (1986)
- Anton Wildgans Prize (1994)
- Kreisky Preis (1997)
- Friedrich-Schiedel-Literaturpreis (1998)
- Ehrenmedaille der Bundeshauptstadt Wien in Silber (2006)
- Honorary prize of the Austrian Booksellers for tolerance in thought and deed (2012)
Books translated into English
- The Reluctant Empress: A Biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Knopf: 1986) (ISBN 0-394-53717-3)
- The Reluctant Empress, Ullstein Verlag, Berlin 1982, 6th ed. 2000
- Bertha von Suttner: A Life for Peace (Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution) (Syracuse University Press: 1986) ISBN 0-8156-0387-8
- Rudolf. The Road to Mayerling (German and English, picture book) München 1988
- Sissi, Elisabeth, Empress of Austria (Taschen America: 1997) (ISBN 3-8228-7865-0)
- Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship. (1999: Oxford University Press) ISBN 0-19-514053-2
- Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth. (2005: Granta publications, England) ISBN 1-86207-671-5
- Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth, Harcourt Books, Orlando USA 2006
An English translation of the rororo monograph Die Familie Wagner is to appear.
Books in German
- Rudolf, Kronprinz und Rebell, Wien 1978
- Elisabeth, Kaiserin wider Willen, Wien 1981
- Mit Kaiser Max in Mexiko, Wien 1983
- Kaiserin Elisabeth. Das poetische Tagebuch, Verlag der Österr. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien 1984
- Bertha von Suttner. Ein Leben für den Frieden, München 1986
- Die Habsburger. Ein biographisches Lexikon, München 1988
- Nichts als Musik im Kopf. Das Leben von Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Wien 1990 (Kinderbuch)
- Elisabeth. Bilder einer Kaiserin, Wien 1995
- Meine liebe, gute Freundin! Die Briefe Kaiser Franz Josephs an Katharina Schratt, München 1992
- Hitlers Wien. Lehrjahre eines Diktators, München 1996
- Kronprinz Rudolf: 'Majestät, ich warne Sie...', München 2002
- Winifred Wagner oder Hitlers Bayreuth, München 2002
- Der erste Weltkrieg. Wahrheit und Lüge in Bildern und Texten, München 2004
- Ein Herz und viele Kronen. Das Leben der Kaiserin Maria Theresia. Illustriert von Rolf Rettich, Wien 2004 (Kinderbuch)
- Die Familie Wagner, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2005
- Kronprinz Rudolf. Ein Leben, Wien 2005
- Mozart. Sein Leben und seine Zeit, Wien 2006
- Hitlers Edeljude. Das Leben des Armenarztes Eduard Bloch, München 2008
Numerous editions, paperbacks, and translations
- In an email to HPaul on 28 May 2009, B. Hamann wrote: "Since I have lived for more than forty years in Vienna, I naturally consider myself an Austrian, even though I don't talk like one"
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-02-27.
- m.b.H., STANDARD Verlagsgesellschaft. "Historikerin Brigitte Hamann gestorben". Retrieved 2016-10-04.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 February 2007. Retrieved 2006-02-27.
- Media related to Brigitte Hamann at Wikimedia Commons