Thomas Maissen

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Thomas Maissen (born 23 October 1962 in Zurich, Switzerland) is a professor of modern history at Heidelberg University and co-director of the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context".[1] As of September 2013 he is detached as director of the German Historical Institute in Paris.[2]


Born to a Finnish mother and a Swiss father,[3] Maissen studied history, Latin and philosophy in Basel, Rome, and Geneva. He completed his dissertation in 1993 under the guidance of the Swiss historian Hans Rudolf Guggisberg. Afterwards, he worked as an assistant professor at the Chair for Early Modern History at the University of Potsdam. From 1996 to 1999, he received fellowships for his habilitation from the Swiss National Science Foundation and other funds and habilitated in 2002 at the University of Zurich with his work Die Geburt der Republic. Staatsverständnis und Repräsentation in der frühneuzeitlichen Eidgenossenschaft. From 2002 to 2004, he was associate professor at the University of Lucerne. In addition, from 1996 onwards, he has worked for eight years as editor for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung where he was responsible for the "Historical Analysis".[4] Since 2004, Maissen is full professor for early modern history at Heidelberg University.[5]

In 2006, Maissen became a full member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities[6] and of the Kommission für geschichtliche Landeskunde (Commission for Historical Regional Studies) in Baden-Württemberg. In addition, he was the founder and speaker of the Heidelberg Graduate School for Humanities and Social Sciences from 2007 to 2012.[7] From 2008 to 2013, Maissen was the coordinator of the joint master programm degree at the Heidelberg University and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS).[8] In 2008, Maissen became one of the founding members and principal investigators of the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context". From 2009 to 2013, he served as a member of the steering committee[9] and eventually, in 2013, as a co-director of the cluster.[10] In 2009, he was a visiting professor at the EHESS and in 2010 he was a visiting fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey.[11] Moreover, form 2009 to 2011, he was a fellow of the research seminar "Legitimität und Religion" at the Centre for Religion, Economy and Politics, which is a joint undertaking by the universities of Basel, Lausanne, Lucerne, and Zurich and the Collegium Helveticum.[12] From 2012 to 2013, he was a fellow of the Marsilius-Kolleg at Heidelberg University.[13]

In September 2013, he became the first non-German director of the German Historical Institute in Paris (GHIP). Under his leadership, the GHIP widened its geographic focus and initiated a cooperation with the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar through the creation of the research group “La bureaucratisation des sociétés africaines” in 2015.


Maissen works on the history of historiography, the history of political ideas and constitutional history, especially republicanism, (religious) mentalities, collective identities, and representations. Furthermore, he is interested in concepts of history, Swiss history, and the history of education.[14] In his dissertation, Maissen investigated how Italians of the Renaissance interpreted the French past His habilitation dealt with "The Birth of the Republic. Concept of the State and Representation in the Early Modern Period of the Swiss Confederation". In his book “Schweizer Heldengeschichten“ (2015), he confronted political discourses of right wing Swiss politicians Christoph Blocher and Ueli Maurer with the current state of historical research. This study catalyzed a vivid debate in the media and was described as the “Swiss Historikerstreit”.



Maissen has published the following monographs:[15]

  • History of Switzerland. Baden: Hier + Jetzt, Verlag für Kultur und Geschichte. 4th edition, 2012.
  • The Birth of the Republic. Concept and Representation of the State in Early Modern Switzerland. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 2006. Awarded with the prize for the best historical book of the year 2006; category: Early Modern Era, (HSozuKult)[16]
  • History of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung – 1780-2005. Zurich: Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 2005.
  • Denied Memory. Heirless Assets and the Swiss Debate on World War II, 1989-2004. Zurich: Neue Zürcher Zeitung Libro. 2005.
  • The Colleges of the Islanders, the Confidential, and the Well-Disposed in Zurich, 1679-1709. The First Learned Societies of the German Enlightenment: Science, Historical Criticism, History, and Politics. With Michael Kempe. Zurich: Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 2002.
  • From Separatism to Federation. Crisis and Regeneration of the Swiss Confederation as described in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 1798-1848. Zürich: Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 1998.
  • Pictures from Switzerland – 1939-1945. With Katri Burri. Zurich: Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 1997 and second run in 1998.
  • The Legend becomes a Paradigm. Interest for the French Past during the Italian Renaissance. Basel: Helbig und Lichtenhahn. 1994.

Edited books[edit]

  • The Liberal-Republican Quandary in Israel, Europe and the United States: Early Modern Thought Meets Current Affairs. With Fania Oz-Salzberger. Brighton: Academic Studies Press. 2012.
  • The Republican Alternative. The Netherlands and Switzerland compared. With André Holenstein and Maarten Prak. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. 2008.
  • Functions of Humanism. Uses of the New in Humanist Culture. With Gerrit Walther. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag. 2006.


  1. ^ "Thomas Maissen, Prof. Dr. Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context"".
  2. ^ "Thomas Maissen nouveau directeur de l'IHA".
  3. ^ "Interview mit Thomas Maissen (PDF) (in German) Neue Europäische Bewegung Schweiz" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Thomas Maissen. Neue Zürcher Zeitung".
  5. ^ "Prof. Dr. Thomas Maissen. Department of History, Heidelberg University".
  6. ^ "The members of the HAW since its foundation in the year 1909. Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities".
  7. ^ "Termine & Aktuelles. Heidelberg Graduate School for Humanities and Social Sciences".
  8. ^ "Deutsch-Französischer Masterstudiengang in Geschichtswissenschaften. Heidelberg University".
  9. ^ "Election of Speakers. Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context"".
  10. ^ "New Directorate for Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe". Heidelberg University".
  11. ^ "Maissen, Thomas. Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton".
  12. ^ "Fellows 2009-2010. Centre of Religion, Economy, Politics".
  13. ^ "Aktuelle Fellows. Marsilius Kolleg, Heidelberg University".
  14. ^ "Chair for Early Modern History - Research. Department of History, Heidelberg University".
  15. ^ Prof. Dr. Thomas Maissen - Veröffentlichungen. Department of History, Heidelberg University. Retrieved: April 4, 2013.
  16. ^ Das historische Buch 2007. HSozuKult. Retrieved: April 4, 2013.

External links[edit]

  • Profile at the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context"
  • Profile at the Department of History, Heidelberg University