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Thomas Clausen


I have graduated with a starred First in History from Cambridge in 2013 and continued to read for an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History winning the Quentin Skinner Prize in 2014. I am now pursuing a PhD under the supervision of Professor Christopher Clark on Roland Freisler, one of the most notorious jurists of the 'Third Reich'.

My main interest lies with the role of political ideologies in history with a focus on Germany in the 19th and 20th century. In particular, I am intrigued by the interaction of ideas and arguments with the political, social and economic forces of 'real' history. My Bachelor thesis focussed on Ludwig Woltmann, who attempted to fuse neo-Kantianism, Marxism and Darwinism before developing a racialist view of history that became one of the corner stones of national socialist ideology. For my MPhil, I went back to Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Buchholz, examining their differing visions of a future German nation in a post-Napoleonic European order. In particular, I looked at their understanding of reason of state, which served as a bridge between law, philosophy and practical politics.
For my PhD I intend write a biography of Roland Freisler, who was a state secretary in the Reich Ministry of Justice before becoming the president of the so-called 'People's Court' in 1942. Although he is mostly know for his role in persecuting opponents of the regime, his involvement with National Socialism stretches back to the early days of the Weimar Republic when he defended party members in court and became involved in local politics. By examining Freisler's roles as a legal theorist, ideologue, bureaucrat, judge and political activist, I hope to contribute to an intellectual history of the 'Third Reich' whilst shedding new light on the image of Freisler in public memory.

On a more general level, I am interested in public and popular history and the politics of history, which has led to various activities including internships at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial and the public history department of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.t
I have been a Prize Research Student at the Centre for History and Economics in 2013/14 and received scholarships from the Stiftung der deutschen Wirtschaft, the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as well as a CHESS Allen, Meek and Reed award from the Cambridge Trust and a Gates Cambridge scholarship.

Research Interests

History of Political Thought, Germany in the 19th and 20th century, National Socialism