Dr Bernhard Fulda

Associate Professor
Director of Studies in History
Dr Bernhard Fulda

BA in Modern History (Jesus College, Oxford)
M.Phil in Historical Studies (Peterhouse, Cambridge)
Ph.D. in History (St. John's College, Cambridge)
Research Fellow (Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge)
Chatong So Fellow and Director of Studies in History (Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge)

Emil Nolde and National Socialism: The construction of artistic 'genius' in the Twentieth Century

Emil Nolde is an iconic figure of German modernism, and the only artist included in the Nazi propaganda exhibition "Degenerate Art" of 1937 who was a paid-up member of the Nazi party. After 1945, he was turned into the personification of the persecuted modern artist, a narrative popularized in Siegfried Lenz's world-bestseller of 1968, Die Deutschstunde.  This project is the first to make use of the artist's papers in the private Nolde Foundation, to reconstruct his attitude to Nazism, combining this with an analysis of the construction of his artistic "genius" post-1945 which ignored his Nazi past. The aim is to study the social and cultural construction of artistic "genius", by analysing two related themes: nationalism in the art world, and the auratization of art by the media, art institutions, and the art market. It brings together recent research findings from the areas of artistic habitus, personality cults in politics, museum politics, art communication, and consumer sociology. It builds on my work on mass media in politics and public opinion (Fulda 2011, 2010, 2009), and the biography of Nolde's contemporary Max Pechstein (Fulda/Soika 2012), as well as my longstanding engagement with Public History.

The Creation of Modern Public Opinion. A History of Polling in Europe and North America, 1920-1980

In this ongoing research project I intend to analyse the emergence, diffusion and impact of opinion polling in North America and Western Europe, as a transnational phenomenon. A key area for analysis will be the role of institutions promoting transnational exchange, like the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, the US State Department, UNESCO, the Gallup Organization, and associations like the World Association of Public Opinion Researchers (WAPOR). The project also aims to show how opinion research was integrated into party politics and into individual campaigns, and how it changed politicians’ self-observation and style of communication.

Max Pechstein (1881-1955): The Rise and Fall of Expressionism (De Gruyter: 2012)

This is a biography of the German expressionist artist and member of the Brücke group, Max Pechstein, which I have written together with my wife, the art historian Aya Soika. Pechstein’s experience of Wilhelmine Germany, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich and post-war German division provide an extremely interesting setting for the life of a leading modernist artist. Some of the questions thrown up relate to the relationship between the avantgarde and nationalism, revolutionary aesthetics and political attitudes, as well as artistic identity and dictatorship. Why was Pechstein widely considered the leading Brücke artist prior to the First World War, and how and when did public opinion change? The book emphasizes the importance of personal and organizational networks for the artistic developments of the time, and highlights the role of private and institutional public opinion leaders for the commercial appreciation of modernist art. The project is also part of my on-going engagement with the theoretical and methodological challenges of integrating visual evidence in historical narratives.

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic (OUP: 2009)

My book Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic explores press influence on voters and the interaction between press and political decision-makers through a study of the Berlin press in the Weimar Republic. It examines the effects of a fragmented press landscape and antagonistic editorial policies on the public’s perception of politics in this period. Analyzing political elite, mass subscription and provinicial papers, as well as tabloids, the study highlights the importance of consumer culture as a context for political mobilization. The book demonstrates the crucial role of press coverage for parliamentary discourse, emphasizing the wealth of evidence for powerful media effects in particular where politicians are concerned. At the same time, because of the close inter-connections between politicians and news-makers during the 1920s, the print media was thoroughly politicized and thus never developed into an independent ‘fourth estate’ as was arguably the case in the US and Great Britain.

Public and Popular History

Finally, related to all of these projects, I am very interested in the issue of current media representations of history, as well as in the use of historical references in contemporary political debates. The ‘Public and Popular History Seminar’ which I have been convening since 2005 has organized talks and panel discussions on topics such as history publishing (with Simon Winder, head of Penguin UK, the agent Andrew Wylie, and Richard Fisher, head of Arts & Humanities Division at Cambrige University Press), historical biography (with Stella Tillyard, Alison Weir and Lauro Martines), TV history documentaries (with presenters like David Starkey, Niall Ferguson, Nigel Spivey, and Simon Schaffer; producers and directors like Laurence Rees, Mark Hedgecoe, David McNab, and others), commisioning and programming (with media executives like Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC2, and Mark Damazer, Controller of BBC4), the politics of heritage (with Dame Liz Forgan, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Duncan Robinson, director of Fitzwilliam Museum and Peter Mandler, historian & author of History and National Life), history in political news coverage (with Greg Neale, BBC’sNewsnight history correspondent), to name just a few. I consider this exchange of ideas and experiences between academic historians and those who produce and communicate history to a mass audience an important and often neglected part of the historian’s enterprise.

Reception history of avantgarde art (especially Emil Nolde & Max Pechstein/Expressionism, ‘Degenerate Art’, art markets)

Media representations of history & uses of historical references in contemporary political debates

Media history (history of media reception, communication networks, political influence of press, uses of media for political objectives/propaganda, changing communication frameworks)

Transnational history of opinion polling (knowledge transfer and adaptation, intellectual history of ‘the public’, emergence of political public relations management, and process of self-observation)

I have recently supervised a PhD for University College London, a study of the Berlin tabloid Tempo (1928-1933). I welcome applications from research students in the area of modern German history, media history, twentieth-century art and reception history, and the history of opinion polling.

I mainly lecture and supervise for Part I Paper 18 (European History from 1890) and Part I Paper 17 (European History 1715-1890).


Tags & Themes


Sidney Sussex College
Cambridge CB2 3HU

Office Phone: 01223 3 38856


Key Publications


  • Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic (OUP, 2009)
  • Max Pechstein. The Rise and Fall of Expressionism, with Aya Soika (New York/Berlin, De Gruyter, 2012)
  • Emil Nolde - A German Legend. The Artist during the Third Reich (Munich/New York, Prestel, 2019)
  • Emil Nolde - Eine deutsche Legende. Der Künstler im Nationalsozialismus. Chronik und Dokumente, with Aya Soika (Munich, Prestel, 2019)

Articles and contributions to edited volumes

  • ‘Lloyd George and the Weimar Republic’, in: Manfred Görtemaker (ed.), Britain and Germany in the Twentieth Century (Oxford, Berg Publishers, 2005), 31-52.
  • ‘Industries of sensationalism: German tabloids in the interwar period’, in: Corey Ross / Karl-Christian Führer (eds), Mass Media, Culture and Society in Twentieth-Century Germany (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2006), 183-203.
  • ‘Die Politik der “Unpolitischen”: Die Boulevard- und Massenpresse in den zwanziger und dreissiger Jahren’, in: Frank Bösch / Norbert Frei (eds), Medialisierung und Demokratie im 20. Jahrhundert(Göttingen, Wallstein, 2006), 32-56.
  • ‘Die vielen Gesichter des Hans Schweitzer. Politische Karikaturen als historische Quelle’, in: Gerhard Paul (ed.), Visual History. Die Historiker und die Bilder. Ein Studienbuch (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 206-24.
  • ‘ “Nationalversammlung”. Plakatwerbung für die Republik’, in: Gerhard Paul (ed.), Bilderatlas des 20. und beginnenden 21. Jahrhunderts (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009), vol. 1.
  • ‘Medialisierung der Politik: Adolf Hitler als Medienphänomen’, in: Christoph Classen / Klaus Arnold / Hans-Ulrich Wagner / Susanne Kinnebrock / Edgar Lersch (eds.) Von der Politisierung der Medien zur Medialisierung des Politischen? Zum Verhältnis von Medien und Politik im 20. Jahrhundert (Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2010)
  • ‘Max Pechstein 1881-1955. Lebensdaten’ , in: Peter Thurmann, Aya Soika, Andrea Madesta (eds), Max Pechstein. Ein Expressionist aus Leidenschaft - Retrospektive (Munich, Hirmer, 2010), 276-333.
  • ‘The Market Place of Political Opinions: Public Opinion Polling and its its Publics in Transnational Perspective, 1930-1950’, in: Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung 21 (2011) 4, 13-28.