Dr Martin A. Ruehl

Senior Lecturer in German Intellectual History
Martin Ruehl

Martin Ruehl took his BA in History (starred First) from Cambridge and his PhD, also in History, from Princeton University (advisors: Anthony Grafton and Suzanne Marchand), with a dissertation on the idea of the Renaissance in modern German thought. After a research fellowship at Queens’ College (1999-2003), he joined Sidney Sussex as College Lecturer and Director of Studies in History. Between 2007 and 2017, he was University Lecturer in the German Department and Director of Studies in MML at Trinity Hall. In 2013-14, he held a visiting professorship at the University of California in Los Angeles. Since 2017, he is Senior Lecturer in German intellectual history and Director of Studies in History and Modern Languages at Christ's. In 2018-19, he was Senior Research Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study in South Africa. As Chair of the Management Committee (2016-18), he helped launch the new joint degree in History & Modern Languages.

Dr Ruehl's research concentrates on the ideas and ideologies that shaped German society and culture in the period between Bismarck and Hitler, in particular the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and its reception since the 1890s. He has published books and articles on Nietzsche, Burckhardt, Thomas Mann, Ernst Kantorowicz, German historicism and grecophilia. His essay on aesthetic fundamentalism in the writings of the George Circle appeared in Weimar Thought: A Contested Legacy (Princeton 2013). His monograph The Italian Renaissance and the German Historical Imagination, 1860-1930 (Cambridge 2015) was shortlisted for the Gladstone History Book Prize of the Royal Historical Society. The recipient of a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, he is currently writing a book on German debates about slavery and unfree labour from the Enlightenment to the Third Reich.

Dr Ruehl teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses on the history of German thought from Kant to Habermas, with a particular focus on Romanticism, Hegel and Marx, German philhellenism, Nietzsche, the Conservative Revolution, and Nazi ideology. 
At the History Faculty, he has taught the History of political thought from c.1700 to c.1890 (Paper 20), the History of political thought since 1890 (Paper 5), and the two modern European history papers (17 and 18). With Colin Shindler, he lectured on the history of Weimar and Nazi cinema for more than ten years. 
For the new joint degree in History and Modern Languages, he runs a seminar on "Poetry and Politics in Weimar Germany".
Most of Dr Ruehl's teaching now takes place in the Faculty of Modern Languages, where he is responsible for the German thought elements of various survey and specialized papers. For Ge1 (Introduction to German Studies) he teaches Marx and Nietzsche, for Ge8 (German literature, thought, and history from 1700 to 1815) Enlightenment philosophies of history and the Romantic revolution, for Ge9 (German literature, thought and history from 1815 to 1914) Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, for Ge10 (German literature, thought and history, since 1910) Adorno, Benjamin, Heidegger and Arendt. 
The two papers he enjoys teaching most are Ge2 (German History and Thought since 1750), for which he lectures and supervises on all aspects of German philosophy from the Enlightenment to the Frankfurt School, and Ge12 (The Modern German Historical Imagination), for which he covers the modules on German philhellenism, German myths and memories, and German ideologies of race.
Ruehl's CS6 (European Cinema) module “War, Propaganda, Memory” examines newsreels from the Third Reich, documentaries by Istituto Luce, Rossellini’s War Trilogy and several German “Rubble Films” (Trümmerfilme) of the late 1940s. 
For the MPhil in Film  Studies, he teaches a Core Course seminar on "Race, Ideology and History", which investigates the complicity of cinema in the creation and dissemination of racial stereotypes and prejudices.  
On the MPhil in European and Comparative Cultures, he regularly teaches a Core Course seminar on “Critical Theory from Marx to Adorno“ and a Module entitled “Enlightenment and its Critics from Kant to Heidegger”. 
In February 2017, he was awarded the Pilkington Prize for Teaching Excellence.

Dr Ruehl is a member of the Royal Historical Society, the German Studies Association, the Association for Political Theory, and the Friedrich Nietzsche Gesellschaft. He is on the peer review panel of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). 

Dr Ruehl has supervised more than 15 PhD dissertations. His doctoral students in the past have worked on Hannah Arendt's political thought, Bachofen's theory of matriarchy, the idea of Europe in the Weimar Republic, philosophers under Nazism, German fictional representations of slavery in the 19th century, historiographical controversies in the Federal Republic, utopian thinking in the Frankfurt School, left-wing radicalism in Hamburg since the 1970s, the idea of Bildung in German Enlightenment salons, the "Jewish question" in German political debates during World War I, the concept of guilt in Heidegger and Adorno, and the films of Alexander Kluge. His current PhD students work on individual and community in Nietzsche's philosophy, Schopenhauer's Buddhist sources, German dystopian literature between the wars, aesthetics and politics in the Weimar Republic, Nietzsche's ideal of the "good European", a feminist critique of German Idealist philosophy, and R.W. Fassbinder's cinema of provocation.

Dr Ruehl welcomes requests to supervise doctoral and MPhil theses on topics in modern German intellectual and cultural history, and more generally in the history of historiography and the history of the humanities.


Tags & Themes


Department of German  
Sidgwick Avenue  


Key publications

Renaissance book cover

The Italian Renaissance in the German Historical Imagination, 1860-1930, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015

Poet's reich book cover

A Poet’s Reich: Politics and Culture in the George Circle, Rochester: Camden House 2011 (ed. with M. Lane)

Skinner book cover

Quentin Skinner: Visionen des Politischen, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp 2009 (ed. with M. Heinz) 

Arcadia book cover

Out of Arcadia: Classics and Politics in Germany in the Age of Burckhardt, Nietzsche and Wilamowitz, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2003 (ed. with I. Gildenhard)

‘Jacob Burckhardt und der Islam’, Zeitschrift für Ideengeschichte 12, 5 (Spring 2018), pp. 11-22

‘German Horror Stories: Teutomania and the Ghosts of Tacitus’, Arion 22, 2 (Fall/Winter 2014), pp. 129-189

‘Aesthetic Fundamentalism in Weimar Poetry: Stefan George and his Circle, 1918-1933’, in: P. Gordon and J.P. McCormick (eds), Weimar Thought: A Contested Legacy, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2013, pp. 240-272

‘Das Allgemeine und sein Bild: Zur Geschichtsphilosophie Jacob Burckhardts’, Historische Zeitschrift 296, 1 (2013), pp. 49-83

‘Nachwort’, in: M. Heinz and M.A. Ruehl (eds), Quentin Skinner: Visionen des Politischen, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp 2009, pp. 253-286 (with M. Heinz)

‘A Master from Germany: Thomas Mann, Albrecht Dürer and the Making of a National Icon’, Oxford German Studies 38, 1 (2009), pp. 63-108

‘Politeia 1871: Young Nietzsche on the Greek State’, in: P. Bishop (ed.), Nietzsche and Antiquity: His Reaction and Response to the Classical Tradition, Rochester: Camden House 2004, pp. 79-97 

‘In This Time Without Emperors: The Politics of Ernst Kantorowicz’s Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite Reconsidered’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 63 (2000), pp. 187-242 

Other publications

Hitler films book cover

Hitler – Films from Germany: History, Cinema and Politics since 1945, London: Palgrave 2012 (ed. with K. Machtans)

‘The Mother of Modernity: Jacob Burckhardt and the Idea of the Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Germany’, in: E. Podoksik (ed.), Doing Humanities in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Boston 2019), pp. 155-189.

‘Modern Intellectual History – A Roundtable Discussion’ (with David Armitage and Michele Battini), Ricerche di Storia Politica 3 (2018), pp. 323-334

‘Germany: A Winter’s Tale – Anselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy’, Art & Christianity 80 (Winter 2015), pp. 8-10

‘Introduction’, in: K. Machtans and M.A. Ruehl (eds), Hitler – Films from Germany: History, Cinema, and Politics since 1945, London: Palgrave 2012, pp. 1-27

‘Introduction’, in: M. Lane and M.A. Ruehl (eds), A Poet’s Reich: Politics and Culture in the George Circle, Rochester: Camden House 2011, pp. 1-23

‘“Imperium transcendat hominem”: Reich and Herrschaft in Ernst Kantorowicz’s Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite’, in: M. Lane and M.A. Ruehl (eds), A Poet’s Reich: Politics and Culture in the George Circle, Rochester: Camden House 2011, pp. 204-251

‘Nietzsches Götzendämmerung’, Nietzscheforschung: Jahrbuch der Nietzsche-Gesellschaft 16 (2009), pp. 1-13 (with A.U. Sommer)

‘“An Uncanny Re-Awakening”: Nietzsche’s Renascence of the Renaissance out of the Spirit of Jacob Burckhardt’, in: M. Dries (ed.), Nietzsche on Time and History, Berlin and New York: De Gruyter 2008, pp. 227-267 

‘Kentaurenkämpfe: Jacob Burckhardt und das Allgemeine’, in: M. Hagner and M. Laubichler (eds), Der Hochsitz des Wissens: Das Allgemeine als wissenschaftlicher Wert, Zurich and Munich: Diaphanes Verlag 2006, pp. 23-72

‘Blut, bellezza, Bürgertugend: Thomas Manns Fiorenza und der Renaissancekult um 1900’, in: C. Emden and D. Midgley (eds), German Literature, History and the Nation, Oxford: Peter Lang 2004, pp. 189-229 

‘Death in Florence: Thomas Mann and the Ideologies of Renaissancismus at the Fin de Siècle’, in: S. Marchand and D. Lindenfeld (eds), Germany at the Fin de Siècle: Culture, Politics and Ideas, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 2004, pp. 186-227 

‘Nietzsche und Basel’, Nietzsche-Studien 30 (2001), pp. 498-508