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Jan Ruger - Author

About the Author

Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018

Jan Ruger is Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London. He is the author of The Great Naval Game: Britain and Germany in the Age of Empire and joint editor of Rewriting German History.

On Heligoland: Britain, Germany and the Struggle for the North Sea:

How to write the history of two nations divided but also inextricably linked by their shared past was at the heart of my interest in Heligoland. From early on I thought of this outpost in the North Sea as a prism through which to view the long history of Anglo-German rivalry, conflict and, eventually, reconciliation. In making a small island the main character of the book, I tried to engage with both the large-scale conflict between the two nations and the small-scale history of how this relationship manifested itself in the everyday lives of people and their places.

For generations this cliff-bound island expressed a German will to battle Britain; and it mirrored a British determination to prevent Germany from establishing hegemony on the Continent. I wanted to explain this struggle while not losing sight of those caught in between, amongst them the Heligolanders.

I am delighted to see that this approach was seen as persuasive enough for the book to be shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize. It is a tremendous honour to be in the running for a prize that has been awarded to so many historians whom I greatly admire. And it is hugely encouraging to see that books based on a close reading of the sources and a critical dialogue with fellow historians can find a broader audience.

Featured books by Jan Ruger

Other books by Jan Ruger

Heligoland

Heligoland

Author: Jan Ruger Format: eBook Release Date: 22/12/2016

On 18 April 1947, British forces set off the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. The target was a small island in the North Sea, thirty miles off the German coast, which for generations had stood as a symbol of Anglo-German conflict: Heligoland. A long tradition of rivalry was to come to an end here, in the ruins of Hitler's island fortress. Pressed as to why it was not prepared to give Heligoland back, the British government declared that the island represented everything that was wrong with the Germans: 'If any tradition was worth breaking, and if any sentiment was worth changing, then the German sentiment about Heligoland was such a one'. Drawing on a wide range of archival material, Jan Rger explores how Britain and Germany have collided and collaborated in this North Sea enclave. For much of the nineteenth century, this was Britain's smallest colony, an inconvenient and notoriously discontented outpost at the edge of Europe. Situated at the fault line between imperial and national histories, the island became a metaphor for Anglo-German rivalry once Germany acquired it in 1890. Turned into a naval stronghold under theKaiser and again under Hitler, it was fought over in both world wars. Heavy bombardment by the Allies reduced it to ruins, until the Royal Navy re-took it in May 1945. Returned to West Germany in 1952, it became a showpiece of reconciliation, but one that continues to bear the scars of the twentiethcentury. Tracing this rich history of contact and conflict from the Napoleonic Wars to the Cold War, Heligoland brings to life a fascinating microcosm of the Anglo-German relationship. For generations this cliff-bound island expressed a German will to bully and battle Britain; and it mirrored a British determination to prevent Germany from establishing hegemony on the Continent. Caught in between were the Heligolanders and those involved with them: spies and smugglers, poets and painters,sailors and soldiers. Heligoland is the compelling story of a relationship which has defined modern Europe.

Heligoland

Heligoland

Author: Jan Ruger Format: eBook Release Date: 01/12/2016

On 18 April 1947, British forces set off the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. The target was a small island in the North Sea, thirty miles off the German coast, which for generations had stood as a symbol of Anglo-German conflict: Heligoland. A long tradition of rivalry was to come to an end here, in the ruins of Hitler's island fortress. Pressed as to why it was not prepared to give Heligoland back, the British government declared that the island represented everything that was wrong with the Germans: 'If any tradition was worth breaking, and if any sentiment was worth changing, then the German sentiment about Heligoland was such a one'. Drawing on a wide range of archival material, Jan Rger explores how Britain and Germany have collided and collaborated in this North Sea enclave. For much of the nineteenth century, this was Britain's smallest colony, an inconvenient and notoriously discontented outpost at the edge of Europe. Situated at the fault line between imperial and national histories, the island became a metaphor for Anglo-German rivalry once Germany acquired it in 1890. Turned into a naval stronghold under theKaiser and again under Hitler, it was fought over in both world wars. Heavy bombardment by the Allies reduced it to ruins, until the Royal Navy re-took it in May 1945. Returned to West Germany in 1952, it became a showpiece of reconciliation, but one that continues to bear the scars of the twentiethcentury. Tracing this rich history of contact and conflict from the Napoleonic Wars to the Cold War, Heligoland brings to life a fascinating microcosm of the Anglo-German relationship. For generations this cliff-bound island expressed a German will to bully and battle Britain; and it mirrored a British determination to prevent Germany from establishing hegemony on the Continent. Caught in between were the Heligolanders and those involved with them: spies and smugglers, poets and painters,sailors and soldiers. Heligoland is the compelling story of a relationship which has defined modern Europe.

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