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Personal profile

Personal profile

Harry Liebersohn is Center for Advanced Study Professor of History, Emeritus.  His research centers on cultural encounters between European and non-European peoples since the late eighteenth century.  He attempts to understand how people from diverse cultures communicate in a broad variety of geographic settings, especially in North America and the Pacific.

He received his B.A. in history from New College in Sarasota, Florida in 1973 and his Ph.D. in history, with a special emphasis on German and intellectual history, from Princeton University in 1979.  Since then he has written on a wide range of topics, including religion, social theory, travel writing, gift exchange, literature, art and music.  He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Dorothee Schneider, and their two cats, Frankie and Johnny. 

He is the author of numerous books, including Music and the New Global Culture: From the Great Exhibitions to the Jazz Age (University of Chicago Press, 2019); Fate and Utopia in German Sociology, 1870-1923 (MIT Press, 1988); Aristocratic Encounters: European Travelers and North American Indians (Cambridge University Press, 1998); The Travelers’ World: Europe to the Pacific (Harvard University Press, 2008); and The Return of the Gift: European History of a Global Idea (Cambridge University Press, 2011).  His article, "Discovering Indigenous Nobility: Tocqueville, Chamisso, and Romantic Travel Writing," appeared in The American Historical Review in 1994.  It was awarded the 1995 William Koren, Jr. Prize of the Society for French Historical Studies.

He has held appointments as a fellow or guest at the Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan University (1980-81), the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (1996-97), the Max Planck Institute for History, Göttingen (2003), the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2006-07), the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin (2008), and the American Academy in Berlin (Spring 2017).  During the summers of 2013 and 2014 he co-directed a post-doctoral seminar held respectively under the auspices of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the National Humanities Center, North Carolina. In May 2015 he was Visiting Professor at Central

European University and Eötvös University, Budapest.  He is a recent recipient of a Humboldt Research Award, a lifetime achievement prize awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.  Frequently asked to give academic presentations, in October 2018 he gave the Zhu Kezhen Distinguished Lectures at Zheziang University, China.

Office Address

309 Gregory Hall
810 S Wright
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Phone

(217) 333-1155


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