I founded the UEA Research Seminar Group in Modern German Social History in 1979 in order to encourage the development of German social history at a time when it was only just beginning to be researched and written about in Germany as well as in Britain at the end of the 1970s and the early 1980s. Each conference was held over two days, with about 30 invited participants from Britain, Germany and the USA, and subsidised variously by the SSRC/ESRC, the Nuffield Foundation and the University of East Anglia (grants totalling £11,000).
Papers were all pre-circulated, and the workshops, each with up to 35 participants from the UK, Germany and USA, were discussion-only. This has always seemed to me a much more effective use of conference time than the reading-out of papers, even in the era before the Internet, when all the papers had to be printed out, collated and circulated by post. Edited papers were published in book form (see publications) except for one, which appeared as the July 1982 issue of European Studies Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, a special issue on ‘Religion and Society in Modern Germany’.
I also organised the regular Research Seminar in European History at UEA (1982-85).
As Chair of the German History Society 1989-92 I was responsible for leading the Committee in devising and planning three conferences a year.
I re-established the Research Seminar in Modern German History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, in 1990, after it had been defunct for several years, following the retirement of Professor F.L. Carsten (whom I asked to give the first paper to the new seminar) and ran it jointly with other colleagues in London, including David Blackbourn, until 1998.
At Birkbeck College I established and ran an informal work-in-progress seminar for faculty and research students, meeting on a weekly basis. This picked up on an occasional series of meetings for postgraduates working on modern German and Russian history at UEA, and was later transformed into the Workshop on Modern German History at Cambridge, which has met since 1998 on a weekly basis, with 20-minute papers by Junior Research Fellows, PhD students, and MPhil students. Attendance in recent years has sometimes exceeded 20.
From 1999 I have been a co-organizer of the Cambridge University Research Seminar in Modern European History. I initiated a change from fortnightly to a weekly meeting, and increased the number of outside speakers.
I was co-organizer, with Dr Emma Rothschild and Prof. Gareth Stedman Jones, of an international conference on ‘Redesigning the Past’, at King’s College, Cambridge, in January 2002. The papers were published in a special issue of the Journal of Contemporary History.
Finally I have been running the DAAD exchange scheme at Cambridge, involving four conferences a year, under the general rubric ‘Promoting German Studies in the UK’, since 2010. The Cambridge conferences have been organized by a team led by Dr Barbara Koenczoel. The total grants awarded to Cambridge for the four years of the scheme amount to just over €100,000.