Campus: Guelph
Office: 1013 MacKinnon Extension


  • Ph.D.: St Antony’s College, Oxford, 2001
  • M.St.: St Antony’s College, Oxford, 1998
  • B.A.: St Edmund Hall, Oxford, 1997


  • Modern German history
  • History of sport
  • History of communism
  • 20th century European history

Areas of Graduate Supervision

  • Modern Germany
  • Modern Europe
  • Sport History

Current Research

I am currently working on a social and political history of East German football between 1945 and 1991. The popular image of sport in communist East Germany is one of remorseless Olympic success inspired by systematic doping and advanced programs of talent identification and training. Football plays little part in this controversial story. The communist authorities found it much harder to control the most popular sport in East Germany than they did other medal-rich but comparatively obscure sports. The “strange history” of East German football saw clubs moved from one town to another on communist party orders and extensive secret police (Stasi) surveillance of players and coaches. Yet, to the frustration of party officials, football retained a relatively high degree of autonomy within the confines of communist dictatorship. It became an arena of broad-based, but low-risk, resistance to authority in East Germany, as well as a means of keeping alive identities (local, regional, and national) that did not necessarily conform to communist ideals.

My research examines the communist failure to bring either order or success to East German football – how and why the unpredictability and popularity of the “beautiful game” allowed it to at least partially defy political manipulation. I am particularly interested in the tense, multifaceted relationship between authority and resistance in East Germany, as witnessed in interactions between the state (represented primarily by the party and secret police) and society (represented primarily by fans and players). By following a thematic approach – including such topics as fan culture as an expression of possible political dissent; football as a mass participatory sport; the rise of hooliganism; and the attractiveness of West German football in the East. I hope to illustrate that football was not merely imposed on East German society by an all-powerful ‘totalitarian’ dictatorship. Rather, it was a site of dialogue and negotiation, of “give and take” between the authorities, whose power was much more disjointed and multi-layered than some scholars would allow, and the people, who saw football as an important means of maintaining a sense of their “own interests” (Eigen-Sinn). The extensive, but ultimately limited, influence of the East German dictatorship on football also offers broader insights into sport’s ability to subvert, whether consciously or unconsciously, authoritarian attempts to mobilize it for political purposes. The continued relevance of this topic was displayed most recently in the various controversies that surrounded China’s hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Selected Publications

  • The People’s Game: Football, State, and Society in Communist East Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.
  • “Playing the game: football and everyday life in the Honecker era.” In Becoming East Germans: Socialist Structures and Sensibilities after Hitler, edited by Mary Fulbrook and Andrew Port. Oxford and New York: Berghahn, forthcoming.
  • “A duty to forget?” The ‘Hitler Youth Generation’ and the transition from Nazism to Communism in post-war East Germany, c. 1945-49.” German History 26 (2008): 24-46.
  • “Cautious Dissent, Reluctant Conformity: Young East Germans and the 1956 Revolution in Hungary.” In Resistance, Rebellion and Revolution in Hungary and Central Europe: Commemorating 1956, edited by László Péter and Martyn Rady. London: UCL SSEES, 2008, 239-46.
  • “Young workers, the Free German Youth (FDJ) and the June 1953 Uprising”. In Power and the People: A Social History of Central European Politics 1945-1956, edited by Eleonore Breuning, Jill Lewis and Gareth Pritchard. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005, 29-41.
  • Youth Politics in East Germany: The Free German Youth Movement, 1946-1968. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.


  • “East Germany and the Europeanisation of football, c. 1956-1965”. FREE (Football Research in an Enlarged Europe) conference on “The Origins and Birth of European Football”, Besançon, France (Sep 2012)
  • “Around the Wall: East German football encounters with the West”. The 3rd International Conference on Sport and Society, Cambridge, UK (Jul 2012)
  • My television appearance to discuss youth culture in divided Germany in Episode 3 of the CBC’s Cold War series Love, Hate & Propaganda (“Cracks in the Wall”, first aired on 1 December 2011):
  • My appearance on German television (RBB, 26 May 2011), discussing football under the East German dictatorship on the cultural programme “Stilbruch”:
  • My YouTube video for, reflecting on the state of East German football twenty years after reunification (Oct 2010):
  • “Playing the game: football and everyday life in the Honecker era”, 34th annual conference of the German Studies Association, Oakland, CA (Oct 2010)
  • “A game of their own? Football fans in communist East Germany, 1949-1989”, 38th annual convention of the North American Society for Sport History, Lake Buena Vista, FL (May 2010)