The University of Wisconsin Press

Biography / History / Gay & Lesbian Studies / Judaica

The Perils of Normalcy
George L. Mosse and the Remaking of Cultural History
Karel Plessini

George L. Mosse logo
George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural
and Intellectual History

Steven E. Aschheim, Stanley G. Payne, Mary Louise Roberts,
and David J. Sorkin, Series Editors

“A perceptive new analysis that encompasses the broad range of Mosse’s work. The most thorough study on the historian that has been done.”
—Stanley G. Payne, Series Editor

A taboo-breaker and a great provocateur, George L. Mosse (1918–99) was one of the great historians of the twentieth century, forging a new historiography of culture that included brilliant insights about the roles of nationalism, fascism, racism, and sexuality. Jewish, gay, and a member of a culturally elite family in Germany, Mosse came of age as the Nazis came to power, before escaping as a teenager to England and America. Mosse was innovative and interdisciplinary as a scholar, and he shattered in his groundbreaking books prevalent assumptions about the nature of National Socialism and the Holocaust. He audaciously drew a link from bourgeois respectability and the ideology of the Enlightenment—the very core of modern Western civilization—to the extermination of the European Jews.

In this intellectual biography of George Mosse, Karel Plessini draws on all of Mosse’s published and unpublished work to illuminate the origins and development of his groundbreaking methods of historical analysis and the close link between his life and work. He redefined the understanding of modern mass society and politics, masterfully revealing the powerful influence of conformity and political liturgies on twentieth-century history. Mosse warned against the dangers inherent in acquiescence, showing how identity creation and ideological fervor can climax in intolerance and mass murder—a message of continuing relevance.

Karel Plessini has been a fellow of the Institut für Europäische Geschichte in Mainz, Germany, and a George L. Mosse Visiting Scholar at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


“Mosse continuously reflected on the difficulties of acting ethically in a world of power politics. . . . Plessini compellingly shows how the dialectics of ethics and realism played out in Mosse’s writings in multiple variations over the decades.”
—American Historical Review

“Fortified by a treasure-trove of private papers and by reminiscences and critiques of scholars on both sides of the Atlantic, Karel Plessini has written a masterful account of how a gay Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany used his own lived experience to become a preeminent historian of his century’s traumas and transformations. George Mosse was a pioneer in historiography’s cultural turn, producing a cascade of books and new perspectives on nationalism, fascism, racism, religion, sexuality, war and Judaism. Plessini traces both the genesis of Mosse’s individual works and judiciously assesses their impact on historiography with clarity and precision.”
—Seymour Drescher, University of Pittsburgh

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

Of Related Interest
cover of Nazi Culture is blood-red and black, with a chilling photo of a classroom of young boys in uniform giving the Hitler saluteNazi Culture
Intellectual, Cultural, and Social Life in the Third Reich
George L. Mosse

"For the sanity of the human race it is essential that the record of Hitler's Germany should remain alive and be retold again and again as a warning for the future. Professor Mosse's book helps keep the record alive."—Saturday Review


January 2014
LC: 2013015053 D
296 pp.   6 x 9

Book icon
Paper $34.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-29634-6
Shopping cart ADD TO CART

Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.

Updated 03/11/2015

© 2013 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System