Professor Cornelie Usborne

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Contact details

Professor Cornelie Usborne
PhD (Open), BA (Open)
Position/Fellowship type:
Senior Research Fellow
Institute of Historical Research
Department of Humanities, Roehampton University Erasmus House Roehampton Lane London SW15 5PU
020 8392 3000
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Modern History
Summary of research interests and expertise:

modern German history, especially women’s history and social history of medicine (the history of sexuality, reproduction and population policy); the history of crime and the use of visual sources in history; presently researching `Imagined Pleasure, Ambivalent Practice. A cultural history of women’s sexuality in Weimar and Nazi Germany

Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
01-Jan-2018 Cultures of Witchcraft in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present

Edited Book

This is a collection based on the contributions to Witchcraft studies of Willem de Blécourt, to whom it is dedicated, and who provides the opening chapter, setting out a methodological and conceptual agenda for the study of cultures of witchcraft (brooadly defined) in Europe since the Middle Ages. It includes contributions from historians, anthropologists, literary scholars and folklorists who have collaborated closely with de Blécourt. Essays pick up some or all of the themes and approaches he pioneered, and apply them to cases which range in time and space across all the main regions of Europe since the thirteenth century until the present day. While some draw heavily on texts, others on archival sources, and others on field research, they all share a commitment to reconstructing the meaning and lived eperience of wtichcraft (and its related phenomina) to Europeans at all levels, respecting the many varieties and ambiguities in such meanings and experiences and resisting attempts to reduce them to master narratives or simple causal models. 

01-Sep-2017 Female Sexual Desire and Male Honor: German Women's Illicit Love Affairs with Prisoners of War during the Second World War

Journal articles

 In official Nazi propaganda prisoners of war were portrayed as enemy aliens and racially dangerous. Friendly contacts between them and the German population were prohibited and increasingly harshly controlled. German women who had romantic liaisons with POWs were singled out for special censure and many thousands of them were imprisoned for sexual encounters with French, occasionally Polish, rarely Danish and Serbian POWs. Thus at the level of the state these women were expelled from the national community and became outsiders just like their foreign boyfriends. A number of historians (eg Kundrus, Stephenson, Heusler, Herbert, Schneider) have researched this topic but hardly anyone consulted the judicial records in detail, and even if they did, they focused on Nazi terror, the ill treatment of foreigners, or the prosecution practice of `inter-racial’ relationships during the war. My own aim, however, is to explore sexuality as a subjective experience in its cultural context and do so with the help of police and Gestapo depositions. Such records obviously need to be treated with utmost care but they can reveal important passages of defendants’ own narratives. Moreover, the survival of intimate correspondence, photographs and other personal mementos exchanged between the lovers afford unmediated glimpses into the private world of this public crime. In this article several case studies will be analyzed in detail; by using the concepts of honor, shame and romantic love developed in the history of emotions the gendered meanings of these illicit sexual encounters will be explored. Of particular interest are the ways in which women imagined love and expressed desire; the impact of war on women’s erotic fantasies and the power relations between German women and their husbands/fiancés or boyfriends but also that of German women and their POW lovers. Violence is thematized here in relation to the state’s coercion and punishment of all those found guilty of “illicit relationships” but also in relation to those German women who coerced foreign prisoners into submitting to their sexual demands.

01-Sep-2016 `Abtreibung in der Weimarer Republik. Weibliche Fordrungen und Erfahrungen’, in Lutz Niethammer/Silke Satjukow eds., “Wenn die Chemie stimmt….” Gender Relations and Birth Control in the Age of the “Pill” (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2016)

Edited Book

 Abortion in Weimar Germany: Women's demands and experiences 

01-Mar-2016 `Bio-Politics and Gender in the First World War and Weimar Germany’, in Gabriele Metzler/Dirk Schumann eds., Geschlechter(un)ordnung und Politik in der Weimarer Republik (Bonn: Dietz, 2016);

Edited Book

 The response to pronatalism and eugenics by feminists and ordinary women during the First World War and the new German republic after it.  

01-Oct-2013 Co-editor(with Beat Kümin), Special Forum on `At home and in the workplace: domestic and occupational space in Western Europe since the middle ages’, History & Theory (2013).

Journal articles

03-Jan-2011 `Social Body, Racial Body, Woman’s Body. Discourses, Policies, Practices from Wilhelmine to Nazi Germany, 1912-1945’, Historical Social Research, special issue on `Fertility’ (2011)

Journal articles

01-Jan-2010 Picturing the Past

Special issue, Cultural & Social History, 7, issue 4, with Charlotte Behr and Sabine Wieber

01-Jan-2007 Cultures of Abortion in Weimar Germany

London/New York: Berghahn Books

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