Mosse, George Lachmann 1918 - 1999 | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Mosse, George Lachmann 1918 - 1999

Historian and Educator

Mosse, George Lachmann 1918 - 1999 | Wisconsin Historical Society

b. Berlin, Germany, September 20, 1918
d. Madison, Wisconsin, January 22, 1999

Dictionary of Wisconsin History.


Mosse was a grandson of Rudolf Mosse, Germany’s foremost liberal newspaper publisher. He grew up in Berlin and was educated at the famous boarding school Schloss Salem on Lake Constance. When the Nazis seized power in 1933, his family fled the country, settling first in France, then in England. There, Mosse continued his education at the Quaker Bootham School and at Cambridge University. When war broke out in 1939, he immigrated to the United States where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Haverford College and his doctorate from Harvard University in 1946.

Starting in 1944, Mosse taught European history at universities across the United States before settling at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1955 to help develop the European history program. His research interests shifted from the English reformation to modern European history, especially German fascism, and his innovative studies of the symbolism and aesthetics of fascist movements were highly influential. Beginning in the 1960s, he spent half of each academic year teaching at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In his later career, he became interested in the history of sexuality and masculinity. In 1966 Walter Laqueur invited him to co-found the "Journal of Contemporary History." In his memoir "Confronting History," Mosse tells how his double outsiderdom, his Jewishness and his homosexuality, influenced his life-long interest in the relationship between insiders and outsiders in society . His legacy lives on in his bequest to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, through which the George L. Mosse Program in History was established.

Sources: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Ssociety vol. 145 (2001), n. 2, p. 221-227; obituary, New York Times, January 31, 1999.

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