Axel Jansen

Deputy Director

German Historical Institute Washington
1607 New Hampshire Ave NW | Washington DC 20009
Phone +1.202.387.3355

Biographical Summary

Axel Jansen is the Deputy Director of the GHI Washington. He has published widely on the history of the United States from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries in a transatlantic context. In his first monograph, he explored the motives US-Americans had for volunteering to join World War I during the time their country remained neutral. He noticed that although well-connected American women and men supported France between 1914 and 1917, they nevertheless did not call for US intervention. Axel’s work became the basis for a number of publications and public history projects, such as the online curriculum “The Volunteers: Americans Join World War I, 1914-1919.”

His second book is the first analytical biography of Alexander Dallas Bache, the key leader of American scientists in mid-nineteenth century America. Axel’s study explains how the scientific profession helped sustain the federal state at a time when the country’s existence was in jeopardy during the Civil War. Unter Bache’s leadership, scientists sought to support the national framework for legitimizing their work. In his recent publications, Axel has shifted his focus to recent political and cultural debates about science. In several articles on developmental biology since the Cold War, he charts the scientific profession’s response to antagonistic public efforts to curtail its work, on the one hand, and public enthusiasm that has come with its own set of challenges, on the other. He now concentrates on debates about automation and work after World War II.

Axel received an M.A. in History at the University of Oregon and completed his Doctorate and Habilitation at the University of Frankfurt, where he remains a Privatdozent. He was a postdoc at Montana State University in Bozeman, has held a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and was a Senior Visiting Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge. He has been invited to teach as a temporary full professor (Vertretungsprofessur) in Heidelberg, Frankfurt, and Kassel, and he has taught in Tübingen and at UCLA. Axel is a member of the academic advisory board of the German Association for American Studies (GAAS/DGfA). He joined the GHI in 2016.

Recent Publications

“Introduction: Biomedicine in Contemporary History,” Axel Jansen and Claudia Roesch, Journal of Contemporary History 57:4 (Sept. 2022), 843-858.​​​​“Libertarian Welfare: The Concept of an Unconditional Basic Income in U.S. Public Debate and Policy,1960-1972,” Amerikastudien 66:4 (2021):635-650 [open access].“Introduction: New Research in Transatlantic History,” Axel Jansen und Claudia Roesch, Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 67 (Fall 2020) [open access].“Empires of Knowledge,” special issue edited by Axel Jansen, John Krige, Jessica Wang, History and Technology 35:3 (2019).

Main Areas of Interest

  • United States History (Eighteenth Century to the Present)
  • History of Science and Medicine
  • History of Technology, Work, and Unemployment
  • Historical Theories and Methods