Richard F. Wetzell

Research Fellow & Editor

German Historical Institute
1607 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington DC 20009 U.S.A.
Phone +1.202.387.3355

Biographical Summary

Richard F. Wetzell is a Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington DC and editor of the GHI's Bulletin. He studied at Swarthmore College (B.A.), and did his graduate work in European history at Columbia University (M.A.) and Stanford University (PhD). He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University and has taught at the University of Maryland and the Catholic University of America. His research focuses on the intersection of law, science, and politics in modern Germany. His publications include Beyond the Racial State: Rethinking the Third Reich (co-edited, 2017, [download open access introduction]), Crime and Criminal Justice in Modern Germany (ed., 2014), Engineering Society: The Role of the Human and Social Sciences in Modern Societies, 1880-1980 (co-edited, 2012), Criminals and Their Scientists: The History of Criminology in International Perspective (co-edited, 2006), and Inventing the Criminal: A History of German Criminology, 1880-1945 (2000). Wetzell is currently pursuing two book projects: a history of "Racial Science and Nazi Biopolitics, 1933-1939" and a legal and political history of German penal reform, 1870-1970.

Recent Media

German-language Podcast "Eingesperrt?! Strafrechtsreformen in Deutschland und im kolonialen Indien" (in the "Wissen entgrenzen" series produced by the Max Weber Stiftung, in which Wetzell discusses his research on the history of penal reform in modern Germany)

English-language Podcast on "Racial Science in Nazi Germany" (in the "Perpectives on Racial Science" series produced by the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine)

Recent Publications

"Penal Reform in Imperial Germany: Conflict and Compromise." In The Limits of Criminological Positivism The Movement for Criminal Law Reform in the West, 1870–1940, ed. Michele Pifferi. pp. 42-73. London/New York: Routledge, 2022. DOI: 10.4324/9780429323713-3. [Open Access]"Rosa von Praunheim, Martin Dannecker und das Verhältnis der westdeutschen Schwulenbewegung zur homosexuellen Subkultur, 1971–1986. Von "Nicht der Homosexuelle ist pervers …" zum Streit in der Aids-Krise." Invertito – Jahrbuch für die Geschichte der Homosexualitäten 23 (2021) [Open Access]"About the Concept of the ‘dangerous individual’ in Turn-of-the-Century Penal Reform: Debates on Recidivism, État Dangereux, Indeterminate Sentencing, and Civil Liberty in the International Union of Penal Law, 1889-1914." GLOSSAE. European Journal of Legal History 17 (2020) [Open Access]

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Main Areas of Interest

  • Modern German history
  • Legal history
  • Cultural history
  • History of science and medicine
  • History of deviance and social control
  • History of sexuality