Dr. Karina Urbach

Senior Research Fellow
Institute of Historical Research
University of London

Longterm Visitor
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Karina Urbach


German and British cultural and political relations in the 19th and 20th century; History of International Relations and History of Secret Intelligence.

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1991: BA (Zwischenprüfung) Modern History, Politics and Medieval History at Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich.

1992: Master of Philosophy in International Relations, University of Cambridge; Dissertation: The British Decision-Making Process during the Rhineland Crisis of 1936.

1996: Ph.D. Degree, University of Cambridge. Thesis: Lord Odo Russell's Embassy at Berlin and British-German Relations 1870-78.

July 2009: Second Doctorate (Habilitation).

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2015-2021: Longterm Visitor, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

Since 2009: Senior Research Fellow, IHR, University of London.

2004-2009: Research Fellow, German Historical Institute London.

2001-2004: Habilitations-Prize (Independent research financed by the Bavarian Ministry of Culture).

1996-2001: Assistant Professor (C I) Department of Modern History, University Bayreuth. Teaching 19th and 20th century European history.

1990-1991: Full time research assistant to Professor Thomas Nipperdey, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich; Work as a freelance journalist for the German national newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung; the Bavarian paper Münchner Merkur (Arts Section) and the popular history magazine G-Geschichte.

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Otto-von-Bismarck Foundation (since 2010).

Since 2018 Juror for the WCGS Book prize, see: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-german-studies/research-activities-and-opportunities/wcgs-book-prize/finalists.

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1991-92: German Academic Exchange Service Scholarship for Cambridge.

1993-94: Kurt Hahn Trust Scholarship, University of Cambridge.

1996: Scholarship awarded by the German Historical Institute, London.

2001-2003: Bayerischer Habilitationsförderpreis (awarded by the Bavarian Ministry of Culture)

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A selection of publications has been digitized, see:

Albert - The Digital Repository of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton


Link to English clip | German clip
A reading from ALICE'S BOOK (in German)


Das Buch Alice (Alice's Book), Propyläen, September 2020.

Go Betweens for Hitler, Oxford University Press 2015. Link to YouTube video

Link to lecture at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton 22nd January 2016

Karina Urbach

Link to Hay Festival June 2016

Link to video from the Frankfurt Bookfair October 2016

German translation: Hitlers heimliche Helfer, WBG Darmstadt 2016. Link to YouTube video

Selected by History Today as one of the best books of 2015

A fascinating page-turner about Hitler's secret diplomacy in the 1930s, which was intended to secure British amity and then neutrality when he led Germany to war ... Urbach combed her way through archives across Europe to construct this image of a decaying aristocracy using their connections in the cultivation of appeasers in Britain. They were not without influence.
Lawrence Goldman, Books of the Year 2015, History Today

Diplomatic historians have mostly stuck to official documents. Urbach's engrossing and well-researched book constitutes an argument for extending the history of international relations to cover the kind of informal networks she describes.
Richard J Evans, London Review of Books, 17th March 2016

[An] excellent book... Urbach has alighted upon a little studied and rather fascinating phenomenon; that of the aristocratic amateur ambassador, the titled back-stairs diplomatist.
The Times, Roger Moorehouse

Just when one thinks every possible aspect of this war has been covered, along comes a surprise. Such is Karina Urbach's highly original new book, Go-Betweens for Hitler... an unsurpassable work on this intriguing subject.
Daily Telegraph, Simon Heffer

Urbach has written a book that is as stimulating as it is entertaining, and one which deserves a wide readership.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Christopher Dowe

Queen Victoria, Die unbeugsame Königin, C.H. Beck October 2018 (first published 2011; updated and extended edition).

This clever and enlightening biography of QueenVictoria is a gripping read. With humour and psychological expertise Karina Urbach portrays- supported by a multitude of documents - an impressive portrait of this woman.
Christopher Clark, University of Cambridge

A classic.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Andreas Fahrmeir

A pleasure to read.
Sehepunkte, Dieter Langenwiesche

A gripping portrayal of the time.
Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Sandra Pfister

A little masterpiece.
Andreas Rose, Historische Zeitschrift

Bismarck's Favourite Englishman. Lord Odo Russell's Mission to Berlin, Tauris Academic Press, London and New York, 1999. pp 271

Karina Urbach has managed to bring together an impressive amount of new evidence...she gives us a balanced, carefully researched and gracefully written account of personalities and policies.
James J. Sheehan, Times Literary Supplement

Karina Urbach has a light touch and a sharp eye. She provides vivid portraits of William I, Berlin in the 1870s and the great Bismarck, with whom Russell had a close relationship. Here is a work which is a sheer delight to read.
Jonathan Steinberg, University of Pennsylvania, and author of 'Bismarck: A Life'

Edited Books:


  • England is pro-Hitler. German opinions during the Czechoslovakian crisis, in: Julie Gottlieb/Daniel Hucker/Richard Toye (eds.), The Munich Crisis, politics and the people, Manchester University Press 2020
  • 1871. Gründung des Deutschen Reiches – Kaiserproklamation in Versailles, in: Andreas Fahrmeir (ed.), Deutschland. Globalgeschichte einer Nation, München 2020.
  • Nützliche Idioten. Die Hohenzollern und Hitler, in: Thomas Biskup/Jürgen Luh/Truc Vu Minh (eds.):Preußendämmerung. Die Abdankung der Hohenzollern und das Ende Preußens, Heidelberg 2019.
    Updated and extended translation: Useful Idiots. The Hohenzollern and Hitler, in: Historical Research, August 2020 (see for Hohenzollern restitution claims: https://www.ias.edu/ideas/urbach-hohenzollern)
  • Wer die Queen anschaut, sieht britische Geschichte, in: Bettina Musall/Eva-Maria Schnurr (eds.), Britanniens Krone, DVA Munich 2015
  • The Creative Consort: New Sources on Prince Albert, in: Charles Beem and Miles Taylor (eds.), The Man Behind the Throne: The Male Consort in History, London 2015
  • Introduction, in: Jonathan Haslam; Karina Urbach (eds.), Secret Intelligence and the International Relations of Europe in the 20thC, Stanford University Press 2013
  • In defence of Albert. An Introduction, in: Theodore Martin, Life of the Prince Consort, London 2012
  • Das Viktorianische Wunderland, in: DAMALS, November Issue 11/2011
  • 'Man muss seine Angst zähmen', in Simone Fässler (ed.): Ilse Aichinger, Es muss gar nichts bleiben. Interviews 1952-2005, Vienna 2011
  • 'Netzwerk', in: Michael Maaser und Gerrit Walther (eds.), Bildung: Ziele und Formen, Traditionen und Systeme, Medien und Akteure, Stuttgart 2010
  • 'Bismarck: Der Kriegsdienstverweigerer als Kriegsherr', in: Simms/Urbach (eds.), Statesmen and War, München 2010
  • 'Royal Kinship', in: Karina Urbach (ed.), Royal Kinship. British-German Family Networks 1815-1914, München 2008 pp 13-23
  • 'Moscow is making war on England'. Politische Ängste und antidemokratische Konzepte britischer Eliten in der Zwischenkriegszeit', in: Christoph Gusy (ed.), Demokratie in der Krise: Europa in der Zwischenkriegszeit, Interdisziplinäre Studien zu Recht und Staat, Baden Baden 2008, pp. 144-154
  • 'Introduction' and 'Age of no Extremes? The British aristocracy between the House of Lords and the Mosley Movement,' in: Karina Urbach (ed.), European Aristocracies and the Radical Right. 1918-1939, Oxford University Press 2007, pp. 1-12 and 53-71
  • 'Das Bismarck-Bild in Großbritannien', in: Klaus Hildebrand/Edward Kolb (eds.): Otto von Bismarck im zeitgenössischen Urteil Europas, , Paderborn 2005, pp. 167-181
  • 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service: Gladstone, Ireland and Pope Leo XIII, 1881-1885/86', in: Vincent Viaenne (Hg.): The Vatican, Catholic Opinion and the International Order at the Time of Leo XIII (1878-1903), Löwen 2005
  • 'Standesherr, Mediatisierter Adel, Mediatisierung, Kolonialadel, Verein der deutschen Standesherren, St. Michael-Verein deutscher Edelleute, Verein katholischer Edelleute, leisure class, Depossedierung' in: Eckart Conze (Hg.): Kleines Adelslexikon, München 2005. Pp 220-21; 163-64; 232; 214-215; 232-233; 154; 60-61
  • 'Prince Albert and Lord Palmerston: Battle Royal', in: Franz Bosbach and John Davis, Prince Albert - A Wettin in Britain, München 2004. (also published in David Brown and Miles Taylor (eds.), Palmeston Studies, Vol. 1, Southampton 2007, pp. 127-143
  • 'Diplomat, Höfling, Verbandsfunktionär. Süddeutsche Standesherren 1880-1945', in: Markus Denzel/Günther Schulz, Elitenforschung: Adel im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Büdinger Gespräche, 2004, pp. 353-375
  • 'Houston Stewart Chamberlain und Prince Max von Baden', in: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 2004. (with Bernd Buchner). Pp. 121-177
  • 'Süddeutsche Standesherren und der Erste Weltkrieg,' in: Monika Wienfort/Eckart Conze (eds.), Adelsgeschichte als Gesellschaftsgeschichte. Deutschland im europäischen Vergleich im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, München 2003, pp. 323-351
  • 'Adel versus Bürgertum. überlebens- und Aufstiegsstrategien im deutsch-britischen Vergleich.' in: Franz Bosbach/Keith Robbins/Karina Urbach (eds.), Geburt oder Leistung ? Birth or Talent ? The Formation of Elites in a British-German Comparison, München 2003, pp.25-42
  • 'Constantin Rößler,' in: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed.), Neue Deutsche Biographie, München 2003, p. 750
  • 'Das schwarze Buch. Kollektive Paranoia im Ersten Weltkrieg', in: Andreas Fahrmeir/Sabine Freitag (eds.), Mord und andere Kleinigkeiten, München 2001 (translated into Turkish: Cinayet ve diger Ufak Tefek Isler, Istanbul 2002)
  • 'Zeitgeist als Ortsgeist. Die Emigration als Schlüsselerlebnis deutscher Historiker,' in: Hermann Hiery (ed.): Der Zeitgeist und die Historie, Dettelbach 2001. Pp 161-181

Review articles:

  • Flirting with Hitler. Biographies of the German and British Nobility in the Interwar Years, Review Article, Bulletin of the German Historical Institute, May 2007, pp. 64-75
  • 'Diplomatic History since the Cultural Turn', in: Historical Journal, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 991-997
  • 'Between Saviour and Villain: 100 years of Bismarck Biographies,' in: Historical Journal, Vol. 41, 1998. Pp. 1141-1160 (translated for Chinesische Deutschland Studien, Shanghai 3/2000, p.38 ff)

Conference Reports:

  • Keeping Secrets. How important was Intelligence for the Conduct of International Relations 1914-1989?, GHIL Bulletin November 2008, pp. 144-156
  • European Aristocracies and the Radical Right, GHIL Bulletin, 2005

Book Reviews in:

The Literary Review, The English Historical Review, The Historical Journal, History, Historische Zeitschrift, Urban History, Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Forschungen zur Brandenburgischen und Preußischen Geschichte, Francia, Internetzeitschrift 'Sehepunkte', Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung.

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Antisemitism- Past and Present
5th February 2020
IAS video

Patricia Clavin (Oxford) on Brexit
27th March 2019
IAS video

Rana Mitter (Oxford) on China
6th February 2019
IAS video

Richard Aldrich (Warwick) on the CIA
2nd November 2018
YouTube video

Niall Ferguson (Stanford) on the financial crisis
10th October 2018
YouTube video

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Video about Cambridge 5 (mp4, file size 283 MB)

Cambridge 5, Limes/Random House Germany 2017 (under the pseudonym Hannah Coler).

Czech translation 2019

RP Online

Deutschlandfunk Kultur

Cultur Mag

Nominated for the Friedrich Glauser Prize and the Victor Crime Award.

Winner of the Crime Cologne Award 2018

Karina Urbach Wins Crime Cologne Award 2018

Hannah Coler gewinnt mit Cambridge 5

Hannah Coler gewinnt Crime Cologne Award 2018

Crime Cologne Award 2018 geht an Hannah Coler

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Peeping through the chinks in the royal armour
Karina Urbach, 6 August 2015

Behind the infant Queen's gesture lies a dark history of aristocratic Nazi links
Karina Urbach, The Guardian, 19 July 2015

Royals told: open archives on family ties to Nazi regime
Jamie Doward and Tracy McVeigh, The Guardian, 18 July 2015

Now let us see royal letters from 1930s
Valentine Low, The Times, 21 July 2015

What Secrets Are the Royal Family Hiding?
Thomas K. Grose, U.S.News 23 July 2015

Royal family's Nazi prince was on the Führer's payroll
Nicholas Hellen, The Sunday Times, 26 July 2015

Interview von Alexander Menden
Süddeutsche Zeitung, 21 June 2015

Das ist eine politische Geste
Sebastian Borger, Frankfurter Rundschau, 21 July 2015

La conexión de Eduardo VIII con Hitler pasó por la España de Franco
Carlos Fresneda, El Mundo 20 July 2015

Britisches Königshaus: Royals wollen gegen Veröffentlichung von Hitlergruß-Video vorgehen
Spiegel Online, 19 July 2015

Die Royals haben sich erst gegen Hitler gestellt, als der Krieg ausbrach
Stern, 20 July 2015

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Convener of "The Impact of the Past", Lecture series in History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 2018 - 2020

6th May 2015 (with Jonathan Steinberg and Ulf Morgenstern): Bismarck exhibition at the IHR, University of London

April 2015 (with Bismarck Foundation): Realpolitik für Europa. Bismarcks Weg. Berlin, Deutsches Historisches Museum, 31 March to 1st April 2015

2009 (with Brendan Simms) Bringing Personality Back in: Leadership and War. A British-German Comparison 1740-1945

2008 Keeping Secrets: How important was Intelligence for the conduct of International Relations 1914-1989?

2006 Royal Kinship: British-German Family Networks 1815-1914

2004 Noble Fascists? European Aristocracies and the Radical Right 1918-1939

2002 (with Franz Bosbach and Keith Robbins): The Formation of Elites in a British-German Comparison

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TEACHING 1996-2015:

  • British-German Relations 1870-1914
  • The First World War
  • Monarchism in the Weimar Republic
  • Hitler's Rise to Power
  • The Goebbels' Diaries
  • Hitler's Foreign Policy 1933-1939
  • The Second World War
  • Antisemitism and the Goldhagen Debate
  • Film Policy in the Third Reich
  • German Re-Unification
  • The history of British Intelligence
  • Fascist Networks in Europe

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  • 'Reputations. Prince Albert', BBC 2 Television, 13 September 2002
  • 'The Downfall', BBC Radio Five, September 2004
  • 'The Bush-Kerry Debate from a German Perspective' Panel Discussion CNN, 1 October 2004
  • Royal Fascist? Newsnight Interview, BBC 2, 13 January 2005
  • Weekend 'Nazis' with John Sweeney BBC 1 Television, 27 August 2007
  • Hitler's Favourite Royal, Channel Four, 6 December 2007
  • Queen Victoria's Men, Channel Four, May 2008
  • Die Windsors, ZDF, German Television 14th and 21st April 2009
  • Balmoral, BBC 2, 24 October 2009
  • Victoria: A Royal Love Story, BBC 1, 14 March 2010
  • George V. BBC Radio 4, 14 April 2010
  • Royal Weddings, ZDF, German Television, 20 July 2010
  • Edward VIII and Fascism, ZDF, 18 January 2011
  • New Books: Queen Victoria. WDR-Television, 15 February 2011
  • Book Show, Lesezeichen', BR-Television, 14 March 2011
  • ZDF Nachtstudio, 17 April 2011
  • The Royal Wedding, ZDF Spezial, 19th, 26th and 29th April 2011
  • ZDF-History, 1 May 2011
  • ZDF-History, 5 June 2011
  • The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, ZDF June 2012
  • Kulturmontag ORF, Queen Victoria, July 2012
  • State visits ZDF-History, 20 August 2012
  • Queen Victoria's children BBC 2, 1. 2. January 2013, PBS 2014
  • BR Radio, Great Britain in the 19th Century, 10th June 2013
  • Historical advisor for Royal Cousins at War, BBC 2, 5th and 6th February 2014, PBS 2015
  • Die Windsors, ZDF 15 July 2014
  • World War I in 3D presented by Sir Tony Robinson, Discovery Channel, Sky 9th November 2014
    Sir Tony Robinson and Karina Urbach
  • Queen Victoria presented by AN Wilson, BBC 4, 13th and 20th November 2014
  • How German is the Queen?, ZDF, 30th June 2015
  • Historical advisor for 'A Dangerous Fortune', Constantin Film January 2016
  • The Queen, Arte and ZDF Zeit, April 2016
  • Die Welfen (The Guelphs) ZDF Zeit, Juli 2016
  • Hitler, six part series, More4 (UK) and AHC (US) October/November 2016
  • Englands große Königinnen, ZDF History 2017
  • Mythos Monarchie, ZDF 2018
  • Die Royals und die Nazis, ZDF History 2018
  • BR-Interview with Karina Urbach, 2018
  • Mythos Monarchie, ZDF 2018
  • Die Royals und die Nazis, ZDF History 2018
  • Podcast Interview Go-Betweens, 2018
  • Queen Victoria, Arte / ORF 2019

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