German TV stardom for Cambridge History Professor

A Cambridge Historian has become an unexpected German TV hit after his new history series attracted millions of viewers in the country.

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Ever wondered what a celebrity in Germany looks like these days? Buy a Beetle, bowtie, and be a British Historian, apparently.

The historian in question, Christopher Clark, Cambridge’s Regius Professor of History, has attracted up to 5 million viewers for his six-part German television series, Deutschland-Saga (The German Saga).

That ZDF, the country’s equivalent of the BBC, wanted a foreigner to do a history of Germany in the first place is something Professor Clark described to The Sunday Times as “a bit preposterous really”.

A celeb at first sight

“I asked myself, ‘Would the BBC ask a German to present a series on Britain?’ Maybe that time will come, but it’s hard to imagine at the moment.”

Professor Clark was already well-known in the country after the success of his recent book The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914.

Topping the bestseller list with over 240,000 hardback copies in German since it was published last year, his account stresses contingency and mistakes over German militarism as leading to war.

Getting Germany off the hook?

However, Clark slammed accusations that ZDF hired him to present the series because his arguments get the German empire off the hook.

“That is absolutely false and completely misrepresents the book,” he told The Sunday Times. “The book makes it quite clear there is no reason for Germans to look back with pride on the foreign policy of the German empire before 1914.”

As for contemporary Germans, Clark argues they are quite tentative about the past – they need convincing from abroad that they “are not loathed everywhere” and that “they are now very popular in the world.”