Funding for New Emphasis in Research on Global History of Disease

Volkswagen Foundation finances Heidelberg historian Stefanie Gänger through its Momentum Initiative

Strategic focus on the history of medicine and the environment: Stefanie Gänger is to receive support from the Volkswagen Foundation for the thematic development of her professorship. The historian intends to deepen her present research on global histories of disease in what is called the "long nineteenth century" and to supplement it with information from the natural and environmental sciences. Stefanie Gänger teaches and conducts research as Professor of Modern History at the Department of History of Heidelberg University. Up to 295,000 euros are available for a period of four years in the context of the Momentum Initiative, in order to build up expertise in medical history and in the history of disease, screen source materials and publish the findings.

In the "long nineteenth century" - the name historians have given the period from the 1770s to the 1920s - diseases such as yellow fever appeared for the first time on all inhabited contents. "Disease, pain and bodily suffering were omnipresent and had a lasting influence on the experience and life worlds of men, women and children," underlines Prof. Gänger. "It is all the more astonishing that the history of disease and diseases have played a rather subordinate role in ’general’ history to date." Along those lines, Stefanie Gänger will broaden her studies on the history of disease in Western Europe and Andean South America and, while strategically expanding her professorship, channel them into a global history of medicine, the body and disease. She wants, in particular, to study the interplay of environmental influences and the appearance of epidemics, at the same time supplementing the instruments of historical research with scientific approaches such as antibody tests and DNA analyses of human remains. Apart from individual experiences of disease, her research aims to focus on disease concepts, remedies, and late or long-term consequences of certain ailments - for example, fevers - as seen from an overarching perspective.

Stefanie Gänger studied history in Augsburg, Seville (Spain) and the University of Cambridge (UK), where she obtained her PhD in 2011 in the field of world history. She has taught at the universities of Berlin, Konstanz and Cologne; visiting fellowships and guest professorships have taken her to the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, the University of Pennsylvania (USA) and Sciences Po, the Institut d’études politiques de Paris in France. In 2019, Stefanie Gänger was appointed Professor of Modern History at Heidelberg University. She is co-director of the Balzan-FRIAS Project "Rethinking Global History" based in Freiburg. For her interdisciplinary, global historical research approach, she was awarded the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize of the German Research Foundation in 2019, Germany’s most important award for early career researchers. In 2023, she received an ERC Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council for a research project on the history of fever.

The funding for Stefanie Gänger is part of the Momentum Initiative, with which the Volkswagen Foundation wants to open up possibilities for academics to continue developing their professorships thematically and strategically at an early stage in their careers.