Dr Fabian Hilfrich (M.A.)

Senior Lecturer; American History


After doing my undergraduate studies in modern history, medieval history, and political science at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, I got my M.A. in American history from Washington University in St. Louis. In July 2000, I received my Ph.D. in history from the Freie Universität in Berlin. I have taught U.S. history at the Freie Universität Berlin, German and European history in Riga, Latvia, and I have joined the Institute for Contemporary History (foreign office branch in Berlin) as a research fellow in the fall of 2001. In September 2006, I took up my first position at the University of Edinburgh as Lecturer/Assistant Professor in American history. I am now a Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor in the School.

Undergraduate teaching

  • History of the United States
  • United States Foreign Policy 1880-1917
  • The United States and Transatlantic Relations during the Cold War
  • The United States and Vietnam: History and Consequences

Postgraduate teaching

  • The United States and the Vietnam War: Origins and Repercussions
  • The United States and the Cold War

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I am happy to supervise topics broadly related to United States foreign policy and international relations, especially if they also relate to cultural questions and constructs. I would also supervise studies on empire, bilateral and multilateral relations.

Current PhD students supervised

Name - Degree - Thesis topic - Supervision type - Link


Past PhD students supervised

Name - Degree - Thesis topic - Supervision type - Completion year

Athanasios Antonopoulos - 'Redefining an Alliance: Greek-US Relations, 1974-1980 - Primary 

McLay, Mark - PhD - 'The Black Sheep: Republicans and the War on Poverty, 1964–1968' - Secondary 

Malcolm Craig - PhD - 'The United Kingdom, the United States, and Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia: The Case of Pakistan, 1974-1980' - Primary

Thomson, Sarah - PhD - ‘A Transformational Conservative? Constructing Ronald Reagan’s Political Legacy, 1984-93’ - Secondary - link

Cooper, Timothy - PhD - The idea of the "Yellow Peril" in the United States and the United Kingdom, c. 1890-1930 - Primary - 2018

Standring, Hannah - MScR - ‘The Conservative party and British foreign policy in the 1920s’ - Secondary - 2014

Maxwell, Robbie - PhD - Educator to the Nation: George S. Benson and Modern American Conservatism - Secondary - 2014

Maxwell, Robbie - MScR - George Benson and the Long Term Origins of Modern American Conservatism - Secondary - 2010

Research summary


  • Britain & Ireland
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • North America
  • Asia


  • Comparative & Global History
  • Culture
  • Democracy and Foreign Policy
  • Diplomatic History
  • Gender
  • Ideas
  • Imperialism
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Society
  • War


  • Nineteenth Century
  • Twentieth Century & After

Research interests

My research focuses on the history of U.S. foreign relations in the 19th and 20th centuries. I am particularly interested in how culture and ideology impact on and manifest themselves in foreign policy and international relations. In that context, I am focusing on how national and other identities influence debates on foreign policy and are, in turn, shaped by them. I am also interested in the interaction of culturally constructed concepts such as gender, memory, nationalism, and emotions with foreign policy formation and rhetoric.

Watch a short video of Dr Hilfrich speaking about his research interests - Media Hopper

Current research interests

I am currently completing a manuscript on the Vietnam War debate in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. I am paying particular attention to the ways all debaters invoked American national ideals, but also other group-based referents of identity, such as gender or race. My next research project will compare stab-in-the-back myths in Germany after the First World War and in the United States after the Vietnam War. My main interest is in analyzing the disastrous impact such myths have on social cohesion and on democratic discourse, especially in obstructing frank debates on future wars.

Past research interests

My first book dealt with the American imperialism debate in the wake of the Spanish-American War of 1898. I retain a keen interest and still publish on this period.

Knowledge exchange

I believe that historical knowledge strongly influences and impacts contemporary questions and debates. For that reason, I am always keen to contribute to contemporary debates where possible and useful. I have appeared and radio and TV and I have authored a number of articles in the press.

Affiliated research centres

Project activity

  • The Echo Chamber - book on the Vietnam War debate, under contract with Rowman & Littlefield
  • Stabs in the Back: The Impact of Betrayal Myths on Democracies (with Germany and the United States as examples)
  • The portrayal of international cooperation in schoolbooks during the Cold War

Past project grants

2023/2018 SHAFR Global Scholars and Diversity Grant
2013 Eccles Centre/British Association of American Studies Award
2013/2010 Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland

The list below is a subset of the information held on the University of Edinburgh PURE system, and includes Books, Chapters, Articles and Conference contributions. For a full list, including details of other publication types (e.g. reviews), please see the Edinburgh Research Explorer page for Dr Fabian Hilfrich.

Books - Authored

Hilfrich, F. (2012) Debating American Exceptionalism: Empire and Democracy in the Wake of the Spanish-American War. Palgrave Macmillan

Books - Edited

Hilfrich, F., Möller, H., Hildebrand, K. and Schöllgen, G. (eds.) (2008) Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1977. Oldenbourg Verlag


Hilfrich, F. (2015) Die Glaubwürdigkeitsfalle. Süddeutsche zeitung

Hilfrich, F. (2014) Roots of animosity: Bonn's reaction to US pressures in nuclear proliferation. International History Review, 36(2), pp. 277-301DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07075332.2013.864694


Hilfrich, F. (2021) Vietnam: History as tragedy. In: Reeder, T. (ed.) The Routledge History of U.S. Foreign Relations. New York and London: Routledge, pp. 325-340DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003034889-29

Hilfrich, F. (2016) Anti-Imperialism and Anti-Colonialism. In: Mackenzie , J. (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Empire. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Hilfrich, F. (2010) The Corruption of Civic Virtue by Emotions:: Anti-Imperialist Fears in the Debate on the Philippine-American War (1899-1902). In: Jessica C E Gienow-Hecht, F. (ed.) Emotions and American History: An International Assessment. New York: Berghahn

Hilfrich, F. (2010) West Germany's Long Year of Europe: Bonn between Europe and the United States. In: Schulz, M. and Schwarz, T. (eds.) The Strained Alliance: Conflict and Cooperation in US-European Relations from Nixon to Carter. Cambridge University Press, pp. 237-256

Hilfrich, F. (2004) Manliness and Realism: The Use of Gendered Tropes in the Debates on the Philippine-American and Vietnam Wars. In: J C E Gienow-Hecht, F. (ed.) Culture and International History. Berghahn Books, pp. 60 - 78

Hilfrich, F. (2003) Race and Imperialism: Commentary on an Article in the Chicago Broad Ax. In: Jessica C E Gienow-Hecht, F. (ed.) Culture and International History. New York: Berghahn, pp. 250-257

Hilfrich, F. (2003) Visions of the Asian Periphery: Vietnam and the Philippines. In: Daum, A., Gardner, L. and Mausbach, W. (eds.) America, the Vietnam War and the World: Comparative and International Perspectives. Cambridge University Press, pp. 43-63

Hilfrich, F. (2001) Creating and instrumentalizing Nationalism: The Celebration of National Reunion in the Peace Jubilees of 1898. In: Fabre, G., Heideking, J. and Dreisbach, K. (eds.) Celebrating Ethnicity and Nation: American Festive Culture from the Revolution to the Early 20th Century. Berghahn Books, pp. 228 - 256