Department of History
Institute of Modern History
Office hours during the semester:
Office: Hegelbau, 2nd Floor, Room 203
Health and Sickness in the Autobiographies of German Emigrants, 1830-1930
This project examines the practices and perceptions of sickness and health among German immigrants in the USA between 1830 and 1930. Adopting a social history approached based on so-called “ego documents” such as letters, diaries, autobiographical texts and biographies, it analyzes the perspectives of the immigrants themselves in order to question and supplement the institutional and official interpretations “from above” with views “from below”.
It looks at two main aspects these sources. On the one hand, it evaluates statements on health and sickness within these ego documents in order to outline their function in communicating home as well as how they contributed to the constitution or construction of the self of the authors in question. It also takes into account the time elapsed between when these events actually occurred and when the accounts were written as well as societal changes that influence such memories. On the other hand, it traces behavioral patterns and perceptions within these sources that offer insights into the daily life of these immigrants, their health-related behavior and “sickness coping” strategies.
This dual perspective allows for a more nuanced interpretation of the connections between migration and health-related practices and perceptions as well as the impact and consequences of migration on health-related behavior and strategies of coping with sickness. At the same time, it reveals patterns of adaptation and integration among German immigrants in the USA within their specific historical contexts.