Astrid M. Eckert

Associate Professor

Department of History

Office: Bowden 217

Phone: (404) 727-1096



Astrid M. Eckert, Associate Professor (M.A., University of Michigan; M.A. Free University Berlin; Ph.D. Free University Berlin).

I am a historian of modern Europe and modern Germany. Whereas my teaching covers German and European history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, my research and publication activities center on the period after 1945.

My first book, Struggle for the Files: The Western Allies and the Return of German Archives after the Second World War (Cambridge University Press, 2012, Pb. 2014) is a political history of cultural diplomacy and addresses the history of German records and archives confiscated in the wake of the Second World War, and in particular the tangled negotiations concerning their return to (West) German custody. The book was awarded the 2013 Waldo Gifford Leland Award of the Society of American Archivists.

My new book Germany’s Iron Curtain: Environment, Economy and Culture in the West German Borderlands (forthcoming with Oxford University Press) takes a fresh look at the history of Cold War Germany and the German re-unification process from the spatial perspective of the West German borderlands that emerged along the volatile inter-German border after 1945. The study demonstrates that these border regions were West Germany’s most sensitive geographic spaces. Regardless of how impermeable East Germany wanted the Iron Curtain to be, it was here that West Germany had to confront partition and engage its socialist neighbor in concrete ways. Each issue that arose in these borderlands – from economic deficiencies, border tourism, environmental pollution, landscape change, and the siting decision for a major nuclear facility – was magnified and mediated by the presence of what became the most militarized border of its day. The book engages the economic consequences of the tightening border that turned the western counties alongside it into borderlands and depressed areas. It discusses tourism to the Iron Curtain as a practice that allowed western visitors to make sense of the global Cold War through local activity. The book is also the first environmental history of the German Iron Curtain. It shows how transboundary pollution forced both German states into environmental diplomacy, how the border regime changed the landscape along the Iron Curtain, and how the selection of the village of Gorleben as the site for a nuclear industrial complex turned the borderlands into the contested linchpin of Germany’s energy future. This environmental perspective allows us to see particularly well that Cold War Germany was “divided, but not disconnected.” I trace these subjects across the caesura of 1989/90, thereby integrating the “long” postwar era with the post-unification decades. The book argues that the borderlands that emerged with partition and disappeared with unification did not merely mirror some larger developments in the Federal Republic’s history but actually helped to shape them.

My Curriculum Vitae


  • MA, Free University of Berlin
  • MA, University of Michigan
  • PhD, Free University of Berlin


  • Modern German history
  • Modern European history
  • Environmental History
  • Borderlands 

Current Graduate Students

I welcome honors student projects on any aspect of twentieth-century Central European and German history. If you are considering applying for graduate work at Emory, I recommend that you get in touch well before the application deadline. Establishing contact early allows us to explore the fit of our mutual academic interests and gives me the opportunity to pass along information about our graduate program and graduate training more generally. 

Recently-Appointed Doctoral Graduates

  • Sean A. Wempe (California State University - Bakersfield)
  • Stefanie M. Woodard (Kennesaw State University)

Recent Publications by Doctoral Graduates

  • Sean A. Wempe, Revenants of the German Empire: Colonial Germans, Imperialism, and the League of Nations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.
  • Adam T. Rosenbaum, Bavarian Tourism and the Modern World, 1800-1950. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Chad R. Fulwider, German Propaganda and U.S. Neutrality in World War I. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2016.