This book began life as a doctoral research project at the University of Oxford, where I had the privilege of being supervised by Oliver Zimmer. He has been an unwavering source of support and an inspiration over the years, and I am very grateful for his countless insightful comments on my work, for his eagerness to discuss and develop new ideas, and for the many enjoyable and productive conversations through which he helped shape this project. Abigail Green guided me through many stages of my research at Oxford, always giving liberally of her time and encouraging me to pursue my own interests while maintaining a clear focus. Her remarks and suggestions were invaluable in writing this book. James Brophy was immensely generous with his advice in developing my thesis into a monograph, highlighting important avenues that required more research and giving me the confidence to strengthen its core argument. I am very grateful to all my colleagues on the ‘Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives’ project at Oxford for broadening my intellectual horizons, for sharing their work with me, and for discussing mine. I should especially like to thank Sally Shuttleworth for her support during my time on the project, for her feedback on portions of this book, and for enabling me to discover the wonderful benefits of truly interdisciplinary research. Neil Gregor also gave much time to reading my work and has been a great source of guidance in bringing this project to fruition.
I was fortunate enough to research and write this book amongst historians at a number of institutions. At Oxford, Christina de Bellaigue has been an incomparably kind and supportive tutor and colleague for the past decade, helping me navigate through the choppy waters of academia. Anna Ross’s advice and comments on my work were a tremendous help—she has been a wonderful mentor and friend. I benefited greatly from conversations with David Hopkin, Julia Mannherz, and members of the ‘Long Nineteenth Century’ seminar over the years. Joanna Innes and Benjamin Thompson at Somerville College, and Peter Ghosh at St Anne’s College made those places an intellectual home, and it has been a pleasure to complete this manuscript among incredibly supportive and inspiring colleagues and friends at Fitzwilliam College and in the Cambridge History Faculty. I wrote up my original doctoral thesis as a visiting student in the Department of History at Vanderbilt University, where David Blackbourn kindly read and commented on portions of my work and, with Celia Applegate and Helmut Walser Smith, gave me the opportunity to discover one of the most profoundly stimulating, rigorous, yet always open-minded and fundamentally (p.vi) friendly environments in which to think about German history. Alistair Sponsel and Laura Stark, meanwhile, encouraged me to delve deeper into the history of science and to reflect upon the concepts I employ. Closer to home, I am very grateful to Ulrike Weckel for her faith in me in recent years, for reading and discussing my work, and, along with Greg Sax, for making me feel so welcome during my stay in Giessen. My thanks also to Florian Hannig for helping me think critically about media theory and history, and to all three for the many and varied, but always fruitful, discussions we had.
There have been many important encounters and exchanges along the way. The Transatlantic Doctoral Seminar organized by the German Historical Institute in Washington DC provided an exceptional opportunity to share, debate, and develop many of the ideas that went into this book. I am grateful to Nikita Harwich for his warm hospitality every time I visit Saint-Germain, for his comments on some of my writing, and for so many fascinating and wide-ranging discussions. Bernard Clerc first sparked my interest in German language and culture years ago through his energy and devotion to the subject, and it has been a pleasure to continue some of those early conversations more recently in Berlin. Jan Peter, Jürgen Rehberg, and Frédéric Goupil in Germany and France have been inspirational colleagues and friends—through their generosity of spirit, they have influenced me more than they might imagine.
The European Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Royal Historical Society, and the Economic History Society, as well as the History Faculty, Somerville College and St Hugh’s College at Oxford, provided financial support without which I would not have been able to complete this book. I would like to thank the numerous individuals at the libraries and archives that I visited across Germany for their assistance: at the Bundesarchiv and Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin; the Staatsarchiv Bremen and Handelskammer Bremen Archiv; the Landesarchiv NRW in Duisburg; the Stadtarchiv, Siemens Corporate Archives, Deutsches Museum Archiv, and Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv in Munich; the Staatsarchiv and Stadtarchiv in Nuremberg; and the Stadtarchiv Wuppertal. I am grateful to Edeltraud Weber at the Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv in particular for her help in exploring uncatalogued sections of the archive, and to the Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main for providing material in digital form.
There is, of course, a broader social context to academic work, and I could not have completed this project without the support of my friends. Ben Lambert, Jeannie Sellick, Joanna Raisbeck, and Fergus Cooper have been founts of advice (wisdom even, perhaps) and good humour from the very beginning. Sarah Green, Jeff Martin, Hazel Tubman, Kira Allmann, Michael Purvis, Patrick Anthony, Jessica Lowe, Carolyn Taratko, and Ian Beacock, at different stages, made this a thoroughly enriching experience, both intellectually and socially. Though they may not have had a hand in this work, I should also like to thank all those who (p.vii) have accompanied me through many formative moments, in many places, at the Lycée International, in Reaphe, and at Exeter College—you know who you are.
I have been blessed with a family upon which I have always been able to rely. Ian, Mark, Emilio, Jean-Patrick, and Marie-Louise, each in their own way, have taught me much more than they perhaps realize. They have encouraged me in difficult times and made the happier moments all the brighter. I could not have wished for better companions on this journey—thank you. A sentence or two could not begin to describe the countless ways in which my parents, Chantal and Robert, have supported me throughout my life. In the hope that it can express at least a modicum of my immense gratitude for their unfailing affection, guidance, and inspiration, I dedicate this book to them. (p.viii)