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Sean Lawrence

Assistant Professor

Teaching Fields

  • Germany

  • Modern Europe

  • Modern Middle East

  • Environmental History


  • Ph.D., Modern European History (University of California, Santa Cruz)

  • M.A. European History (University of California, Santa Cruz)
  • M.A. UNESCO World Heritage Studies (Brandenburg University of Technology)

  • B.S. Political Science (Santa Clara University)

Research Interests

Sean is a historian of modern Germany with research interests in empire, colonialism, environmental history, political economy, and interactions between Europe and the middle east. He works with sources in German, French, Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, and Arabic. His multi-regional approach to historical questions began as an undergraduate studying abroad at the University of Amman, Jordan. There he was introduced to middle eastern languages and the politics of colonialism in the eastern Mediterranean. His interest in the environmental consequences of empire grew out of his first M.A. in UNESCO World Heritage Studies from the Brandenburg University of Technology in Cottbus, Germany, where he focused on cultural landscape management and natural heritage conservation. For his Ph.D. in modern European history, he researched German efforts at nature conservation in middle eastern contexts. Over time, his work evolved to focus on the role of German financial firms in reshaping the natural environments of Ottoman Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), discovering that this history impacted far more than just one region, but rather established many of the practices of transnational “development” and discourses of environmental management that continue to be applied across the globe today.

Sean’s current book project, Arcadia Lost: Business and Nature at the End of Empire traces the early development of the Deutsche Bank-Ottoman alliance in environmental engineering in Anatolia. His work explores how foreign capital—flowing from an expansionist German metropole via the coercive institutions of an increasingly high-modern Ottoman imperial state—shaped the environments and local communities of central Anatolia during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Courses Offered

  • HIST 105: The Middle East
  • HIST 201: History of Ancient Times: Stone Age to the Fall of Rome
  • HIST 207: Revolutionary Europe
  • HIST 220: The Holocaust
  • HIST 221: History of Modern Germany
  • HIST 317: German Central Europe, 1648-1900
  • HIST 318: Twentieth Century German Central Europe
  • HIST 348: The International Middle East
  • HIST 414: The Great War, 1914-1918
  • HIST 421: Hitler and the Third Reich
  • HIST 422: Twentieth-Century Germany from Weimar to Bonn
  • HIST 517: German Central Europe: Empires, States and Nations, 1648-1900
  • HIST 518: Twentieth Century German Central Europe
  • HIST 717: Readings in Modern European History
  • Hist 718: Seminar in Modern European History
  • Hist 785: Readings in Environmental History
  • HIST 786: Seminar in Environmental History


Book Chapters:

“Introduction,” Time to Speak: Middle East Issues and Crisis (Samir Mutawi, Yazori: 2014)

Working Papers:

“Polish Heritage,” Brandenburg University of Technology, Working Paper (January 2012)