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Portrait picture of Ben Van Zee

Ben Van Zee

Max Weber Fellow

Department of History

Max Weber Fellow

Max Weber Programme for Postdoctoral Studies

Contact info

[email protected]

[+39] 055 4685 693


Badia Fiesolana, BF426


Ben Van Zee is a cultural historian of modern East Central Europe and the world. His research interests include the histories of modern Germany and Poland, the Habsburg Monarchy and the successor states, comparatives empires, migration, and transnational history. He holds a PhD from the University of Chicago and an MA from the Freie Universität Berlin.

He is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively titled, ‘The Underdog Imperialists: Poles, Germans, and Interwar Emigrant Colonialism.’ It charts the history of a novel style of imperialism that several traditionally emigrant-sending states pioneered in the years after the Great War. At a time when the world was divided among the Great Powers, self-styled second-rate powers like Poland and Germany, Italy and Japan developed a strategy of organizing their outflows of emigrants to expand their respective nation’s political and economic footprint overseas. By strategically settling their compatriots in nationally homogeneous company towns on isolated frontiers in South America and Africa, emigrant colonialists aimed to forge enclaves of self-governance abroad. By analysing German and Polish primary sources alongside the existing scholarship on Italy and Japan, this book shows how all four of them – through their rivalry and mutual inspiration – collaboratively developed emigrant colonialism as a new form of modern imperialism.

Ben Van Zee has taught courses on divided Germany and Korea in the Cold War, on the history of human rights, and on modern East Central Europe.

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