Press Releases

University expertise as 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaches – University of Reading

Release Date : 18 May 2009

This autumn marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. Experts from the University of Reading's Centre for East German Studies and Department of History will be organising and attending events to mark the moment and are available for media comment. They have expertise in areas such as the East German experience post war, the rationale for the creation of the wall and its fall 28 years later, western ant-communist propaganda and East German culture.

A full timeline of the crucial events in 1989 and 1990 leading to German unification has been produced by the Centre for East German Studies at the University of Reading.

Centre for East German Studies at the University of Reading

The only facility of its kind in the UK, the Centre comprises an extensive archive and a research network in Great Britain and Germany. The Centre was founded in 1994 to draw on research strengths within the Department of German Studies and to bring together interest in that part of Germany that came under Soviet occupation in 1945 and formed the territory of the GDR from 1949 to 1990, and which since unification has become known as the 'neue Bundesländer'. The Centre's activities aim to provide an academic focal point within the United Kingdom for research into the culture, society, history, media, literature and film of this area from 1945 to the present.

Dr Patrick Major – Department of History & member of Centre for East German Studies

An expert on East Germany from 1949 to the present and an authority on the Berlin Wall from the social perspective. Patrick is an authority on the reason for the construction of the wall, the way the East German state defended the wall through culture, the ultimate powerlessness of the regime and why the wall came down when it did. He uses sources such as letters, Stasi records and personal testaments and popular culture to examine this period of history. His book 'Behind the Berlin Wall: East Germany and the Frontiers of Power', is due out this autumn (OUP). He is also an expert on East German spy thrillers' depiction of the west.

Dr Peter Barker – Director of the Centre for East German Studies

Peter lived in East Germany and can offer a unique perspective on East German and left wing politics in Germany. He was director of the Centre for East German Studies from 2002 to 2007 and set up the GDR archive in 1994, which aims to collect materials of all kinds on the GDR and the transformation process after unification in 1990. His main areas of interest are the history of the GDR and transformation processes post 1990.

Dr Melani Schröter – German Studies, School of Languages and European Studies

Melani lived in East Germany from 1997-2007. She can offer a unique perspective on recent developments in East Germany. She has done research about attitudes towards unification in East and West. Dr Schröter also has a substantial background in studying language use in the GDR (official style for institutions/public vs. private or subversive styles and how a new freedom of expression during the political change in 1989 set free a large reservoir of linguistic creativity).

Dr Linda Risso - Department of History

Dr Risso is an expert on how the east was viewed and approached by NATO and the West during the Cold War. She is a specialist in NATO with a particular interest in western anti-communism in the 1970s and 1980s and how the west used the Cold War to pave the way for Europe as it is now. She will be publishing a book on the NATO Information Service in 2010.

Related events this autumn

Essay competition – The 20th Anniversary of the 1989 Revolution in the GDR

The German Embassy in London, the German Academic Exchange Service and the Centre for East German Studies, based at the University of Reading are launching a competition aimed at undergraduates of any discipline in May. Students are encouraged to write 2000-3000 words on the events of 1989 in the GDR and their links to development in Europe. Winners will be announced on 3 December.

14-16 September 2009: Twenty years on: remembering the GDR and Germany's unification

A conference organised by the Centre for East German Studies and the Department of European Studies and Modern Languages at Bath, to be held at the University of Bath. Keynote speakers to include: David Bathrick (Cornell), Stephen Brockmann (Carnegie Mellon), Mary Fulbrook (UCL), Helmut Peitsch (Universitat Potsdam)

29–31 October 2009: Aleksanteri Conference 2009: Cold War interactions reconsidered

University of Helsinki, Finland

The University of Reading will be represented at the End of Cold War Helsinki Conference of the International Association of Historians

Media contacts

To arrange to speak to University of Reading experts, please contact the university press office on 0118 378 7388 / 7115 or email


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