Published: Feb. 12, 2024

Eminent German historian Paul Nolte will discuss whether the golden age of democracy is over or whether it can escape collapse and recover

One of Germany’s leading contemporary historians will present a research colloquium addressing the stage of crisis that liberal democracy has entered in the early 21st century—asking whether the golden age of democracy over and is on course for eventual collapse, or whether it can recover.

Historian Paul Nolte will present the colloquium, titled “Crisis or Transformation? From Good-old Democracy to Rough Democracy, ca. 1970-2020,” which is jointly organized by the University of Colorado Boulder Program in Jewish Studies, the Louis P. Singer Endowed Chair in Jewish History and the Pacific Office of the German Historical Institute Washington in cooperation with the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

German historian Paul Nolte

Historian Paul Nolte will discuss the crisis in liberal democracy at a research colloquium Tuesday.

It will be from 2-3:30 p.m. Tuesday in Center for Academic Success and Engagement (CASE) E422. To receive the pre-circulated text on which the discussions will be based, please RSVP by email to

At CU Boulder, the visit is co-sponsored by the Center for Humanities and the Arts; the International Affairs Program; and the Departments of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, History and Sociology.

As one of Germany’s leading contemporary historians, Nolte holds a chair in modern history with a special emphasis on contemporary history and international relations at the Friedrich Meinecke Institute of the Freie Universität Berlin. His research areas include social, intellectual and political history of the 18th to 20th centuries, especially post-1945 Germany and the United States; transatlantic history of democracy; public intellectuals and social, economic and political concepts and mentalities; urban history and metropolitan cultures; religion and civil society in Western societies; and public history and cultures of memory. 

Research colloquium
 What: Crisis or Transformation? From Good-old Democracy to Rough Democracy, ca. 1970-2020

When: 2-3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13

Where: CASE E422

More information

Nolte has written more than a dozen books and has served as a fellow or guest professor at Oxford University, Harvard University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Among his many transatlantic undertakings is chairing the academic advisory committee of the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, which brings American PhD candidates to Germany.

His colloquium will focus on the current state of crisis in which liberal democracy exists, when they are under attack from neo-authoritarian ideas, movements and regimes, externally as well as from within. He will address what a potential recovery could look like, asking, “What if we were not witnesses to a crisis of democracy, but rather to its transformation, with the current predicaments being the new normal?”

Nolte will discuss how, from a historical point of view, “pre-crisis” democracy corresponded to social structures, cultural milieus and technological environments that will never return. Further, this longing often projects a relatively short period in the trajectory of democracy, participation and liberal society as an ideal state, while it was in itself full of shortcomings, rigid structures and privileges for the few.

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