February 11, 2021

Publisher, Bloomsbury, Best Known for Harry Potter

Susquehanna University Professor of History David Imhoof has published a different kind of history textbook, one that uses a funny and engaging style – and some salty language – to guide readers through the good, the bad and the indifferent of modern European history.

In So, About Modern Europe …, Imhoof’s main premise is that the Enlightenment (1715-1789) had a pronounced double-edged sword.

“If you want to understand how the modern world developed, you need to understand the good and bad sides of the Enlightenment,” Imhoof said. “Europeans developed big ideas that increased opportunities for people around the world and raised standards of living. But those same ideas also produced wars, genocide, colonialism and the potential for global environmental disaster.”

A quick perusal of the chapters gives readers a hint at what they’re in for. There’s “The Enlightenment will Free You and Mess You Up,” “Between the Wars Without a Center, or: Up the Creek Without a Paddle” and “I’ve Got a Fever, and The Only Prescription Is More Nationalism!”

“I’m trying to grab students’ attention,” Imhoof said, “and get them to see that stuff that happened in the early 1800s is not irrelevant; it shapes how we think about the world today.”

Imhoof drops plenty of pop culture references, including Saturday Night Live, a mention of the Van Halen song Runnin’ with the Devil when discussing European witch trials and comparing French philosopher Voltaire to today’s one-name celebrities Beyoncé and Zendaya.

Sprinkled throughout the book are a variety of carefully placed swear words to spice things up. He tested the book with his target audience – college-aged students – to make sure he hit the mark.

“If you’re pitching something to college kids, you don’t want to appear to be trying too hard,” Imhoof said. “I use these references to connect with students and get them thinking that this history isn’t so dull.”

Imhoof joined the faculty at Susquehanna in 2000. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history and liberal arts from Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, and his doctorate in history from the University of Texas at Austin.

Imhoof is also the author of Becoming a Nazi Town: Culture and Politics in Göttingen Between the World Wars (2013) and the co-editor of The Total Work of Art: Foundations, Articulations, Inspirations (2016).

So, About Modern Europe … is available from Bloomsbury Publishing, publisher of the world-famous Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling.