Thomas A. Kohut

Photo of Thomas A. Kohut

Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Professor of History, Emeritus


Thomas A. Kohut received a B.A. from Oberlin College and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Minnesota.  He is also a graduate of the Cincinnati Psychoanalytic Institute.  Kohut is the Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Professor of History, Emeritus.  He is a member of the Council of Scholars at the Erikson Institute at Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  He is also the president of the Freud Foundation, US.  From 2000 to 2006, Kohut served as Dean of the Faculty at Williams College.  Kohut has written three books: Empathy and the Historical Understanding of the Human Past (New York: Routledge, 2020); A German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012); Wilhelm II and the Germans: A Study in Leadership (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).  He has also published articles on a number of historical and psychological topics: including the German humorist, Wilhelm Busch; letters from German soldiers at Stalingrad; and psychohistory, history, and psychoanalysis.  Kohut is currently researching the experience Austrian Jews during the Third Reich, focusing on the head of the Viennese Jewish Kultusgemeinde (religious community), Josef Löwenherz.

Selected Publications

Empathie in der Geschichtswissenschaft: Einfühlendes Verstehen der menschlichen Vergangenheit (Frankfurt a.M.: Brandes & Apsel, 2023). This book is the German translation of Empathy and the Historical Understanding of the Human Past.

Empathy and the Historical Understanding of the Human Past  (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2020).

“History Flows through Us: Psychoanalysis, Historical Trauma, and the Shaping of Experience,” Psychoanalysis, Self and Context 15 (2020), pp. 21-24, DOI: 10.1080/24720038.2019.1688330.

History Flows through Us: Germany, the Holocaust, and the Importance of Empathy, Roger Frie, ed. (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2018). This is a collection of eleven essays that respond to Kohut’s work. The volume concludes with an interview with Kohut conducted by Roger Frie, “Psychoanalysis and history at the crossroads: A dialogue with Thomas Kohut,” pp. 157-87.

Eine deutsche Generation und ihre Suche nach Gemeinschaft: Erlebte Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts (Giessen: Psychosozial Verlag, 2017). This is a translated and revised version of A German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century.

A German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012).

“Psychoanalysis as Psychohistory or Why Psychotherapists Cannot Afford to Ignore Culture,” Annual of Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalysis and History, Jerome A. Winer and James William Anderson, eds., 31 (2003), pp. 225-36.

“History, Loss, and the Generation of 1914: The Case of the Freideutsche Kreis,” Generationalität und Lebensgeschichte im 20. Jahrhundert: Schriften des Historischen Kollegs, Kolloquien 58, Jürgen Reulecke, ed. (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2003), pp. 253-77.

“The Creation of Wilhelm Busch as a German Cultural Hero, 1902 -1908,” Enlightenment, Passion, Modernity: Historical Essays in European Thought and Culture, Mark S. Micale and Robert L. Dietle, eds. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), pp. 286-304.

With Jürgen Reulecke, “‘Sterben wie eine Ratte, die der Bauer ertappt’. Letzte Briefe aus Stalingrad,” Stalingrad: Ereignis, Wirkung, Symbol, Jürgen Förster, ed. (Munich and Zurich: Piper Verlag, 1992), pp. 456-71.

Wilhelm II and the Germans: A Study in Leadership (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

“Psychohistory as History,” The American Historical Review 91 (1986), pp. 336-354.

“Mirror Image of the Nation: An Investigation of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Leadership of the Germans,” The Leader: Psychohistorical Essays, Charles B. Strozier and Daniel Offer, eds. (New York: Plenum Press, 1985), pp. 179- 229.

“Kaiser Wilhelm and his Parents: An Inquiry into the Psychological Roots of German Policy Towards England Before the First World War,” Kaiser Wilhelm II: New Interpretations, John C. G. Rohl and Nicolaus Sombart, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 63-89.


Empathy and Historical Understanding delivered on March 30, 2022 at the College of the Holy Cross

New Books in History Interview with Anna Fishzon, A German Generation:  An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century

Book Post

Research Interests

Modern German history; European cultural and intellectual history; the psychological dimension of the past

Theses Advised

Zeynep Sude Akgundogdu ’22 Soldiers of the Wisdom Army: Turkish National Education Policies in the Early Years of Kurdistan Workers’ Party

Thomas Riley ’18 “Not As Easy As ‘Gossip’”: The Journal Science-Gossip and the Community It Fostered

Sophie Wunderlich ’18 “We See Into the Distant Future, Because We Know What It Will Be”: Destiny, Utopia, and Apocalypse in National Socialism

Peter Hale ’17 “Hermaphroditic Children”: Education Policy During the Option of South Tyrol

Isabel Greer ’14 The Art of Survival

Joon Hun Seong ’14 Lives of Their Own:  A Social History of the German Democratic Republic Examined Through Die Kinder von Golzow

Evelyn Denham ’12 Permanent Neighbors, Exceptional Friends: The Ottoman Embassy to Vienna in 1748

Carrie Greene ’02 The Cholera Travesty at Tooting

Peter Lockwood Adams ’00 A Beautiful and Distant Fight: Analyzing the Agenda of Nazi Wartime Newsreels

Robert Wiygul ’00 Sophisticated Nazi: Carl Schmitt and Political Illiberalism

Joseph Bourassa ’99 Visions of Order, Visions of Transformation: Ruge, Hegel and the Search for the German Republic

Alexandra Garbarini ’94 Historical Representation of the Holocaust:  An Essay

Ticien Carlson (Sassoubre) ’94“The Sovereign Self”: Esalen and the Human Potential Movement

Andrew Baird ’93 Projections:  The Relevance of Hayden White to Historical Understanding

Allison Marston ’93 The Crystal Ball and the Compass:  The Use of History in Nineteenth-Century France

Robert E. Phay ’90 Sexuality Constrained: Civilizing Children in Victorian Childrearing Manuals

Daniel Powers ’90 Rethinking France’s Europe, 1947-1957

Elizabeth McKown ’89 A ‘World Beneath the Threshold’: Anglo-German Conflict in Popular Literature Before World War I

Peter Ira Haupt ’87 A Universe of Lies: Holocaust Revision and the Myth of a Jewish World Conspiracy

Michael Mellis ’87 Hoisting the German Flag over the Bosphorus: The Creation of the German-Turkish Alliance of 1914

Larry Krasnoff ’85 Ideology of a Student Revolt: French Thought and the Events of May 1968

Todd Tibbetts ’85Truth, History, and the Human Sciences in Gadamer and Foucault