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Photo of Dr Matthias Reiss

Dr Matthias Reiss

MA (Cincinnati, Ohio) PhD (Hamburg), FRHistS

Senior Lecturer


01392 722046

My research focuses on the life and struggle of outsider groups in nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain, the United States and Germany. I am particularly interested in the history of the unemployed, blind people, prisoners of war, and people of African descent. I have also done research on political cartoons and advertising, and have a strong interest in social stereotypes and social movements.

Research interests

Current Projects

I am currently writing a monograph on Reeducation through Tourism? Rethinking the Captivity Experience in the United States during World War II.

I am also working on a collaborative research project “Soldiers, War, and Tourism”.


Research collaborations

Prof. Derek R Mallett, US Army Command & General Staff College, Department of Military History

Research supervision

I am happy to supervise research projects on military history, war and society, protest and social movements, unemployment and the welfare state, or African American history from the late 18th century to the present.

Research students


  • Ben Holmes, ‘To Love One’s Enemy’: British Humanitarian Relief for German Civilians, c. 1914-1925’ (First Supervisor, completed April 2019)
  • Lyndy (Carolyn) Pooley, Youth Clubs, the Sixties and the State: Albemarle in Devon, 1960-1970 (Second Supervisor)
  • Jennifer Gray, ‘Nothing Can Excuse Us If We Fail’: The British and their Dead Servicemen, North-West Europe, 1944-1951 (Second Supervisor, completed July 2016)
  • Simon George Peplow, Race, Policing, and Public Inquiries during the 1980-81 Collective Violence in England (First Supervisor, completed November 2015)
  • Marc Wiggam, The Blackout in Britain and Germany during the Second World War (Second Supervisor, completed 31 October 2011)


  • Stephen Rodger Lynam, The Rise and Fall of the Partido de Unión Republicana Autonomista: Centrist Politics in the Spanish Province of Valencia January 1930 to August 1936 (2018)
  • Trevor Stone, "Royal Air Force Logistics during the Second World War: Transformation, Sustainment and Flexibility (2016)
  • Agata Drelova, "A Cultural History of Catholic Nationalism in Slovakia, 1985-1993 (2015)
  • Matthew Smith, "Into the Mouths of Babes: Hyperactivity, Food Addities and the History of the Feingold Diet (2009)

Other information




External impact and engagement


20.03.2023    “Presidential Greatness and Economic Crisis: Franklin D. Roosevelt the New Deal.” Historical Association, University of Gloucester.

28.09.2018   „Fuelling the Moral Panic: Fraternization between German Prisoners of War and Women in the United States during World War II,“ Forty-Second Annual Conference of the German Studies Association (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

06.07.2018   “Kriegsgefangenschaft, Geselligkeit und die Idee von Normalität,“ Die Geselligkeit der Idee: Abschiedscolloquium Andreas Gestrich (DHI London)

23.03.2018 "Same-Sex Desire in Captivity: German POWs in the United States, 1942-1946," Capitivty in War: A Global Perspective (Bern, Switzerland)

17.11.2017 “Idle Hands, Marching Feet, Static Image: Protest Marches of the Unemployed in Great Britain,” Bodies in Motion, Jahrestagung der Kulturwissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft (Ghent, Belgium)

24.11.2016 "Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal," Historical Association, Exeter School (Exeter).

19.05.2015  “Love and Sex in the Golden Cage: German POWs in the United States, 1942-1946,” Love, Sex, and War: Towards another History of 20th Century Europe, Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po (Paris)

08.05.2015  “Beyond the Female Impersonator? The Relevance of Gender for the POW Experience,” Keynote Speech, Gender in War Captivity: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, POW Network conference (Institute of Historical Research, London)

11.03.2015  “Natural Urges and Unnatural Acts: Sex and Desire in German POW Camps in America during World War II,” Conflict and Society Seminar (University of Strathclyde)

07.10.2014  “The Fight against Charity: The National League of the Blind and the British Welfare State,” Labour and Society Research Group (Newcastle University)

15.12.2013  “Liebe, Sexualität und Männlichkeit in der Lagergesellschaft: Das Beispiel der deutschen Kriegsgefangenen in den Vereinigten Staaten im Zweiten Weltkrieg,” Sexualität, Liebe, Männlichkeiten: Historische, literatur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Perspektiven, 9. Fachtagung des Arbeitskreises für interdisziplinäre Männer- und Geschlechterforschung (AIM Gender) (Stuttgart, Germany).

09.11.2013  “Sex behind Barbed-Wire: The Case of German POWs in the United States during World War Two,” Representing Prisoner of War Experience (University of Warwick)

17.11.2011  “Half-Naked Nazis: Masculinity and Gender in German POW Camps in the USA during World War II”: Captivité de guerre au XXème siècle: des archives, des histoires, des mèmoires, Institut Historique du Temps Présent & Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique  (Paris, France)

29.04.2011  “Teaching Democracy in the Segregated South: Jim Crow and the Reeducation of German Prisoners of War in the United States during World War II”: The U.S. South and Europe, 9th Middelburg Conference of Historians of the United States, Roosevelt Study Center (Middelburg, The Netherlands)

02.10.2009  "'We are just like you: Prisoners, Oppressed, Second-Class Men': German Prisoners of War and African Americans in the United States during the Second World War": African American Civil Rights and Germany in the Twentieth Century, Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY)

13.12.2008  “Dragon Slayers and Dole Queues: Unemployment and the Unemployed in German Political Cartoons, 1974 to 1998”: Visual Representations of the Unemployed, University of Exeter (Exeter)

04.04.2008  “A Peculiar Kind of Labor: Deutsche Kriegsgefangene auf dem amerikanischen Arbeitsmarkt während des Zweiten Weltkrieges”: Migration und Arbeitsmarkt vom 17. bis zum 20. Jahrhundert, Workshop der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Kooperation mit der Gesellschaft für Historische Migrationsforschung und der Abteilung für Osteuropäische Geschichte der Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (Bonn)

17.01.2008  “Selling the War: American Advertising in World War II.” Historical Association, University of Exeter (Exeter)

13.02.2006  „Between Militancy and Cooperation: The National League of the Blind between the World Wars.“ Socialist History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research (London)

13.12.2005  „‚Nothing now remains for us but to place our case before the citizens of our country’: Arbeitslose, Protest und Öffentlichkeit in Deutschland und England seit 1870”, Sonderforschungsbereich 600 (Universität Trier)

07.10.2005  „Staat und Arbeitsmarkt in Deutschland und Großbritannien in den 1920er und 1930er Jahren.” Herausforderungen der parlamentarischen Demokratie. Die Weimarer Republik im europäischen Vergleich. Tagung der Stiftung Reichspräsident-Friedrich-Ebert-Gedenkstätte (Rostock)

01.10.2005  „Paupers, Tramps and Workmen: the Changing Image of the Unemployed in Punch Cartoons from the 1840s to the 1990s.“ Towards a History of the Unemployed: Protests, Experiences and Representations. Tagung der Society for the Study of Labour History (Institute of Historical Research, London)

01.03.2005  „Travelling Strangers in a Divided Land: German POWs and African Americans in the United States during World War II.“ Modern European Social and Cultural Research Seminar (Oxford University)

25.02.2005  “Marching on the Capital: National Protest Marches of the Unemployed in Interwar Great Britain.” Tagung „Demonstration Marches in a Comparative Historical Perspective“ (GHI London)

09.12.2004  „Dragon Slayers, Disasters, Dole Queues: Unemployment and German Political Cartoons, 1974 to 1998.“ Modern German History Seminar at the Institute for Historical Research (London)

27.03.2004  „Prisoners in the Golden Cage: German Prisoners of War in the United States during World War II.“ Organization of American Historians, 97th Annual Meeting (Boston, Mass.)

06.09.2003  „The Image of the Poor and the Unemployed: The Example of Punch, 1841-1939.“ Tagung „Armut / Poverty: New Approaches to the Study of Poverty and Poor Relief from Traditional Charity to the Modern Welfare State. A Comparative View on Britain, Germany and Ireland in the 19th and 20th Centuries“ (Universität Trier)

31.05.2003  „National Hunger Marches in 1920s and 1930s Britain.“ Political Rituals in the United Kingdom, 1700-2000. Jahrestagung des Arbeitskreises Deutsche England-Forschung 2003 (Mühlheim)

27.06.2002  „The Nucleus of a New German Ideology? The Re-education of German Prisoners of War in the United States during World War II” The Home-Coming of Prisoners of War after World War II: Ideology, Family, Narrative. Workshop des Internationalen Komitees für die Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges und dem Deutschen Komitees für die Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges (Universität der Bundeswehr Hamburg)

13.10.2001  „Den Krieg verkaufen: Amerikanische Propaganda für die Heimatfront“ Inszenierte Wahrheit: Der Krieg im Bild/Bilder vom Krieg. Tagung des Arbeitskreises Historisches Bildforschung (Universität Hamburg)

18.11.2000  „’... keine Gäste mehr [...], sondern die Besiegten’: Die Niederlage als pädagogische Inszenierung der Kriegsgefangenenpolitik in den USA.“ Das Kriegsende 1945 in Deutschland. Workshop des Militärgeschichtlichen Forschungsamtes (Potsdam)

07.07.2000  „German Prisoners of War in the American South: Confronting Segregation and Discrimination.“ Ethnic Encounters and Identities: German, American, and African Perceptions (Universität Leipzig)

20.06.1998  „Götterdämmerung im Goldenen Käfig: Die amerikanische Sorge um einen Massenselbstmord deutscher Kriegsgefangener am Tag der deutschen Kapitulation.“ ‚Untergang’ als Erfahrung, Ideologie und Mythos. Tagung des Deutschen Komitees für die Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges (Universität der Bundeswehr Hamburg)

22.04.1995  „The Study of German POWs of World War II: A Historiographical Survey“. Spring Conference, Ohio Academy of History (Westerville, Ohio)


Contribution to discipline

Society Membership

2007-2009 Conference Secretary for the Society for the Study of Labour History.



TV Interviews:

  • Yesterday Channel, ‘Trading History: Great Escape Rolex Watch’ (04/2017)
  • BBC 1 Television (UK) for the Documentary ‘Witness to Auschwitz’ (04/2002)

Radio Interviews:

  • BBC Local Radio (40 stations in UK), ‘Mark Forrest Show’ on Modern Protest (10/2016)
  • NPR (USA): ‘Mine Enemy: The Story of German POWs in America’ (05/2014)
  • BBC Radio Devon (UK) on Protest in Modern Times (10/2013)
  • BBC Radio Devon (UK) on M. L. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech (08/2013)
  • Radio Bayern 2 (Germany) on the Riots in British Cities (08/2011)
  • Radio NDR Info (Germany) on the Repatriation of German POWs (07/2002)

Mentioned in Newspapers or Interviews

  • Iran Daily, ‘Rejecting charity, British blind people demanded dignified existence’ (03/2022)
  • TIME, ‘“Are We Not American Soldiers?” When the U.S. Military Treated German POWs Better Than Black Troops’ (07/2020)
  • Tortoise Media, ‘This is the place: Manchester, a city with a radical tradition, is having a renaissance in activism’ (08/2019)
  • Notches [History of Sexuality blog], ‘Controlling Sex in Captivity’ (06/2019)
  • New York Times (USA), ‘Race, War and the Birth of an Unlikely Romance’ (05/2013)
  • De Volkskrant (Netherlands), ‘Werkloze van nu heeft geen gezicht’ (04/2013)
  • TZ (Germany), ‘Der beste Schutz ist die Angst’ (05/2004)


I was born in Hamburg (Germany) where I started studying Modern and Medieval History, Political Science, and Economics in 1989. After various jobs at the University of Hamburg I received a fellowship from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, where I worked as Graduate Teaching Assistant and studied U.S. History under the supervision of Prof. Roger Daniels for two years.

After being awarded an M.A. 'with distinction' in 1995, I returned to the University of Hamburg for my Ph.D. From 1995 to 1997 I also worked part-time as an export merchant for hotel kitchen equipment. After a five-month research fellowship at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC I joined the University of the Federal Armed Forces / Helmut-Schmidt-University as research assistant at the Chair for Modern Western European History.

I was awarded a Ph.D. ‘summa cum laude' for my thesis on the impact of race on the American prisoner of war programme during World War Two from the University of Hamburg in 2001. I was appointed Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute London in February 2002 and joined the University of Exeter in March 2007 as Lecturer for Modern History. Since March 2012 I am Senior Lecturer for Modern History.


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