Tara Zahra

Professor of East European History and the College
PhD 2005 University of Michigan

Social Science Research Building, room 503 – Office
(773) 834-2599 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax


Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 East 59th Street, Mailbox 85
Chicago, IL 60637

Field Specialties

Modern Europe (nineteenth and twentieth century); Central and Eastern Europe; Habsburg monarchy and successor states; transnational and comparative history; international history; gender, childhood, and the family; nationalism; migration and displacement; humanitarianism and human rights


I am interested in transnational and comparative approaches to the history of modern Europe. The focus of my research and teaching is Central and Eastern Europe (including the Habsburg Empire and successor states and Germany), but I strive to integrate Central Europe into broader histories of Europe and the world.

My most recent book is The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World (Norton, 2016). The book explores how debates about and experiences of emigration shaped competing ideals of freedom in Eastern Europe and "the West" over the course of one hundred years. After the Second World War, the "captivity" of East Europeans behind the Iron Curtain came to be seen as a quintessential symbol of Communist oppression. The Iron Curtain was not, however, built overnight in 1948 or 1961. Its foundation was arguably laid before the First World War, when Austrian Imperial officials began a century-long campaign to curtail emigration in the name of demographic power and humanitarian values.

My second book, The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe's Families after World War II (Harvard, 2011), tells the story of Europe's displaced and refugee children in Eastern and Western Europe from 1918 to 1951. Focusing on national and international activism around children after World War II, I explore how the reconstruction of families was linked to the development of new ideals of family, human rights, and democracy in postfascist Europe. The Lost Children was awarded the George Louis Beer Prize from the American Historical Association for European International History.

My first book, Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900–1948 (Cornell, 2008), is a study of Czech and German nationalist mobilization around children from the Habsburg Empire to the Nazi occupation. It argues that indifference to nationalism was a driving force behind escalating nationalist tensions in the Bohemian Lands. Kidnapped Souls also situates Nazi Germanization policies in a longer history of local Czech-German nationalist agitation. Kidnapped Souls was awarded five prizes, including the Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European History, the Hans Rosenberg Prize of the Conference Group for Central European History, and the Barbara Jelavich Prizes of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

I am currently working on a co-authored book with Pieter Judson on the Habsburg Empire during the First World War (to be published by Oxford University Press). I am also beginning projects on Roma and statelessness in the Habsburg Empire and on the history of gender, sexuality, and migration in twentieth-century Europe.

Graduate Advising

I welcome applications from graduate students interested in Central European history (including Habsburg, East European, and German history) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as European international history and transnational history. My current PhD students are working on the history of gender and sexuality in late Imperial Vienna; migration and the family in postwar West Germany; the body in late Socialist Czechoslovakia; Jewish culture in postwar Czechoslovakia and Poland, Roma in postwar Southeastern Europe; and colonialism and empire in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Poland and Germany.


The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World. New York: W.W. Norton, 2016.

Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900–1948. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008; paperback, 2011.

The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.


"Travel Agents on Trial: Policing Mobility in Late Imperial Austria." Past & Present 223 (May 2014): 161–93.

"Forum: Habsburg History." German History 31 (June 2013): 225–238.

With Pieter M. Judson. "Introduction." Austrian History Yearbook, special issue on National Indifference 43 (2012).

"Going West." East European Politics and Societies 25 (November 2011): 785–91.

"'The Psychological Marshall Plan': Displacement, Gender, and Human Rights after World War II." Central European History 44 (March 2011): 37–62.

"Enfants et purification ethnique dans la Tchécoslovaquie d'après-guerre." Annales. Histoire, Sciences sociales 66 (avril–juin 2011).

"'A Human Treasure': Europe's Displaced Children Between Nationalism and Internationalism." Postwar Reconstruction in Europe: International Perspectives 1945–1949 Past & Present Supplement 6 (2011): 210.

 "Imagined Non-Communities: National Indifference as a Category of Analysis." Slavic Review 69 (Spring 2010): 93–119.

"'Prisoners of the Postwar': Expellees, Refugees, and Jews in Postwar Austria." Austrian History Yearbook 41 (2010): 191–215.

"Lost Children: Displacement, Family, and Nation in Postwar Europe." Journal of Modern History 81 (March 2009), 45–86.

"The Minority Problem: National Classification in the French and Czechoslovak Borderlands." Contemporary European History 17 (May 2008): 137–165.

"'Each Nation Only Cares for Its Own': Empire, Nation, and Child Welfare Activism in the Bohemian Lands, 1900–1918." American Historical Review 111 (December 2006): 1378–1402.

"Looking East: East Central European 'Borderlands' in German History and Historiography." History Compass 3:1 (2005): 1–23.

"Reclaiming Children for the Nation: Germanization, National Ascription, and Democracy in the Bohemian Lands, 1900–1945." Central European History 37, (December 2004): 499–541.

Recent Courses Offered


  • Twentieth-Century Europe
  • History of Human Rights (in Vienna)
  • East Central Europe in the Twentieth Century
  • Nazism (junior colloquium)
  • European Civilization I & II
  • Gender & Sexuality in World Civilization
  • Migration and Displacement in Twentieth-Century Europe


  • Transnational Europe
: Twentieth Century
  • Nations and Empires (with Susan Gal, Anthropology)
  • Nationalism and Transnationalism in East Central Europe
  • Unsettled Europe: Migration and Displacement in Modern Europe

  • Gender and Sex in Modern Europe (with Leora Auslander, History)

  • Historiography (with Emily Osborn, History)

University and Departmental Service

  • Chair, Graduate Student Affairs Committee, Department of History
  • Cochair, Executive Committee, Pozen Family Center for Human Rights
  • Faculty Sponsor, Transnational Approaches to Modern Europe Workshop
  • Excecutive Board, Center for East European, and Russian/Eurasian Studies
  • Faculty Governing Board, Chicago Center for Jewish Studies
  • Faculty Affiliate, Center for Study of Gender and Sexuality