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David Spreen

David Spreen is a historian of modern Germany with research interests in the inter-/transnational entanglements of decolonization, the global Cold War, and the broad social and cultural transformations of the postcolonial period. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2019. Prior to joining Harvard University, Spreen was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. His current book project explores the impact of decolonization on cultures of radical protest — Maoism in particular — in divided Germany. The project follows people's movements and collaborations across national borders as well as the North/South and East/West divides. It demonstrates that “German” Maoism in the 1970s was a profoundly transnational phenomenon — involving exchange students and workers from Iran, Palestine, Turkey, and Southern Africa in activism across the two Germanies, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. However, as the book shows, the traces of this multi-ethnic Left have been systematically obscured not just by the memory literature of former activists but by the very way archives about the postwar Left have been constructed.

Beginning in July 2022, Spreen will join the faculty of the department of history at Harvard University as an assistant professor.

This information is accurate for the time period that the visiting scholar is affiliated with CES.


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History, Harvard University
  • Local Affiliate, CES, Harvard University

Students working broadly in German and European history or with research interests in the histories of decolonization, the global Cold War, political violence, or the history of the Left are welcome to reach out either to consult via email or set up a Zoom call.