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Thomas Fleischman

  • Assistant Professor

PhD, New York University , 2013

460 Rush Rhees Library
(585) 275-1140


European History

Research Overview

Dr. Thomas Fleischman received his PhD from New York University in European History in 2013. Prior to arriving at Rochester, he taught at Bowdoin College and The Cooper Union. He has won postdoctoral fellowships from the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University as well as the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia at NYU. His work has been recognized and supported by the Social Science Research Council, the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the J. William Fulbright Program. He is currently finishing the manuscript for his book, Three Little Pigs: East Germany’s Green Revolution 1945-2000, whichis under contract with Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books at the University of Washington Press.

Three Little Pigs an environmental history of rural development in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). While most historians associate development primarily with the American-led project, retroactively named the “green revolution,” development was also a project in Communist countries. Land reform and collectivization in the eastern bloc—a “red revolution” in farming—resembled western models of rural modernization. Both “red” and “green” revolutions grew out of the ideological tradition of industrial development; both held faith in the promise of science and technology; and both believed that stability and prosperity in the countryside meant stability for their bloc. Rather than cordoning communism off from the rest of the developing world, Three Little Pigs reveals the ways in which East German agriculture emerged from a global consensus over industrial development, becoming increasingly reliant on global flows of capital, oil, grain, and meat.

 In this story, however, it’s pigs—the industrial pig, the garden pig, and the wild boar—that reveal the political ecology of rural development during the Cold War. Since pig bodies refract changing human relationships to the environment—for example, just consider the variety of phenotypes (coloring, size, shape) expressed across dozens of domestic breeds—Three Little Pigs interprets the multiple, malleable bodies of East German hogs to reveal a history of state socialism in flesh and bone.

 An exploration of rural development in the Communist context challenges the conventional wisdom of the green revolution as a conceptual panacea for problems in agriculture and as an exceptional project of western capitalism. In doing so it reveals the foundations for contemporary discussions of economic modernization, famine, sustainability, and the environmental crisis.

Beyond agriculture, Dr. Fleischman is interested in the variety of roles animals play in human history, and how “thinking” with living creatures reshapes our understanding of history. To that end, he has begun a new research project about whales, whaling, and German history from approximately 1870 to 1960, tentatively called The Petrel and the Viking: German Whaling in the First Ageof Globalization.

Graduate Fields

I offer the following fields for the PhD qualifying examination. For explanations of fields, see the "Program Formulation" page in the Graduate Handbook.

Teaching Fields: Modern European History; German History

Research Fields: Modern European History; German History; Environmental History; State Socialism

I will be accepting graduate students for admission in fall 2019.

Selected Publications

  • “’A Plague of Wild Boars: A New History of Pigs and People in late 20th Century Europe,” in Antipode: A Journal of Radical Geography (September 2017)
  • Three Little Pigs: East Germany’s Green Revolution, 1945-2014, Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books, University of Washington Press, (forthcoming 2020)