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Dr Helen Roche

Associate Professor (Modern European Cultural History)

BA, MPhil, PhD (Cantab.)

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Associate Professor (Modern European Cultural History) in the Department of History  
Associate Fellow in the Institute of Advanced Study  


Dr. Helen Roche is Associate Professor in Modern European Cultural History at the University of Durham. Her second book, The Third Reich’s Elite Schools: A History of the Napolas, has recently been published by Oxford University Press. Her work has been featured in the press nationally and internationally, including appearances in The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, on the BBC and Sky News.

Her first book, Sparta's German Children: The ideal of ancient Sparta in the Royal Prussian Cadet Corps, 1818-1920, and in National Socialist elite schools (the Napolas), 1933-1945, was published in 2013, and has subsequently received critical acclaim from reviewers in several disciplines, including Classics, intellectual history, and the history of education. Meanwhile, her article 'Surviving Stunde Null: Narrating the fate of Nazi elite-school pupils during the collapse of the Third Reich', was awarded German History journal's "Best Article of 2015" prize.

Previously, she held Research Fellowships at UCL Institute of Advanced Studies and the University of Cambridge, having completed her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. Her research has been funded by (among others) the AHRC, the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) and the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. She is currently researching the history of everyday life under fascism in interwar Europe.

Helen welcomes enquiries from research students with an interest in nineteenth- and twentieth-century European social and cultural history, with a particular focus on German and Austrian history, the history of childhood and education, fascism studies and classical reception studies.

MPhil and PhD theses already supervised include:

  • 'The Portrayal - in Educational Settings - of the Relationship between Britain and the Holocaust' (PhD, currently in progress at Durham University).
  • 'The Role of Foreign Diplomats in Vienna during the 1930s' (PhD, University of Cambridge).
  • 'The Impact of the TV Series Holocaust on West German Memory Culture, 1978-83'.
  • 'The SS-Kalender and the Dilemmas of Propagandizing the Volksgemeinschaft, 1938-1944'.
  • 'The Representation of Female Perpetrators of the Holocaust in British Newspapers, 1945-Present'.
  • 'Fascism, National Socialism, and the 1939 New York World's Fair'.

Research interests

  • German history from the nineteenth century onwards; National Socialism; Italian Fascism
  • Austrian history during the inter-war period; comparative fascism studies
  • History of childhood and history of education, especially German elite education and humanistic education
  • Youth exchange during the twentieth century; Anglo-German relations
  • History and memory in post-war Germany
  • Classical reception in general, and German philhellenism in particular
  • Greco-German relations from the eighteenth century to the present

Research groups

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Modern History: Europe:
  • Politicial, cultural, social history:
  • Roman, Greek & ancient civilisations:


Authored book

  • Roche, Helen (2021). The Third Reich's Elite Schools: A History of the Napolas. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Roche, Helen (2013). Sparta's German Children: The Ideal of Ancient Sparta in the Royal Prussian Cadet-Corps, 1818-1920, and in National-socialist Elite Schools (the Napolas), 1933-1945. Swansea: Classical Press of Wales.

Chapter in book

  • Roche, Helen (2018). 'Schulische Erziehung und Entbürgerlichung'. In Wie bürgerlich war der Nationalsozialismus?. ed., Norbert Frei, Göttingen: Wallstein. 154-172.
  • Roche, Helen (2018). 'Die Klosterschule Ilfeld als Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalt'. In Die Klosterkammer Hannover 1931-1955: Eine Mittelbehörde zwischen wirtschaftlicher Rationalität und Politisierung. ed., Detlef Schmiechen-Ackermann (et al.), Göttingen: Wallstein. 605-626.
  • Roche, Helen (2018). 'Classics and Education in the Third Reich: "Die Alten Sprachen" and the Nazification of Latin- and Greek-teaching in secondary schools'. In Brill's Companion to the Classics, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. ed., Helen Roche & Kyriakos Demetriou, Leiden: Brill. 238-263.
  • Roche, Helen (2018). 'Distant Models? Italian Fascism, National Socialism and the Lure of the Classics'. In Brill's Companion to the Classics, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. ed., Helen Roche & Kyriakos Demetriou, Leiden: Brill. 3-29.
  • Roche, Helen (2017). 'Blüte und Zerfall: "Schematic Narrative Templates" of decline and fall in völkisch and National Socialist racial ideology'. In The Persistence of Race: Continuity and Change in Germany from the Wilhelmine Empire to National Socialism. ed., Lara Day & Oliver Haag, Oxford: Berghahn. 65-86.
  • Roche, Helen (2016). 'Herrschaft durch Schulung: The Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten im Osten and the Third Reich's Germanising mission'. In Nationalsozialismus und Regionalbewusstsein im östlichen Europa. ed., Ingo Loose & Burkhard Olschowsky, Berlin: De Gruyter. 127-151.
  • Roche, Helen (2016). 'Wanderer, kommst du nach Sparta oder nach Stalingrad? Ancient ideals of self-sacrifice and German military propaganda'. In Making Sacrifices: Visions of Sacrifice in Contemporary Culture. ed., Nicholas Brooks & Gregor Thuswaldner, Vienna: New Academic Press. 66-86.
  • Roche, Helen (2015). '"Spartanische Pädagogik deutscher Art": The influence of Sparta on the Royal Prussian Cadet Schools (1818-1920)'. In Das antike Sparta. ed., Anton Powell and Vassiliki Pothou, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag. 157-180.
  • Roche, Helen (2014). 'Kadettengeschichten: Exploring the Prussian cadet-school story'. In Books for Boys: Literacy, Nation and the First World War. ed., Simon J. James, Durham: IAS. 20-25.
  • Roche, Helen (2013). 'Spartan Supremacy: A "Possession for Ever"? Early fourth-century expectations of enduring ascendancy'. In Hindsight in Greek and Roman History. ed., Anton Powell, Swansea: Classical Press of Wales. 91-112.
  • Roche, Helen (2013). '"In Sparta fühlte ich mich wie in einer deutschen Stadt" (Goebbels): The leaders of the Third Reich and the Spartan nationalist paradigm'. In English and German Nationalist and Anti-Semitic Discourse, 1871-1945. ed., Felicity Rash, Geraldine Horan & Daniel Wildmann, Oxford: Peter Lang. 91-115.
  • Roche, Helen (2012). '"Spartanische Pimpfe": The importance of Sparta in the educational ideology of the Adolf Hitler Schools'. In Sparta in Modern Thought: Politics, History and Culture. ed., Stephen Hodkinson & Ian Macgregor Morris, Swansea: Classical Press of Wales. 314-342.

Edited book

  • Roche, Helen & Demetriou, Kyriakos (2018). Brill's Companion to the Classics, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Leiden: Brill.

Edited Journal

  • (2019). Fascist and National Socialist Antiquities and Materialities from the Interwar Era to the Present Day - Guest-edited special issue of Fascism: Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies (Vol. 8.2).
  • (2013). German Philhellenism - Guest-edited special issue of Publications of the English Goethe Society (Vol. 82.3).

Journal Article

Supervision students