In Memoriam Josef “Sepp” Ehmer (1948 – 2023)

Announcement of the ITH

The ITH is sad to announce the passing of Josef "Sepp" Ehmer, a highly esteemed colleague and friend who died unexpectedly on May 10, 2023 at the age of 74 in Vienna.

Sepp was born on November 7, 1948 in Gschwandt near Gmunden in Upper Austria. His parents were politically active as communists during the National Socialist period and he and his brother grew up in proletarian conditions after WWII. In 1968 he began studying History and German at the University of Vienna. In 1977 he completed his studies with a doctoral thesis on family structure and work organization in early industrial Vienna. In the late 1970s he became a university assistant and lecturer at the Department of Economic and Social History at the University of Vienna. After completing his habilitation which dealt with marital behavior, social structure, and economic change, he became full professor of Modern History at the University of Salzburg. He held this position from 1993 until 2005 when he succeeded Michael Mitterauer as a professor for Economic and Social History at the University of Vienna, until his retirement in 2016.

Sepp had been affiliated with the ITH for many years. From 1993 to 2022 he was a member of the board and for decades, Sepp was a mainstay for the work of the ITH. He was always attentive, from the smallest detail to the biggest issues. He played a central role in the creation and discussion of calls for papers and programs, always with conceptually and practically well-thought-out proposals and ideas supported by his immense expertise. In the ITH, Sepp “pulled the strings” in many ways, and always in the spirit of collegiality and solidarity. Many of those who are close to the ITH find it difficult to imagine its work without Sepp. Most recently, in 2021, Sepp was part of the preparatory group for the 56th ITH Conference which dealt with the topic "Migration worldwide: Left-wing strategies, migrant actors, and capitalist interests from the 16th century to the present".

His main scientific interest were long-term socio-economic changes in modern Europe, but his research areas also included historical migration research, population history and historical demography. In the course of these projects, Josef Ehmer established many international contacts during his numerous research stays. For example, he worked as a researcher at the LMU Munich (1974-1975), at the University of Cambridge (1987-1989), at the Max Planck Institute for History in Göttingen (1984-1986), as a visiting professor at the Friedrich-Meinecke Institute at the Freie Universität Berlin (1990-1991), at the European University Institute in Florence (1997-1998 and 2002-2003), at the University of Cambridge (2008) and at the International Humanities College “Work and Life Course in Global History Perspective” re:work at the Humboldt University in Berlin (2010–2011) where he has also been associate fellow since 2011.

In his research, projects, lectures, and publications, he always sought to establish connections to present events and global developments. Interdisciplinarity and social relevance were never just words for him, but scholarly practice in his teaching and research. The promotion of young colleagues, for whom he opened up opportunities in the academic world, was a tremendously important concern for him. Sepp was a kind and conciliatory person whose commitment for scholarship and the persons and institutions behind it was full of passion.

As Sepp has passed away, we ask everyone who feels connected to him and wants to share memories to write short texts, which will be shown, on posters during this year’s conference in September. Please send the texts by July 15, 2023 to


Therese Garstenauer (ITH President)
Susan Zimmermann (former ITH President)
Laurin Blecha (General Secretary)