MacArthur Fellows Program

Tara Zahra

Historian of Modern Europe | Class of 2014

Combining extensive archival research with broad sociohistorical analysis of notions of nation, family, and ethnicity to construct an integrative, transnational understanding of events in twentieth-century Europe.

Historian of Modern Europe
University of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois
38 at time of award
Published September 17, 2014

About Tara's Work

Tara Zahra is a historian who is challenging the way we view the development of the concepts of nation, family, and ethnicity and painting a more integrative picture of twentieth-century European history. With conceptual and empirical rigor, Zahra’s writings combine broad sociohistorical analysis with extensive archival work across a wide range of locales.

Her first book, Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900­–1948 (2008), examines the twentieth-century cultural politics of German and Czech nationalism with children as the centerpiece, demonstrating that the changing concept of who owns children was essential to the definition of national identities. Zahra refocuses our understanding of nationalism and nation-building by exploring the conflicts over raising and educating children in the Bohemian lands in the first half of the twentieth century—from the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire, through the Czechoslovak Republic, the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia, and the postwar Czechoslovak state.

In The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II (2011), Zahra illuminates an essential chapter of the postwar period in Europe—the negotiations over the repatriation of children and the reconstitution of families. Starting with the efforts of rescue groups during the Armenian genocide and the Spanish Civil War, to the Second World War and postwar conflicts over repatriation and appropriate psychological treatment of unaccompanied or orphaned children, she shows that questions about how best to serve children’s interests were in fact an integral part of debates concerning how to rebuild the nation, physically and psychologically, after the devastation of war. Currently engaged in a new project that examines a century of emigration from East Central Europe to Western Europe and the United States, Zahra is entering into important new debates about the notions of individual freedoms and human rights and offering a more transnational understanding of events in twentieth-century Europe.


Tara Zahra received a B.A. (1998) from Swarthmore College and an M.A. (2002) and Ph.D. (2005) from the University of Michigan. She was a fellow with the Harvard Society of Fellows (2005–2007) prior to joining the faculty of the University of Chicago, where she is currently a professor in the Department of History.

Select News Coverage of Tara Zahra
September 22, 2016
"MacArthur 'Genius' Grant Creates 'Kind of Halo' Around Recipients"
USA Today
Jerry Mitchell, 2009 MacArthur Fellow
Jad Abumrad, 2011 MacArthur Fellow
Tara Zahra, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
May 25, 2016
Two Conversation Pairings with MacArthur Fellows
Two pairings, four MacArthur Fellows hosted by The Economic Club of Chicago. These conversations were hosted as part of the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows program.
January 11, 2016
MacArthur Announces Performances, Discussion to Celebrate 35 Years of Iconic Fellowship Program
Most of the events will be open to the public for free or at low cost. Video of many events will be made available online.
November 14, 2015
"America, the Not So Promised Land"
The New York Times
Tara Zahra, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
September 22, 2015
"The Return of No-Man’s Land"
Foreign Affairs
Tara Zahra, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
October 20, 2014
"Pocono Mountain Grad Receives Prestigious Fellowship"
Pocono Record
Tara Zahra, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
View all news

Photos for Download

High-resolution photos of MacArthur Fellows are available for download (right click and save), including use by media, in accordance with this copyright policy.

Please credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

More Fellows

View All 2014 Fellows

Stay Informed
Sign up for periodic news updates and event invitations.
Connect with us on social media or view all of our social media content in one place.