The Department of History covers a broad spectrum of fields within the discipline while linking them all together through the theoretically and methodologically oriented profile of the Bielefeld model. As well as encompassing all epochs from Ancient to Contemporary, it also addresses several thematic fields ranging from the History of Modern Societies to the History of Science.

Since its foundation in 1973 as a young and progressive faculty, history at Bielefeld has been characterized by a strong research orientation, profound reflection on theory and methods, and an openness to interdisciplinary approaches. Even today, these encourage the establishment of new fields of research such as the Collaborative Research Centre The Political as Communicative Space in History (SFB 584) while strengthening well-established Bielefeld specializations such as the History of Societies and Historical Semantics. The "Bielefeld School" has a strong international reputation and was awarded top grades in the 2009 CHE research ranking.

Both research and teaching are characterized by an interdisciplinary approach, diachronic and synchronic comparisons, and European and transnational perspectives. In addition to the traditional Bachelor, Master of Arts, and Master of Education in History, the department offers two interdisciplinary Master degree programmes: History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science (HPSS) and InterAmerican Studies (IAS). One unique feature is the integrated French-German degree programme offered in cooperation with Universitť Paris 7 Denis Diderot (see Study). The emphasis on close ties between strongly academic, research-oriented studies and careers beyond the study programmes has also led to the establishment of another specific section "History as Profession" within the Department.

Since 2008, the Department's International PhD Study Programme in History has been integrated in the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology. This institution is run jointly by the Department of History and the Faculty of Sociology and is being supported by the German Research Foundation and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the Excellence Initiative.