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Department of History


Ever since its foundation in 1973, the Department of History has been dedicated to promoting a strong emphasis on theory and research. In both research and teaching, its mission is defined by:

An orientation towards theory and methods

Ongoing theoretical analyses of the conditions, forms, and consequences of doing history merge to form its common foundation. This not only permits a host of different approaches but also schools historians in the practice of relating these approaches to each other. By integrating theory modules into all study course curricula from Bachelor to PhD, this part of its mission also shapes studying and teaching. The Centre for Theories in Historical Research, which has been set up in 2017, is providing a fixed location for this ongoing discussion among Bielefeld historians while networking it with similar initiatives throughout the world. With questions on historical learning and the communication of history, the didactics of history also has close ties to the discussions addressing theory.

Overcoming the traditional division into epochs

This expresses the need to look at long-term historical transformations, to study how asynchronous events overlap, and to pay attention to non-linear historical processes. Not only continuity and discontinuity but also questions regarding the otherness of historical phenomena can be conceived more clearly when relations are defined in terms of pre-modern and modern rather than within the framework of separate, small-scale epochal categories. It is not just research within the Department that is characterized by historically wide-ranging analyses; this approach is already reflected in the Bachelor study course with its pre-modern/modern basic module.

A broad spectrum of topics

The Department does not just cover all epochs from antiquity to contemporary history. Building on the mission of promoting a theory- and problem-oriented historical discipline, it also has chairs covering a series of systematic sub-divisions such as Gender history, Economic history, Visual history/History of art, Latin-American history, East European history, and History of science. The Department offers extensive world-region expertise on the history of European and non-European countries in the Americas and Asia. Global, regional, and entangled history provides new ways of looking at the history of Europe.

A total of 17 professors and approximately 45 research associates are working in close cooperation across the research fields. They are responsible for a broad range of courses offering numerous potential combinations oriented towards current research topics. This makes it possible to arrange one’s studies according to one’s own interests. In the academic master’s course in history, students can select their specialization from a total of twelve study profiles. This choice will be specified in their degree certificate, thereby delivering an excellent basis for doctoral studies or a specific occupational field.


The interdisciplinary contacts gained through working together with neighbouring disciplines in the humanities and social sciences encourage critical reflection on the categorical decisions, theoretical premises, and methods of one’s own discipline. Moreover, interdisciplinary approaches are not just represented within the Department itself. They are also being pursued in cooperation with other faculties, in interdisciplinary joint research projects  such as the BMBF project The Americas as Space of Entanglements and in cooperation with the Center for InterAmerican Studies, the CRC 1288 Practices of comparing: Ordering and changing the world, and the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology.  This approach is taken even further in interdisciplinary study programmes and cooperative teaching in the master’s course in History, Economics, and Philosophy of Science, the master’s course in InterAmerican Studies, and the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology. A new study course in the Kombi-Bachelor has started in the 2017/18 winter semester with Visual history/History of art. This is combining competencies in art-history-based visual theory directly with new issues and potential insights from history.

A lively debate

The weekly research colloquia on all epochs and special fields ensure an intensive communication with numerous colleagues from Germany and abroad. This integrates master students and doctoral students into the ongoing historical debates at an early stage in their studies. More than 20 renowned partner universities in the Americas, Asia, and Europe offer students, postgraduates, and academics a vast range of opportunities for international networking. Decisively international specializations are available in two binational study programmes running in cooperation with the Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7 (Deutsch-Französisches Studienprogramm Geschichte) and the Università di Bologna (Deutsch-Italienisches Studienprogramm Geschichte). Finally, cooperations with museums, archives, foundations, non-university institutes, and schools provide historians with a continuous dialogue between academia and occupational careers.

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