12.04.1973

“New direction for an old subject” – the Faculty of History

On April 12, 1973, the seventh Bielefeld Faculty, the Faculty of History, is launched with a wide-ranging set of reforms and in very good humour (see newspaper clipping). Its foundation also signals a new orientation for the study of history in general; the students, by the way, find themselves in a paradisiacal setting, as the 33 enrolled students already have an extensive range of courses to choose from.

  • Professor Dr. Jürgen Kocka, Professor of General History with a particular focus on social history 1973 to 1988.

    Photo: Manfred Kettner
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld
  • Professor Dr. Reinhart Koselleck, Professor of the Theory of History 1973-1988, together with Professor Dr. Harald Weinrich at a joint meeting of the founding committee and the scientific advisory board in Bielefeld on January 27 1969.

    Photo: Günter Rudolf
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld
  • Professor Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Professor of General History with particular focus on the history of the 19th and 20th centuries 1971-1996, together with Professor Dr. Dieter Grimm, Faculty of Law, on the occasion of the approval of Collaborative Research Centre 177 “Social History of the Middle Classes in modern times” on February 12, 1985.

    Photo: Manfred Kettner
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld

„Bielefeld School“
The Faculty of History soon developed into one of Germany’s most renowned history faculties on the basis of consensus-based decisions taken during the founding phase. The “reorientation of an old subject” (Koselleck) within the framework of the “Reform University” at Bielefeld provided for a more interdisciplinary, theoretical, social and more scientific interpretation of history. The subject of history was conceptually redefined to be a historical social science accompanied by theoretical analysis. Certain innovations such as transcending the traditional epochal classification of the Antiquity, the Middle Ages and Modern period in favour of the epochal model of the pre-modern and modern eras or Chairs such as “Theorie der Geschichte”(theory of history) or “Sozialgeschichte” (social history) soon became synonymous with the term “Bielefeld School”.

A significant contribution was made by outstanding researchers in the planning and development phase, such as Jürgen Kocka, Reinhart Koselleck, Hans-Ulrich Wehler and others, who soon ensured that the new faculty became a national and international flagship of the young university. The publication of the last volume of Hans-Ulrich Wehler’s five-volume “Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte (1987-2008) (German Social History 1987-2008), a standard work of German historiography, was even publicly acclaimed by German television personality Harald Schmidt.

Harald Schmidt and Oliver Pocher explain the “Bielefeld School” and the “long twentieth century” of German history.

Source: Sat.1, 30 october 2008

Restructuring of the Faculty

In connection with the integration of the Bielefeld section of the Pädagogische Hochschule Westfalen-Lippe (teacher-training college) into Bielefeld University on 1 April 1980, a reorganisation and restructuring of the faculties became necessary. The result was, among other things, the dissolution of the triple faculty of Education, Philosophy and Psychology (PPP) and the foundation of a new faculty with the two departments of History and Philosophy on March 1, 1980. The co-residence of the large Department of History and the comparatively small Department of Philosophy was described by representatives of the subjects as a “peaceful coexistence” but not a “fruitful coexistence”.

Married couples and guests at the ‘wedding’ of History and Philosophy in May 1980 (from left to right): Professor Dr. Neithard Bulst (dean of the new Faculty), Professor Dr. Friedrich Fulda, Professor Dr. Reinhart Koselleck, Professor Dr. Erich-Christian Schröder, Professor Dr. Jürgen Kocka, Professor Dr. Ulrich Wehler, Rektor Professor Dr. Karl Peter Grotemeyer.

Photo: Seutter
Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld

In the winter semester 2002/02, the (Protestant) Department of Theology was added as the third and smallest department.

Success
Even after a generational change, the Faculty, and in particular the Department of History, continues to be very highly regarded, as evidenced by several funding awards for Collaborative Research Centres, such as the SFB 177 “Social History of the Middle Classes in modern times” 1986 to 1997, whose influence has been recognised by the scientific community. Another example is the Collaborative Research Project “Practices of Comparison”, which started in 2017. A large number of national and international prizes have also been awarded to members of the Faculty. For instance, the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, Germany’s most important research prize, was awarded to historian Professor Dr. Ute Frevert in 1998, historian Professor Dr. Bernhard Jussen in 2007 and philosopher Professor Dr. Martin Carrier in 2008.

  • Professor Dr. Ute Frevert, Leibniz Prize Winner 1998.

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Sourcde: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld
  • Professor Dr. Bernhard Jussen, Leibniz Prize Winner 2007.

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld
  • Professor Dr. Martin Carrier, Leibniz Prize Winner 2008.

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld