German Studies and the History of Knowledge

We are publishing the following information in conjunction with the German Studies Association’s 2020 virtual conference, which runs from September 29 to October 4.

With instructors and students facing many more months of online teaching and learning, I would like to briefly highlight some blog posts in the history of knowledge that might prove useful to those working on various aspects of German history, culture, society, and language. The selection comes from two blogs that I co-edit for the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC, and its Pacific Regional Office at UC Berkeley, namely, History of Knowledge and Migrant Knowledge. I was initially inspired to identify such pieces by the German Studies Collaboratory’s own efforts to foster collaboration and experimentation during the pandemic. Appropriately, none of the articles are behind a password or paywall, and their average length is only some 2,000 words. They might be useful for students’ own research or for assigned class readings. If you are using blog posts as assignments, the posts in this list might also serve as instructive examples, for better or for worse, depending on the assignments you envision.

The history of knowledge, or Wissensgeschichte, can be interesting for German Studies because of the prominent role that German scholars and institutions play in the developing field. And Wissensgeschichte is certainly becoming difficult to ignore. At the same time, the startling epistemic challenges to our democratic order nowadays can make studying knowledge as a socially and historically contingent phenomenon particularly compelling. The "About" page of this blog uses two short paragraphs to introduce readers to the idea that knowledge is socially embedded. A post from outside German Studies offers a useful example of how differently knowledge can emerge over time: Andrew Taylor, "Placing Indigenous and European Knowledge on Equal Footing in the Delgamuukw Land Claim." Students with sufficient experience or interest in historiography can profit from Daniel Speich Chassé, "The History of Knowledge: Limits and Potentials of a New Approach," as well as from Johan Östling and David Larsson Heidenblad, "From Cultural History to the History of Knowledge."1

This historiography, however, is not strictly necessary for students to benefit from the articles listed below. Moreover, we do not advocate for a specific conception of the history of knowledge. Instead, we merely maintain that it matters, and we strive to publish insightful pieces that ask how or why in specific contexts. Thus, it is quite possible for instructors to help students tease out what the history of knowledge is or can be by discussing articles about specific subject matter of interest to them. I hope the following list can help in such endeavors.

Early Modern Period

Long Nineteenth Century

Interwar Period

Postwar Germany

Germany Today



Transatlantic World

Germans in Latin America

If you find any of these pieces useful for your work, please let us know. Guidelines for submitting your own posts are available at History of Knowledge and Migrant Knowledge, respectively, as are our contact details. You can also find us on Twitter under the handles @histknowledge and @migknow.

Mark Stoneman holds a PhD in history from Georgetown University and works as an editor at the GHI, Washington, DC. His personal Twitter account is @mstoneman.

  1. For deeper dives in recent historiography, see the following open access publications: Simone Lässig, "The History of Knowledge and the Expansion of the Historical Research Agenda," Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 59 (Fall 2016): 29–58; Johan Östling et al., "The History of Knowledge and the Circulation of Knowledge: An Introduction," in Circulation of Knowledge: Explorations in the History of Knowledge, ed. Johan Östling et al. (Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2018); and the inaugural issue of the new Journal for the History of Knowledge. ↩︎