Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - 19th Century European History


The „long 19th century“ refers to the period of history between the French Revolution and the First World War characterized as the “Breakthrough into Modernity”.
The complexity of the transition and the difficulties encountered when attempting to reduce its phenomena to a common cause betray the fact that no single thematic designation or historical process can be applied to sufficiently explain it.

Curriculum of the 19th century European History unit addresses the multiplicity of these processes, focusing on political-parliamentary, social, economic and religious-spiritual aspects. Yet the real appeal of this era lies in the tension between an adherence to old ways and surviving traditions and the attempts, both peaceful and violent, to triumph over these traditions and replace them with new forms of legitimation and interaction.

It is even more crucial to study these traditions because they have set the course for the 20th century. Students who seek to understand the powerful draw of national identity, the explosive force behind socio-economic tensions or the enduring search for religious and spiritual orientation of the 20th century are well advised to first investigate and interpret the fundament of these conflicts and mentalities – which were laid in the 19th century.

Research and teaching efforts assess the following concepts with regard to Europe as well as to the relations between European and non-European nations: the birth of modern ideologies (liberalism, nationalism and socialism), the history and character of middle-class culture, contemporary mentalities (religion, rationality), war, violence and history of totalitarianism as well as nationalism and colonialism.

Pursuant to the research focus of our faculty, curriculum primarily seeks to link historico-cultural questions with political issues and approaches. This approach is used, for example, when studying the connection of emotions and war as well as the relationship between religion and politics. Regional focuses of the unit also examine Prussian-German, British and Iberian Peninsula territories.





In their individual projects, the staff of the chair deal with the diversity of cultural-historical and political questions concerning the ‘long’ 19th century. The aim is always to find an answer to the question of how individuals and groups have interpreted the world in their concrete socio-cultural contexts and which considerations and motives have guided them. In this way, the various ‘driving forces’ of political and social developments are to become more transparent. Scientific thought patterns are examined as well as religious foundations of meaning or emotional imprints. In this way, some specifics of the 19th century on the one hand and some continuity lines on the other, which connected the 19th century with the preceding and the following century, are worked out. One focus of the chair is the special consideration of the Spanish history of the 19th and 20th centuries.