Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Department of History

History of the Department

The field of history has been an important component of the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin since the university’s founding in 1810, having been represented by prominent figures such as Barthold Georg Niebuhr, Leopold von Ranke and Johann Gustav Droysen, as well as political antipodes Heinrich von Treitschke and Theodor Mommsen.

While an autonomous history department was not officially established until 1885, Leopold von Ranke had begun overseeing the field’s affairs and cultivating academic growth already in 1824. Following a politically checkered past, the Department of History – along with five additional ideologically indoctrinated departments – was “liquidated” shortly after German Reunification in 1991/92. By means of a restructuring and hiring committee, the department was completely reconstituted under the direction of professor Gerhard A. Ritter. This re-structuring plan, although only partially implemented, saw to the formation of five “primary professorships” and ten “specialty professorships”, which were designed to strengthen the regional and methodological profile of the department. The plan also called, unsuccessfully, for the establishment of professorships for Information Technology as well as for North and South America.


Today the Department of History is one of the largest and most diverse centers for historical studies and research in Germany. Approximately twenty professors, eighty research fellows and one thousand five hundred students are affliated with the department over the course of an academic year.


One of the most prominent representatives of History in Berlin: Johann Gustav Droysen.

The department’s diversity can be, in part, attributed to its intense international focus; at present the department cultivates Eurasmus partnerships with 36 non-German universities in 15 countries. As a result of these partnerships every year over 50 foreign students are provided with the chance to study or carry out historical research in Berlin. The Department of History also strongly encourages its own students to study abroad; roughly 25 Humboldt Universität zu Berlin students take advantage of this opportunity annually and organize a stay at one of our partner universities. The introducation of UNICA’s (European Capital City Universities Program) highly anticipated International Master’s Degree will soon provide our students with yet another opportunity to strengthen their academic qualifications in an international setting.

Docent-targeted exchange programs, such as the University of Bologna Exchange Program, help foster further cooperation between the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and external universities. Foreign staff and faculty members are regularly invited to serve as guest speakers, visiting research fellows or fill teaching roles. With so much to offer its students and staff, we invite you to take a look and see what the Department of History can offer you.


Today's office of the IfG. The "Quartier Stadtmitte" Friedrichstaße 191-193. Foto: Oxana Schmies