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Global History

Degree: Master of Arts
Application required: access-restricted
Course commences: winter semester / summer semester
Standard course duration: 4 semesters
Format options: full-time only
Language requirements: dependent on study emphasis (at the beginning of the respective module)
Language of instruction: German
Other features: postgraduate / consecutive


Faculty of Philosophy

One essential issue in Historical Studiers is the question which aspect of the past a given present is interested in and how present concerns change our interest in the past. In the 21st century, globalisation processes have become a key element in societal orientation. Hopes and fears hinge on the question of the extent to which new communication technologies will lead to an amalgamation of cultures, whether nation-state orientation will be overcome or on the contrary emerge stronger than ever, whether globalisation is first and foremost an economic development or perhaps a mere metaphor for the transgression of boundaries, and whether this is indeed a modern phenomenon or perhaps just a new conceptual label for historical globalisation processes that date back partly to the late Middle Ages or the early modern age.
The Heidelberg M.A. course in Global History provides an insight into historical development processes connected with the transgression of boundaries. The implication behind Global History theories and approaches is that history should no longer be defined as a universal, unilinear, progress-oriented development but as the materialisation of various historicities. This in its turn suggests the necessity for critical reflection on the hitherto pivotal status of Europe in historiography. Instead, history is regarded in terms of concepts of order and epistemic authority. The curriculum combines the spatial dimension of history (Area Studies) with a thematic approach (Topics) and draws upon the debates on cultural exchange processes between Europe and Asia unfolding in the framework of the eponymous Heidelberg Cluster of Excellence. The course facilitates and encourages interdisciplinary strategies and is at pains to communicate the conviction that an engagement with Global History involving access to the global scholarly community can be an experience with repercussions of a decidedly practical nature.

The subject matter

Historical studies can be divided up in different ways. These divisions are reflected in the allocation of the various sub-disciplines to different departments of the University and the way in which they are incorporated into different programmes.
First we need to distinguish between History in general (without further specification) and specific histories like History of Law, History of the Church, Economic History, Medical History, etc. These are studied at the Faculties representing the subjects in question (Law, Theology, Economics, Medicine, etc.). Art History is a subject to itself, the history of music is a sector of Musicology.

Traditionally, History as a subject in its own right is divided into different eras or ages: Antiquity, Middle Ages, the Modern Age. In Heidelberg the main distinctions are reflected in the names of the sub-disciplines: Ancient History (Greek and Roman history), Medieval History (history of the early, high and late Middle Ages), Modern History (1500-1900: early modern history and late modern history) and Contemporary History (from 1900: contemporary history and current history). Prehistory and Protohistory is another self-sufficient subject. Covering epochs that have left us no written records, it is closely bound up with Archaeology. Alongside these temporal divisions there are also geographical divisions that to all intents and purposes can be regarded as regionally defined specialisations. In Heidelberg the Department of History teaches Medieval, Modern and Contemporary History, while Ancient History and Epigraphy has a department of its own. Over and above these divisions by era, there are regional and subject-related specialisations represented by professorships at the Department of History. These include American History (with the Schuman Library), Eastern European History (again with a library of its own), Economic and Social History plus Public History and Comparative Regional History in a European Perspective (with the library of the Institute of Franconian and Palatinate Studies). The team of scholars teaching History at the University also includes those affiliated to other institutions such as the History of South Asia department at the South Asia Institute, the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe”, Transcultural Studies, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, the Institute of Medical History (Medical Faculty) and the neighbouring College of Jewish Studies.

Language requirements

For the investigation of written sources, knowledge of the languages they are couched in is naturally indispensable.
The language requirements for admission to the M.A. courses in History and Global History differ widely depending on study emphasis. For Ancient History the requirements are certified proficiency in Latin, knowledge of English and another modern foreign language, for Early Modern History two foreign languages of which one must be Latin (certified proficiency) or French, for Modern and Contemporary History, American History or South Asian History a good working knowledge of English and another modern foreign language, for East European History one east European language and another modern foreign language). For more details, look at § 3, paras. 4 and 5 of the examination regulations.

Course outline and structure

The main aim of the M.A. courses in History and Global History (standard duration 4 semesters) is to extend and above all deepen the methodological and subject-related knowledge and skills acquired in the/a previous B.A. course (Bachelor courses). Major importance is attached to the research component. The courses also set out to achieve a marriage between traditional skills associated with the study of History and new cultural and communication-related techniques. In this way students will acquire qualifications enabling them either to pursue an academic career in the field of history based on the critical evaluation of information or to pursue their own independent activities in information-related sectors or in cultural studies.

The M.A. course in History (100% = one subject only, no subsidiary subject) requires students to select two areas from all the epoch-related, regional and subject-related disciplines offered in the B.A. course and to choose one of those areas to focus on in depth. They will pursue these focal studies in intensive methodological and research-related modules. The course concludes with the M.A. thesis that students complete in their fourth semester.
The same applies (albeit without Ancient History) to the study of Global History (also a 100% subject). This M.A. course extends the traditionally “national” perspective on research to encompass methods and theories that are more broadly conceived (cross-cultural, etc.). Here there is a stronger emphasis on interdisciplinary perspectives and skills. Accordingly, 30 CP will be acquired in the categories “Area Studies” and “Topics”, represented by non-historical disciplines integrated into the M.A. programme (Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies, Art History, Religious Studies, Geography, Political Science, Sociology, History of Medicine, Economics etc.). Salient features of the Global History course are hence its cross-disciplinary perspective and its international connectivity. It qualifies its students for an academic career in History while at the same time imparting essential cultural-studies skills characterised not least by proficiency in the critical evaluation of information.

At M.A. level, both History and Global History are one-subject-only courses (100%). History can also be studied as a subsidiary (minor) subject accounting for 20 CP.

History is taught by example. In advanced seminars and practical classes students are trained in the engagement with academic issues and the acquisition of historical acumen by looking closely at selected (representative) instances of the problems in question. Study emphases cannot be regarded in isolation. They require an adequate overview of the broader implications. These more universal perspectives are supplied mainly by the lectures.

The mere rehearsal of established knowledge cannot be the aim of academic study. The material that has been handed down to us will only respond to the questions we put to it. Accordingly, reasoned inquiry and the constant fine-honing of methodologies attendant upon such inquiry are the best prospects we have for genuine progress in our subject.

After completion of the M.A. course, students can go on to work towards a doctorate in the same subject.

Major research and teaching interests

In each of the subdivisions of History, the teaching staff are at pains to explore the essentials of the subject matter discussed in the course of the three semesters of instruction at their disposal. Heidelberg has a number of unusual study focuses to offer, predicated first of all on the existence of institutes and professorships that are not to be encountered at every university. These include Comparative Regional History, American History, East European History, History of South Asia, Economic and Social History, History of Medicine, Basic Historical Studies and History of the Jewish People.

Other teaching emphases have to do with the scholarly interests of individual professors and lecturers (sometimes without any specific institutional affiliations).
Chief among these are

  • Ancient History: political anthropology, religions of Antiquity, Greek cultural history, Roman economic and social history, towns and cities in late Antiquity, Greek and Latin epigraphy.
  • Medieval History: comparative history of Europe in the Middle Ages, figurations of order, perception and identity formation, forms and representations of rule, formation of political will and its ritualisation, history of religious orders and piety, history of the Mediterranean area, transcultural history.
  • Early Modern History: comparative history of Europe in the early modern age, perception of self and others, identity formation, forms and representations of rule, political theory, media history, historical imagology.
  • Late Modern History: general history of the 19th and 20th centuries, global history, globalisation processes and transnational networks, history of European expansion and colonialism, transfer of culture and knowledge, transnational history of science and scholarship, information cultures.
  • Contemporary History: comparative history of Europe, overcoming of dictatorships and rise of civil societies in the 20th century, historical peace and conflict research, memorial cultures, current history in the mass media.
  • American History: history of racial relations and Afro-American civil rights, the USA in international relations, constitutional history, cultural history.
  • East European History: history of Russia, Ukraine and the Soviet Union in the 19th and 20th centuries, dictatorship comparison – Stalinism/National Socialism, Second World War, occupation experience, Holocaust, forced labour and collaboration, transitional justice, reparation, cultures of law and justice, history of knowledge and science, revolutions, social and national movements.
  • Regional History: history of political/social orders in medieval Europe, comparative regional history in European contexts, history of the Kurpfalz (Heidelberg and environs), rank and power in princely aristocracy, urban cultures of memory in the late Middle Ages.
  • Foundational Studies: emphasis on palaeography/codicology and documentology in close conjunction with the Department of Medieval Latin Studies.
  • Economic and Social History: linkage of perspectives and methods in economic, social and cultural history, European economic and social history from the 18th to the 21st century, history of industrial relations and industrial crises, theory of economic and social history, corporate history, gender studies, memory and memorialisation.
  • Public History: interrelations between historical studies and the public domain, applied history, audio-visual aspects of historical studies, historical exhibitions, history of scholarship and history of knowledge, history of the Federal Republic and western Europe after 1945.

Formal requirements


Access to the course is restricted. The current Admission Regulations are available here.

Prospective students from Germany

Prospective students from Germany can enrol without prior application at the Central University Administration building by the beginning of the lecture period. To matriculate, they are required to show a written statement of admission issued by the representative of the Master’s programme they wish to attend, confirming that the requirements set out in the Admission Regulations have been met. Please apply to the Department of History for further information on how to proceed.

International prospective students

Prospective students from other countries must apply in writing, so that their previous academic record can be verified. The deadline for international applicants is 15 June for the winter semester and 15 November for the summer semester. Applications must be addressed directly to the International Relations Office. Please use the M.A. application form here and enclose the necessary documents.

Further information

Current information on procedure

Subject combinations

See catalogue of subjects.

Study and examination

Examination regulations M.A. Global History (28 March 2007, last amended 03 February 2016) (start of course since summer semester 2016)
Examination regulations M.A. Global History (28 March 2007) (start of course until winter semester 2015/16)

Module Handbook

Please click here to find the latest Module Handbook.

Examinations board

Issues arising in connection with examinations, credit transfer and academic credential recognition are dealt with by the relevant examinations board/office. For more information, consult the academic advisor(s) indicated below.


Tuition fees at Heidelberg University are payable at the beginning of each semester.

Academic advisor

Dr. Werner Bomm
Grabengasse 3-5, Office 141
Mondays 10 am - 1 pm &: Thursdays 2 – 4 pm
phone: +49 (0)6221 542443

Dr. Kilian Schultes
Grabengasse 3-5, Office 302
Wednesdays 1 – 3 pm
phone: +49 (0)6221 542504


Department of History
Grabengasse 3-5
D-69117 Heidelberg


Secretaries' office

phone: +49 (0)6221 542280
fax: +49 (0)6221 542267

Student representation:

Central Student Representation Office
Albert-Überle-Straße 3-5
D-69120 Heidelberg

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Latest Revision: 2018-03-08
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