Faculty of PhilosophyHistorical Methodology

Students of historical methodology explore historical records and sources of various different types. The degree programme prepares them for the complex and challenging task of conducting fundamental and contemporary research across historical disciplines.

Auxiliary, or methodological historical sciences are those disciplines and methods which help historians evaluate and analyse historical source materials. The most commonly recognised historical methodologies include: Palaeography (study of historical handwriting), diplomatics, the study of documents, records and archives, chronology (establishing the dates of past events), the study of publications, epigraphy (study of ancient inscriptions). genealogy (study of individuals and families), historical geography, heraldry (study of weapons), codicology (the study of handwritten documents), numismatics (the study of coins), sphragistics (study of seals), and the study of new media (historical E-literacy).

Special Features and Characteristics

Long-term cooperation agreements mean that representatives from numerous important cultural and scientific institutions in Heidelberg, in the region, and across the federal state, are regularly involved in the courses offered across the degree programme. Such actors play a critical role in ensuring that specialist topics with relevance to professional practice are integrated in teaching and learning. Such institutions include the University Library and the University Archives, the Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and the Kurpfälzisches Museum in Heidelberg. Further afield, across the region and state more widely, the department collaborates with the Worms town archive, the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen in Mannheim, the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer, the Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe and the UNESCO world heritage site, Kloster Lorsch. Beyond this, the department collaborates with the German Historical Institute Paris. Students are strongly encouraged to complete work placements during the course in order to gain insight into potential areas of employment. Students are also given the opportunity to develop their practical skills by participating in various field trips.

International research and access to high quality research literature is essential for the effective study of historical methodologies. Students are therefore advised to spend a semester or a year abroad during the Bachelor’s degree programme in Historical Methodology. This is not, however, a compulsory component of the academic programme. The exchange programmes organised by the Department of History (e.g. Erasmus programmes, European Liberal Arts Network) supports students should they wish to study abroad. Heidelberg University cooperates with a number of universities across the world at which students might spend a period of study. Lectures and courses attended abroad, and any credits gained, may be recognised by the Department.


The targeted focus on research throughout the course ensures that students of the Bachelor’s degree programme in Historical Methodology become familiar with the basic principles of carrying out independent, academic work. The course is enriched and informed by the experiences of researchers in the specialist research unit 933, “material text cultures”. Lectures and seminars resulting from projects conducted at the Heidelberg Center for Cultural Heritage (HCCH) also form part of the Bachelor’s degree programme in Historical Methodology. 

Heidelberg University focusses on research in the following areas: 

  • Paleography and codicology 
  • Diplomatics

Occupational Areas

Graduates of the Bachelor’s degree programme in Historical Methodology are qualified to work independently in a range of sectors, or to continue on to study at Master’s level. Graduates might pursue a career in any of the following fields: 

  • archiving 
  • historical museums and exhibitions 
  • universities and research institutes 
  • adult education and continuing education 
  • media and communications 
  • cultural institutions 
  • publishing and libraries 
  • journalism and specialist journalism 
  • academic work 
  • administration and public service 

Many of these fields require students to complete a Master’s degree programme before entering employment. Certain professions require that students gain a doctorate. The Master’s degree programme is therefore designed to meet the needs of students looking to apply for doctoral study, as well as those wishing to enter employment.

Degree variants

Bachelor 25%

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Studierende Historische Grundwissenschaften Uni Heidelberg

I am particularly interested in working with original source material that, at first glance, do not always appear to be comprehensible or even legible. The academic programme in Historical Methodology conveys the necessary skills and knowledge to appropriately deal with records and inscriptions.

Lena von den Driesch, 25, Historical Methodology, 5th semester Bachelor