During the Twentieth Century no other nation has been able to rival the influence exerted by the USA on German history and politics. Despite this fact, Germany's higher education landscape is conspicuous for a paucity of professorships in American history. Until recently there were none in Baden-Wuerttemberg at all. "This is a deficit," says Prof Dr. Jürgen Siebke Rector of the University of Heidelberg. But this "gap in research and teaching" (Siebke) is about to be closed. As of the present winter semester the Department of History of the University of Heidelberg has an endowed chair in American history financed for the first 10 years from private sources, a novelty both in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Germany as a whole.
Rector Siebke sees the endowment as a sign of recognition of the manifold efforts undertaken in Heidelberg to place the study of German-American contacts on a scholarly foundation: "The new chair institutionalizes the research on America pursued here for many years. It opens up new opportunities both to the Department of History and to students. "
The chair is financed by a generous endowment from Curt C. Engelhorn. The former Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Mannheim GmbH and Honorary Senator of the University of Heidelberg has donated 1.5 million marks to the "Society to Promote the Schurman Library for American History at the University of Heidelberg", whose declared aim is to encourage research into American history at the University. The Society will place this sum at the disposal of the University over the space of the next 10 years. After that the chair will be maintained by the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. In line with American custom the chair bears the name of its donor.
Holder of the new professorship is Prof Dr. Detlef Junker, Professor of Modern History and until recently Director of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. Prof. Junker will hardly need time to get acclimated as he is no stranger to Heidelberg. He was Professor of Modern History at the University History Department from 1975 to 1994.
After receiving his doctorate in Kiel in 1967 with a dissertation on Germany's Center Party, he went on to write his Habilitationschrift (the "second dissertation" required in order to receive permission to teach at German universities) at the University of Stuttgart in 1974, entitled The Indivisible Global Market: Economic Interests in the Foreign Policy of the USA 1933 -1941. Using a multitude of previously unpublished sources, the study examines the global economic crisis and the response of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to this challenge.
Since then Detlef Junker has concentrated on American history from the 18th century to the present in his lectures and seminars and has undertaken regular visits to the USA with a view to widening his knowledge and studying source material. From 1994 until his return to Heidelberg he served as Director of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., which promotes research exchanges between Germany and America.
Numerous publications document Detlef Junker's profound engagement with the history of the United States. His biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt is notable both for its scholarly profundity and its stylistic brilliance. In a study entitled From World Power to Superpower: American Foreign Policy in the 20th Century he discusses the developments in world politics in which the USA has played a major role. He is also editor of a series of biographies entitled Personality and History as well as of the Transatlantische Historische Studien, the Publications of the German Historical Institute, Washington and the In-House Publications of the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C..
Detlef Junker was centrally involved in the development of the "Schurman Library for American History at the University of Heidelberg", which he himself established in 1986. The library is named after Jacob Gould Schurman (1854-1941), Honorary Senator of Heidelberg University and American ambassador to Germany between 1925 and 1930. Schurman studied in Heidelberg and remained closely associated with the University all his life.
Today the Schurman Library has over 6,000 volumes on American history. Alongside the newest publications and subscriptions to scholarly journals it also boasts a number of historical editions of "classics" of American historiography, notably an almost complete collection of source editions on American foreign policy and of the papers of outstanding personalities like Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln and Eisenhower. The library also subscribes to William and Mary Quarterly, the most important journal on early American history in the 17th and 18th centuries, which is not otherwise available in Heidelberg.
In 1992 Junker co-founded the "Society to Promote the Schurman Library for American History at the University of Heidelberg". It assembles personalities from the Rhine-Neckar region committed to the cause of promoting a more profound engagement with the United States, its history and its present-day policies and politics. One of its members is the founder of the new chair, Curt C. Engelhorn. The Society's mission is to support the Schurman Library, organize lectures, select appropriate recipients for postgraduate dissertation scholarships and now also to look after the new chair. Rolf Kentner, Chairman of the Society, says that "our aim is to encourage transatlantic dialogue and help cement the ties between the United States and Germany. To do this we must deepen the knowledge we have of each other; the study of American history is an important element in that endeavor."
The aim of the new chair is to promote historical research on the United States and Canada. "The United States is of cardinal significance for Europe and the world," says Prof Dr. Volker Sellin, Director of the Department of History, about motive for establishing the new chair. "This must be adequately reflected in historical studies. Hence the foundation of this new center for the study of American history from the Pilgrim Fathers to the present day."
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Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317