Studying history without linguistic competences and reading competence?


Students in Brandenburg will soon be able to start studying history without foreign language skills – according to the will of politicians. Presumably, this policy aims to increase the number of students …




Students in Brandenburg will soon be able to start studying history without foreign language skills – according to the will of politicians. Presumably, this policy aims to increase the number of students, under the rubric “equal opportunities”. Does this innovation really provide the same opportunity for everybody? Or does the policy rather amount to a barrier?



Internationalization without foreign language skills?

According to the new Student and Examination Regulations, dated 4th March 2013, foreign language skills are no longer compulsory but only recommended for the Bachelor’s degree in history. This recommendation has taken effect against the will of the University of Potsdam. Foreign language skills are not compulsory anymore even for students pursuing a (history) teaching degree for secondary schools.[1] Until recently, Potsdam University had followed the policy common at most German universities: language skills in Latin and in two other modern languages were compulsory or had to be acquired until the final examinations.[2] But how, one wonders, are students without language skills supposed to prepare for courses adequately or write (term) papers which require reading texts in foreign languages? Should they search the Internet for translations of source texts (in most cases almost certainly in vain) during courses using their smartphones, or perhaps use Google Translate to furnish distorted translations while their peers doing source-critical work on the foreign-language texts? Nowadays, students rarely attend the recommended courses voluntarily. In the past, these courses were fully accredited. The situation becomes even more problematic if one imagines a student having no clue of Latin, but being obliged to study and interpret Latin sources – which is everyday life when studying antiquity or the Middle Ages.
Internationalization is certainly most welcome. But how can a German student study abroad without at least a basic knowledge of foreign languages? History as school subject taught bilingually enjoys political support.[3] Teaching bilingual history classes requires the ability to read even difficult foreign language sources and literature and to prepare such materials for students. Crucially, this doesn’t fit the elimination of foreign language skills as a study requirement.

Soaring A-level marks, plummeting skills?

Maybe this is not actually a problem, because highschool graduates are achieving better and better marks. The percentage of graduates with an average of 1,0 (the highest possible average in Germany) increased by 40 percent between 2006 and 2012.[4] The frontrunner is Berlin, where the percentage of 1,0 graduates has more than quadrupled.[5] Hence, it could be expected that today’s university entrants are better prepared than previously. However, educational researchers refer to a discrepancy between the marks and actual performance. Among other factors, Elmar Tenorth refers to the “Level one” Study (2011), which correlates school-leaving certificates and literacy levels.[6] 21,4 percent of the group with a higher educational qualification had “deficient” reading and writing skills. Tenorth calls this a “masked illiteracy”: school certificates attest nonexistent skills. The current educational policy discussion about a one-year general studies course indicates that university entrants are generally not qualified to study.

A circulus vitiosus – a vicious circle!

History is and will remain a degree course involving a lot of reading – even if there is much talk of turns.[7] Lecturers are more and more confronted with students with a significant lack of the skills needed to write their (term) papers. Many students are dissatisfied if they are awarded a 3,0. That’s why some lecturers tend to give better marks to avoid time-consuming discussions about marks. This practice distorts actual performance levels among university students. In the long run, this could result in a vicious circle: less skilled teachers – more less skilled highschool graduates [8] – less skilled teachers, etc. One question remains: Do the measures described actually serve the quality of university education?



  • Rainer Bölling, ‘Vom Höhenflug der Noten’. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 17.07.2014, p. 6.
  • ‘Super Abi, aber nichts dahinter. Notenschnitt steigt – Erstsemester wissen weniger’. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 15.06.2014, p. 1.
  • Elmar Tenorth, ‘Wie Erfolge und Qualität konstruiert werden’. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 18.6.2014, p. 6.


External link


[1] Access to higher education is regulated in the Higher Education Law of Brandenburg (28th April 2014), cf., (last accessed 16.01.2015). According to s 9(2), special foreign language skills are not necessary (with the exception of foreign applicants). Only s 9(4) mentions the possibility of conducting performance tests. These tests, however, must be taken only students seeking to pursue art and design, sports, and language studies. Prospective History students are not required to sit these tests..
[2] See, for instance, the Ruhr-University Bonn: Student Recommendations 27.01.2014, cf. (last accessed 16.01.2015) Some universities are demanding the introduction of foreign language skills performance tests, e.g. LMU Munich, cf. (last accessed 16.01.2015) According to the Higher Education Law of Berlin (20th May 2011) s 10(5), the universities must demand qualification requirements. The Humboldt University of Berlin expects students to possess skills in two modern foreign languages and in Latin.
[3] Cf. Bärbel Kuhn, ‘Einführung’. In: Zeitschrift für Geschichtsdidaktik 8 (2009), pp. 6-11, esp. p. 6. The advantage of bilingual classes seems to be definitely questionable in the case of history learning; Markus Bernhard, ‘Bilingualität und historisches Lernen. Förderung von historischen Kompetenzen oder soziales Differenzkriterium’. In: Jan Hodel / Béatrice Ziegler (Eds.), Forschungswerkstatt Geschichtsdidaktik 09. Beiträge zur Tagung “geschichtsdidaktisch empirisch 09″ (Bern 2011), pp. 214-223; Wolfgang Hasberg, ‘Sprache(n) und Geschichte. Grundlegende Annotationen zum historischen Lernen in bilingualer Form.’ In: Zeitschrift für Geschichtsdidaktik 8 (2009), pp. 52-72.
[4] Cf. ‘Super Abi, aber nichts dahinter. Notenschnitt steigt – Erstsemester wissen weniger’. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung vom 15.06.2014), p. 1.
[5] Cf. Rainer Bölling, ‘Vom Höhenflug der Noten.’ In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 17.07.2014, p. 6.
[6] Cf. Elmar Tenorth, ‘Wie Erfolge und Qualität konstruiert werden’. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 18.6.2014, p.6. See also the following citations. Tenorth, an educational researcher, also refers to other studies which confirm the discrepancy between university reports and skills.
[7] Michael Sauer, The science of history turns. In: Public History Weekly 2 (2014) 38.
[8] See, for instance, the Hattie-study, in which the knowledge, intellectual and verbal skills, and empathy of the teacher correlate positively with the effects on learners, cf. John Hattie, ‘Lernen sichtbar machen’. Überarbeitete deutschsprachige Ausgabe von Visible Learning, Hohengehren 2013, pp. 136 ff.


Image Credits
© Andreas Morlok /

Recommended Citation
Fenn, Monika: Studying history without adequate foreign language skills? In: Public History Weekly 3 (2015) 4, DOI:

Copyright (c) 2015 by De Gruyter Oldenbourg and the author, all rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial, educational purposes, if permission is granted by the author and usage right holders. For permission please contact: elise.wintz (at)


In Brandenburg werden demnächst Studierende ohne Fremdsprachenkenntnisse ein Geschichtsstudium beginnen können – das ist der Wille der politisch Verantwortlichen. Dahinter steckt vermutlich der Grund, die Studierendenzahlen zu erhöhen – nach außen verbreitet unter dem Stichwort “Chancengleichheit”. Bedeutet diese Neuerung wirklich “gleiche Chance für alle” oder ist das nicht vielmehr ein Hindernis?



Studium und Internationalisierung ohne Fremdsprachenkenntnisse?

Entgegen dem Willen der Universität Potsdam dürfen in der neuen Studien- und Prüfungsordnung für das Bachelorstudium im Fach Geschichte fortan Fremdsprachenkenntnisse nur noch empfohlen werden. Das gilt auch für das Lehramt Geschichte an Sekundarstufe I und II mit dem Fach Geschichte (Studien- und Prüfungsordnung vom 04.03.2013).[1] Bislang war es so wie an den meisten Universitäten der Bundesrepublik: Fremdsprachenkenntnisse in Latein und zwei weiteren Fremdsprachen wurden verpflichtend vorausgesetzt oder mussten zumindest nachgeholt werden.[2] Wie sollen sich Studierende ohne Fremdsprachenkenntnisse auf die Lehrveranstaltungen angemessen vorbereiten oder Hausarbeiten verfassen, die die Lektüre fremdsprachiger Texte erfordern? Sollen sie im Internet – in den Seminaren sicherlich mit dem Smartphone – nach Übersetzungen der Texte suchen (meist wohl vergeblich) oder mit Hilfe des Google-Translators (sinnentstellte) Übersetzungen anfertigen, während die anderen Studierenden an den fremdsprachigen Texten quellenkritisch arbeiten? Freiwillig besuchen die Studierenden die empfohlenen Fremdsprachenkurse an der Universität jedenfalls kaum. Die zuvor immer voll ausgebuchten Kurse werden inzwischen kaum mehr nachgefragt. Die Situation verschärft sich, wenn es beim Studium der Antike oder des Mittelalters an lateinische Quellen und deren Auslegung geht. Die Internationalisierung der Universitäten ist sehr zu begrüßen. Wie aber soll ein deutscher Studierender im Ausland ohne ausreichende Grundkenntnisse der jeweiligen Landessprache studieren? Politisch initiiert und unterstützt ist die Einführung des bilingualen Sachfachunterrichts Geschichte.[3] Das Unterrichten erfordert die Fähigkeit, selbst schwierige fremdsprachige Quellen und Literatur zu lesen und für Lernende aufzubereiten. Das passt nicht so ganz mit der Beseitigung von Fremdsprachenkenntnissen als Voraussetzung für das Studium zusammen.

Höhenflug der Noten im Abi – Absturz der Kompetenzen?

Vielleicht ist das alles aber auch kein Problem, denn die AbiturientInnen erreichen immer bessere Noten. Der Anteil von AbgängerInnen mit einem Abiturschnitt von 1,0 ist zwischen 2006 und 2012 um vierzig Prozent gestiegen.[4] Spitzenreiter ist Berlin, wo sich der Anteil der 1,0-AbsolventInnen mehr als vervierfacht hat.[5] Man dürfte erwarten, dass StudienanfängerInnen nun gebildeter als früher sind. Die Bildungsforschung verweist aber auf eine Diskrepanz zwischen Noten und tatsächlicher Leistung. Elmar Tenorth nennt u.a. die 2011 veröffentlichte “Level one”-Studie, in der schulische Abschlüsse und “Literalitätsniveaus” miteinander in Beziehung gesetzt wurden.[6] Das Lesen und Schreiben war bei immerhin 21,4 Prozent der Gruppe mit höherem Bildungsabschluss “fehlerhaft”. Tenorth spricht gar von einem “verdecktem Analphabetismus”: Es würden mit den Zeugnissen “Kompetenzen bescheinigt, die nicht existieren”. Die aktuelle bildungspolitische Diskussion darüber, dem Studium eine Art Studium-generale-Jahr vorzuschalten, signalisiert, dass von einer allgemeinen Studierfähigkeit der BewerberInnen offenbar kaum ausgegangen werden kann.

Ein circulus vitiosus!

Das Geschichtsstudium ist und bleibt ein Lesestudium – auch wenn von vielen turns die Rede ist.[7] Die DozentInnen sind nun immer häufiger damit konfrontiert, dass Studierende erhebliche Kompetenzdefizite beim Anfertigen schriftlicher Arbeiten aufweisen. Da viele bei Note 3,0 schon erschüttert sind, neigen einige Gutachter dazu, bessere Noten zu geben, um zeitraubende Gespräche zu vermeiden. So wird auch an der Universität die tatsächliche Leistung in der Notenvergabe verwischt. Langfristig könnte so ein Teufelskreis entstehen: Lehrkräfte mit weniger Kompetenzen – mehr Schulabgänger mit weniger Kompetenzen[8] – Lehrkräfte mit weniger Kompetenzen usw. Es bleibt zu fragen, ob der Qualität der allgemeinen Hochschulbildung mit den beschriebenen Maßnahmen gedient ist.



  • Bölling, Rainer: Vom Höhenflug der Noten. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung vom 17.07.2014, S. 6.
  • Super Abi, aber nichts dahinter. Notenschnitt steigt – Erstsemester wissen weniger. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung vom 15.06.2014, S. 1.
  • Tenorth, Elmar: Wie Erfolge und Qualität konstruiert werden. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung vom 18.6.2014, S. 6.


Externer Link


[1] Im Brandenburgischen Hochschulgesetz (28.04.2014) ist der Zugang zum Hochschulstudium geregelt, vgl. (zuletzt am 16.01.2015). In § 9 Abs. 2 sind keine besonderen Sprachkenntnisse aufgeführt (außer für ausländische Bewerberinnen und Bewerber). Lediglich in Abs. 4 wird die Möglichkeit weiterer Voraussetzungen in Form von Eignungsprüfungen – aber nur für künstlerische Fächer, Sport und „sprachwissenschaftliche“ Fächer – eingeräumt. Darauf beruft sich das Ministerium bei der Ablehnung der Zugangsvoraussetzung für das Geschichtsstudium.
[2] Z. B. Ruhr-Universität Bochum: Hinweise zum Studium vom 27.01.2014, vgl. (zuletzt am 16.01.2015). Einige Universitäten verlangen Eignungstests unter Einbezug der Fremdsprachenkenntnisse: z. B. LMU München vgl. (16.01.2015). Nach dem Berliner Hochschulgesetz (20.05.2011) § 10 Abs. (5) obliegt es den Universitäten, Eignungs- und Qualifikationsvoraussetzungen zu fordern. Die Humboldt-Universität „erwartet“ zumindest Kenntnisse in zwei modernen Fremdsprachen und Latein.
[3] Vgl. Kuhn, Bärbel: Einführung. In: Zeitschrift für Geschichtsdidaktik 8 (2009), S. 6-11, hier S. 6. Die Vorteile des bilingualen Sachfachunterrichts für historisches Lernen erscheinen allerdings durchaus fragwürdig; Bernhardt, Markus: Bilingualität und historisches Lernen. Förderung von historischen Kompetenzen oder soziales Differenzkriterium. In: Hodel, Jan / Ziegler Béatrice (Hrsg.): Forschungswerkstatt Geschichtsdidaktik 09. Beiträge zur Tagung „geschichtsdidaktik empirisch 09“, Bern 2011, S. 214-223; Hasberg, Wolfgang: Sprache(n) und Geschichte. Grundlegende Annotationen zum historischen Lernen in bilingualer Form. In: Zeitschrift für Geschichtsdidaktik 8 (2009), S. 52-72.
[4] Vgl. „Super Abi, aber nichts dahinter. Notenschnitt steigt – Erstsemester wissen weniger“. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung vom 15.6.2014, S. 1.
[5] Vgl. Bölling, Rainer: Vom Höhenflug der Noten. In: FAZ vom 17.7.2014, S. 6.
[6] Vgl. Tenorth, Elmar: Wie Erfolge und Qualität konstruiert werden. In: FAZ vom 18.6.2014, S. 6. Hier auch die folgenden Zitate. Der Bildungswissenschaftler verweist auf weitere Studien, die den Befund einer Diskrepanz von Hochschulzeugnis und Kompetenzen stützen.
[7] Michael Sauer: ‘The science of history turns’. In: Public History Weekly 2 (2014) 38.
[8] Vgl. dazu etwa die Hattie-Studie, nach der Wissen, intellektuelle und verbale Fähigkeiten sowie Empathie der Lehrkraft positiv mit den Effekten bei Lernenden korrelieren, vgl. Hattie, John: Lernen sichtbar machen. Überarbeitete deutschsprachige Ausgabe von Visible Learning, Hohengehren 2013, S. 136f.



© Andreas Morlok /

Empfohlene Zitierweise
Fenn, Monika: Geschichtsstudium ohne Fremdsprachenkenntnisse und Lesekompetenz? In: Public History Weekly 3 (2015) 4, DOI:

Copyright (c) 2015 by De Gruyter Oldenbourg and the author, all rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial, educational purposes, if permission is granted by the author and usage right holders. For permission please contact: elise.wintz (at)

The post Studying history without linguistic competences and reading competence? appeared first on Public History Weekly.



Bridge between Journal and Weblog

An Interview with Marko Demantowsky (PHW) by Mareike König (DHI Paris)

We are an international and multilingual journal that addresses the public use of history; our contributors are historians who are specialists in fields of the didactics of history and historical culture.


Die originale deutschsprachige Variante des Interviews vom 5.2.2015
finden Sie auf dem Weblog des Deutschen Historischen Instituts in Paris.
Siehe hier.


Mareike König (MK): Public History Weekly (PHW) is a BlogJournal devoted to the topics of history and the didactics of history that is available under Open Access at the website of the Oldenbourg/De Gruyter publishing house. What exactly is a BlogJournal or, in other words, what makes Public History Weekly a blog and in what respect is it more like a journal?

Marko Demantowsky (MD): We are an international and multilingual journal that addresses the public use of history; our contributors are historians who are specialists in the field of the didactics of history and historical culture. Since our launch in September 2013, we have published 63 issues, each of which contains one to two so-called initial contributions. To date, we have received 190 commentaries in response, most of which are very detailed and competent.

Indeed, the format is a new kind of hybrid, closer to a weekly magazine than a weblog. The initial question was: how should a journal in our field, today, be designed, in order to reach as many readers as possible? Many of the features of weblogs appeared, to us, to be extremely useful for this new kind of journal. And the spirit of blogging—writing unpolished texts, making oneself vulnerable — seemed to be a good approach to reach interested readers as well.

But, of course, there are important differences, compared to a weblog, particularly in terms of publication frequency and format standards. Readers can be sure that:

  • the contributions are published with never-failing regularity at a specified time, in fact a specified minute: Thursdays, at 8 am CET.
  • they have a prescribed format and meet all the requirements of academic publishing.
  • the comments are supervised editorially. PHW only publishes material that has been examined closely for formal aspects and content.
  • the comments are also published at specified times.
  • comments can be made with complete freedom. However, for most contributions, we ask one or two experts for their opinions (peer comment).

But we also differ, naturally, from specialist academic journals in several respects:

  • Our thematic articles start with an initial contribution that should be “offensive”, not isolated, and aim at a direct discussion. The subsequent indexing in scientific databases, undertaken according to all the rules in the book, then refers to the complete text unit and includes the initial contributions, comments and author responses (“Replik”). These multi-perspective, controversial texts are, in my opinion, a completely new text category. In order to achieve this, the thread must also be closed after the author responds. Social digital publishing doesn’t have to be a never-ending meandering event; the whole thing can only be cited once it is completed (see also Groebner’s criticism of digital publishing).
  • We work with a stable team of “core authors” who commit themselves for at least two years. This unique feature has been chosen for very pragmatic reasons: a reliable weekly publication date requires an absolutely reliable infrastructure for the editors and authors. With the help of our team, we can develop editorial plans 12 months in advance. In addition, authors who write for us face completely new challenges that result in a professionalization process related to the specific format. Our authors receive intensive support in this process from the editorial board and at the yearly Editorial Meetings in Basel. In addition guest authors repeatedly publish additional posts as surprise.

And, finally: we are not a classical publisher’s production and are not anchored to publishers’ sites; instead we are a co-operation project between the School of Education at the Northwestern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences and Arts and the De Gruyter Oldenbourg publishing house. This is why the website is neutral; the technical infrastructure, however, is provided and maintained by the publisher. This also expresses our novel hybrid character. We are putting the useless confrontation between “old” science publishers and new cultures of publication behind us. De Gruyter Oldenbourg, and in particular Martin Rethmeier, deserve a great deal of credit for undertaking this (expensive) experiment.

MK: The subtitle of PHW is: “BlogJournal for History and Civics Education”. Which topics are dealt with in the weekly issues? How do you recruit your authors?

MD: This subtitle needs to be modified. On Twitter () and Facebook (), we appear as a BlogJournal on Public Use of History and History & Civics Education. However, the explicit connection to the didactics of history makes sense to us because we feel that including what happens in schools in the critical debate on historical culture is important for both sides and is—at least in the Anglo-Saxon community—new. Teaching history at school is a sublime expression of the predominating underlying historical narrative and it requires critical integration into historical culture. Similarly, we won’t be able to understand the recipients of material and conceptions offered by museums or the mass media if we ignore the fact that the teaching of history a school is an instance of historical socialization. We want to merge both discourses at PHW.

Our core authors have complete freedom of choice for the topics of their individual contributions. Of course, the yearly meetings and discussions there help to decide on a promising spectrum of possible topics, but in terms of text submission, the decisive factor is the pure passion, far removed from traditional academic activities, with which authors are prepared to get involved with us.

In a first step, we made a conscious effort to contact relatively young, prestigious, but not necessarily web-oriented professors in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland and encountered a great deal of sympathy, for which I am, after two years, still very grateful. In a second step, in 2014, we expanded our team to include authors writing in other languages. The aim was to gain leading representatives of the separate discourses on Public History from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, and USA. This has also been successful. In autumn 2015, PHW will undertake a further step towards globalization.

MK: A quick look at the statistics, if this is permitted: How often is the weekly issue of the BlogJournal accessed? Which topics are particularly favored, in terms of access and the commentaries?

MD: A few months ago, my response to this question was less reserved than today. This is because I don’t really trust very much the counting methods available to us. We have our own WordPress counter, and the WordPress Add-on Google Analytics Summary as well as the Google Analytics Tool itself are also available. Each with its own counts. If one sticks to the Google tool, which seems to me to be the most reliable, then it is important to remember that users with cookie blockers won’t be included. In terms of our tech-savvy readership, this is probably a significant number. Thus, the numbers should be treated with caution and the data are, basically, hard to verify … Google Analytics, however, offers several interesting features that allow us to recognize tendencies. At a conservative estimate, we had last year at least 4000 regular readers (approx. 32 000 unique clients). Last September, we switched to multilingual publication and, since then, the readership has grown and has become, naturally, more international.

In actual fact, the numbers of accesses for the various contributions differ greatly. In each case, this is not a good/bad criterion; specific features attract particular attention. Nevertheless, since 2013 real PHW stars who can claim stable and great success have developed; for instance, Prof. Dr. Markus Bernhardt, who was honored by our Advisory Board for his work in 2013/14. For all our authors, however, topics that promise important new information, argue a special case, and offer points of attack are really successful. Our articles are truly objectionable, if they work well. One last point: In the first few months, interest was very much focused on individual contributions; now, however, we can see that interest has become more diversified. This is due, on the one hand, to the increased number of contributions (79, to date) and, on the other, to features that were added later, after the launch. These include the menus for issues and contents, which make the variety and number of our articles constantly available, just like a classical list of contents. Thus, we are no longer just a kind of weekly magazine, but, rather, and increasingly, a pool for ideas and incentives.

MK: The contributions to the BlogJournal can be commented upon, but not randomly. They are supervised by the editors and, according to the guidelines, they should represent a “serious confrontation with the initial contribution”. Commentaries are solicited sometimes, and they are only activated during office hours. After a few weeks, the commentary thread is closed. Why do you have these restrictions?

MD: I’ve given some of the answers above. I’d now just like to go into more detail about one important aspect: social media have a poor reputation outside of the “social media bubble”. This is, naturally, partly based on a certain basic culturally conservative aloofness towards the web. In part, it is also, and naturally, based on more or less substantial experience with truly undesirable developments in communication within the social media, above all with internet trolling. Our main task is, thus, is to reduce this resistance and to emphasize the academic potential beyond these problems. We really see ourselves as bridge builders. We have, therefore, constructed a tool that exploits the benefits of social media for academic communication and, at the same time, tries to reduce the risks. We achieve this by a small retardation of real time and through careful and very liberal moderation.

MK: What have you experienced with the commentary function? How difficult is it to persuade scientists to write commentaries?

MD: Very often, really difficult. My response above provides some of the reasons. However, what we can already say is that good (in terms of the format: objectionable) contributions don’t have to wait long before commentaries come in. However, we are very interested in inviting additional experts to join the discussion, even though their over-stretched time budgets might make them reluctant to do this. Some prominent voices also basically expect to be invited. So much for the peer comments.

There is a further factor, and it also relevant for the initial contributions: many colleagues are quite unused to write for a real public—as we reach it, for sure subject-specifically. You wake up from writing texts for collective volumes and are supposed to write something for us, if possible from one day to the next. So fast, so public, so controversial! This obviously evokes feelings of trepidation in some. At the moment, there is no alternative to this, but it also characterizes the great challenge that highly specialized science is suddenly facing, today more than ever in the age of digital transition. The professional dimension of a “public intellectual” is something that many colleagues are completely unaware of.

MK: Do you have any tips and suggestions for bloggers who would like to attract more comments? What should they pay attention to? Or, are comments over-rated?

MD: No, comments are not over-rated; in fact, they are the tonic of digital and social publishing.

The basic problem in persuading prestigious researchers to write comments is one of economics: Time is so limited, the backlog of work is so big, that one has to choose a criterion for accepting or rejecting extra tasks. If the chosen criterion is not financial, then it is usually reputation enhancement. Through our cooperation with a respected academic publisher, through our choice of the renowned core author team and the members of the Advisory Board, and through our investment in providing a database indexing and an appropriate layout, we have tried to solve the reputation problem. This was and still is a major challenge, particularly from the perspective of establishing a sustainable allocation of reputation! I think we are on a good track.

MK: Can a hybrid between a blog and a journal, as exemplified by the “Public History Weekly”, help blogging to become more academically acceptable?

MD: Yes, I hope so. More generally, the hope is that increasingly more colleagues will use PHW’s bridge to accept communication in the social media, to understand the potential that these formats offer and also to recognize how important it is to be heard and be visible there.

MK: Do you blog yourself? If so, about what?

MD: As the managing editor of PHW, I expose myself to the evaluation and discussion of my own initial contributions. That sometimes leads to a double blind, but I also enjoy it. Because of my time-consuming tasks in Basle, my “normal” academic workload, and my editorial work at PHW, I can’t maintain my own blog (but my chair, however, does have one). In an ideal world, I would have the time for it, and I hope that it will be possible, at some point. I understand and value the principle of academic blogging and I really greatly admire those colleagues who blog; I don’t want to name them individually here, but they know whom I mean.

MK: How is the BlogJournal going to proceed? What are your plans for the future? Will the scales tip more towards a journal or more towards a blog?

MD: The first thing we will do is cultivating our hybrid nature. I believe that this is the only way to exercise our function as a bridge. The cooperation agreement runs till 2016, and it also guarantees our financing. My university has invested a lot of money in the editorial work, and the publisher has done the same for the technical infrastructure and marketing. At the moment, we don’t know what will happen after 2016. Our novel multilinguality, in particular, has created costs that we did not originally budget for. This spring, we will start a crowdfunding, and it would be really important for the project to receive contributions from as many of our readers as possible.

MK: Many thanks for this interview!


This interview is a contribution to the blog parade “Wissenschaftsbloggen – zurück in die Zukunft #wbhyp”. Marko Demantowsky replied in writing to the interviewer’s questions.


Image Credits
Altmodische Telegrafenleitung (2008) by Klaus Stricker / Pixelio.

Recommended Citation
A Bridge between Journal and Weblog. An Interview instead of an Editorial by Mareike König with Marko Demantowsky. In: Public History Weekly 3 (2015) 4, DOI:

Translation by Jana Kaiser

Copyright (c) 2015 by De Gruyter Oldenbourg and the author, all rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial, educational purposes, if permission is granted by the author and usage right holders. For permission please contact: elise.wintz (at)

The post Bridge between Journal and Weblog appeared first on Public History Weekly.