Media history

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Exhibiting front pages in the Newseum , Washington, DC

Media history in the general sense describes the historical development of the means of communication , especially the mass media (press, radio and television). In a narrower sense, the term describes the research into media history through media studies . Media history is also a branch of communication and history studies , communication studies also using the term “communication history”.

The approaches of the disciplines sometimes differ considerably, which is due in particular to the respective media concept and basic methodological assumptions. Depending on the concept of media, the media stories begin partly in prehistory and early history, partly with the invention of the printing press or only with the advent of electronic media in the 20th century.

The scientific processing of the history of the mass media can be divided into program, organizational, technical and reception history.

History of each medium

The history of the individual media is well documented and researched to varying degrees. The following list provides an overview of articles on the chronological development of the media from writing to the Internet.

History of science

The first scientific studies on the history of the mass media can be made out in the late 17th century, when the first dissertation on the newspaper was written. Since the middle of the 19th century there has been an increasing number of books examining the historical significance of the printed media in Western countries . Often they were written by journalists who so historically underlined the importance of the media. At the same time, historians were working on the history of pamphlets and the press. In the 1920s, there was a first academic establishment in the now emerging newspaper science. An integral analysis of the various media was still largely absent and studies on individual media also predominated in the following years. Only since the 1980s has there been an increase in studies examining the historical significance of different media beyond the individual media. This was due both to the fact that communication studies expanded its subject area more strongly beyond the press and to the emergence of media studies from film, theater and literary studies . Only since the 1990s, also took in the science of history , interest in the historical significance of media.


Media history is pursued by the individual disciplines, but also within the subjects with quite different methods and focuses. For a long time, approaches from the history of organization dominated in Germany, examining the production, distribution and change of individual media (e.g. the history of publishers and newspaper editions, their censorship, propaganda use, etc.). In addition, media history primarily analyzed the development of media content (e.g. the depiction of events in the press or the content of magazines, etc.). While film and media scholars tend to prefer content analyzes of individual media products (e.g. individual films), communication studies also carry out quantitative content analyzes. In addition, there are more and more studies on the technical development of the media, which at the same time highlight the social significance of new media technologies. An important, but historically often elusive field is the history of the impact and reception of media.

Media studies in particular examine the cultural significance of media development. Following on from Marshall McLuhan's studies, you ask how the media changed thinking or perception in society and also look at the respective interpretation of the media by contemporaries. Due to their broad media concept, these studies often have the character of cultural stories. Even the wafer or fire is included as a medium in these media stories. Werner Faulstich even defines priests, messengers or fools as a “human medium” in his media history.

Interactions between media and social developments are of particular interest in historical media history. She asks in particular about the social effects that the media had in each case, for example in the context of revolutions, wars or dictatorships, but also for social norms, roles or groups such as women, urban life or colonized countries. As part of the “Visual History”, she analyzes how typical image households were created and how they became historically powerful. While the history of the media has so far mainly been related to individual Western countries, an international comparative trend is now slowly emerging, which shows the historically different characteristics and illustrates the respective intercultural contacts through the media.


Trade journals

Web links

Commons : Media history  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Media history  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfram Weimer: History of Money. A chronicle with texts and pictures. Ed .: Friedrich Pustet. 1st edition. Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig 1992, p. 272 .
  2. ^ Frank Bösch , Annette Vowinckel : Mediengeschichte , Version: 2.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte , October 29, 2012.
  3. Cf. Jürgen Wilke: Fundamentals of the history of media and communication. UTB, Cologne et al. 2008.
  4. See Jochen Hörisch: A history of the media. From the wafer to the internet. Frankfurt 2004
  5. Cf. Werner Faulstich: Media history from the beginnings to the 3rd millennium. Göttingen 2006
  6. ^ Frank Bösch: Media History. From Asian book printing to television, Frankfurt / M .: Campus-Verlag 2011 , pp. 89–227