Reinhart Koselleck

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Reinhart Koselleck

Reinhart Koselleck (born April 23, 1923 in Görlitz ; † February 3, 2006 in Bad Oeynhausen ) was one of the most famous German historians of the 20th century. His main research interests were in the fields of history (theory of history), the history of concepts and language , the anthropological foundations of history, and social , legal and administrative history.

Koselleck became known with his dissertation Critique and Crisis , which was influenced by various Heidelberg scholars as well as by Carl Schmitt . The historian is considered to be one of the most original “outsiders” of the subject, as he cannot be assigned to any historical “school”.


Reinhart Koselleck was born as one of three sons of the parents Arno Koselleck and Elisabeth Koselleck into an educated middle class home. He became a member of the Hitler Youth in 1934 and went to the Reiter-HJ after the family moved to Saarbrücken. His entry into class 7B at the Maximiliansgymnasium in Munich is documented on September 26, 1939 , and his exit from class 8B on September 9, 1940. He volunteered for the Wehrmacht in 1941 , was taken prisoner of war in the Soviet Union on May 1, 1945 in Oderberg , Moravia , was sent to Auschwitz for clean-up work on May 8 and was then a prisoner of war in Karaganda in Central Asian Kazakhstan until autumn 1946 .

After returning to Germany, he studied history , philosophy , constitutional law and sociology at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Bristol in England from 1947 to 1953 . His academic teachers included personalities such as Martin Heidegger , Carl Schmitt , Karl Löwith , Hans-Georg Gadamer , Werner Conze , Alfred Weber , Ernst Forsthoff and Viktor Freiherr von Weizsäcker , who represented an enormous scientific diversity.

1954 Reinhart Koselleck was in Heidelberg with the study Critique and Crisis. A study of the political function of the dualistic worldview in the 18th century under Johannes Kühn's doctorate . This doctoral thesis, which was only published in 1959, was noticed in the scientific community, but was also critically suspected by reviewers due to the conservative criticism of democracy and bourgeoisie it contained. Jürgen Habermas criticized in a 1960 review that Koselleck's culturally pessimistic criticism ultimately undermined itself. In addition, the study is dependent on Carl Schmitt and his ideological orientation as a student . "At least we are grateful," wrote Habermas, "to find out how Carl Schmitt [...] assesses the situation today." Later republications of the review no longer contain this passage.

From 1954 to 1956 Koselleck was initially a lecturer at the University of Bristol before he became an assistant at the History Department of Heidelberg University for a year. From 1960 to 1965 Koselleck worked for the working group for modern social history in Heidelberg, where he became chairman in 1986. From 1963 on he took part in the conferences of the interdisciplinary research group “ Poetics and Hermeneutics ”. In 1965 he completed his habilitation with a thesis on Prussia between reform and revolution , which was suggested and supervised by Werner Conze .

In 1966 Koselleck received a call to the Ruhr University in Bochum , where he became professor of political science . In 1968 the full professor returned to Heidelberg University, where he taught modern history. From 1965 Koselleck was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the University of Bielefeld, which was being established, and in 1968 he replaced Werner Conze on the founding committee there. At the same time, he took over the chairmanship of the Department of History, which he headed until the Faculty of History was founded in 1973. In that year he accepted a professorship for the theory of history at Bielefeld University, which he held until his retirement in 1988. The interdisciplinary orientation of his research activities corresponded to the fact that he was involved in the management bodies of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research at Bielefeld University, 1974/75 as managing director.

Guest professorships have taken him to Tokyo , Paris , Chicago (University of Chicago) and New York ( New School for Social Research 1986, 1988; Columbia University 1992). From 1993 Koselleck worked on building up the Genshagen Foundation . Berlin-Brandenburg Institute for Franco-German Cooperation in Europe with. In 1996/97 he worked at the Warburg House in Hamburg and in 1998 at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) in Amsterdam .

Koselleck was a member of numerous academic academies and colleges, such as the German Academy for Language and Poetry (from 1980), the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin (1987–1989) and the Collegium Budapest (1993). He was a full member of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and Arts , from 1979 a corresponding member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences , from 1996 a corresponding member of the British Academy and from 1997 of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences , from 1998 also an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Sciences.

The arranger and big band leader Konrad Koselleck , who is mainly active in the Netherlands, is his son.


Koselleck received numerous scientific honors for his research: in 1974 he was awarded the Reuchlin Prize of the city of Pforzheim . The Universities of Amsterdam (1989), Paris (2003) and Timișoara (2005) awarded him an honorary doctorate . In 1989 he became an honorary senator of Bielefeld University. In the same year he was awarded the Prize of the Historical College . In 1993 Koselleck received the Medal of Honor from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales , and in 1999 the Sigmund Freud Prize for scientific prose . In 2003 he was awarded the Historian Prize of the City of Münster .


From the 1970s onwards, Koselleck, together with Werner Conze and Otto Brunner, was the editor of the eight-volume dictionary of basic historical concepts . The standard work deals with the conceptual history of political-social language in Germany. In addition, he presented works on history , historical anthropology , political iconology and a theory of historical times . But Koselleck was far from being classified in any particular historical direction or branch science. He cooperated interdisciplinary with personalities such as Hans-Georg Gadamer , Paul Ricœur or Hayden White and dealt with interdisciplinary issues such as political iconology based on art history (especially the cult of the dead ).

Koselleck's approach to the history of concepts focuses on the change in the meaning of expressions, with the aim of emphasizing the experience of reality from past epochs. Because this change was particularly great around 1800 as a result of political and industrial revolutions, Koselleck coined the term saddle time for the period from around 1750 to 1850. Old words have therefore acquired new meaning, so that they no longer need translation today. The term threshold time is used synonymously. More recent studies, however, assume that the political-social language underwent another profound structural change in the course of the 20th century, which required new categories of analysis going beyond Koselleck.


As an author

As editor

  • Hayden White : Even Clio seals or the fiction of the factual. Studies on the tropology of historical discourse. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-608-95806-1 (introduction by Reinhart Koselleck).


  • Jan Eike Dunkhase (Ed.): Reinhart Koselleck, Carl Schmitt. The Correspondence - 1953–1983 , Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-518-58741-6 .


  • Ute Daniel : Reinhart Koselleck . In: Lutz Raphael (Hrsg.): Classics of the science of history . Volume 2: From Fernand Braudel to Natalie Z. Davis . Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54104-6 , pp. 166-194.
  • Christof Dipper : The "Basic Historical Concepts". From conceptual history to the theory of historical times . In: Historische Zeitschrift 270 (2000), pp. 281-308.
  • Carsten Dutt, Reinhard Laube (ed.): Between language and history. On Reinhart Koselleck's work. Göttingen 2013, ISBN 978-3-8353-1170-1 .
  • Franz L. Fillafer: The Enlightenment on Trial. Reinhart Koselleck's Interpretation of Enlightenment . In: ders .: Q. Edward Wang (Ed.): The Many Faces of Clio. Cross-Cultural Approaches to Historiography. New York / Oxford 2007, ISBN 978-1-84545-270-4 , pp. 322-345.
  • Manfred Hettling , Bernd Ulrich: Forms of bourgeoisie. A conversation with Reinhart Koselleck . In: Manfred Hettling (Ed.): Citizenship after 1945 . Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-936096-50-3 , pp. 40-60.
  • Bettina Hitzer, Thomas Welskopp (ed.): The Bielefelder social history. Classical texts on a historical program and its controversies . Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-8376-1521-0 .
  • Sebastian Huhnholz: From Carl Schmitt to Hannah Arendt? Traces of origin in Heidelberg and layers of liberalization in the Federal Republic of Reinhart Koselleck's “Critique and Crisis”. (= Scientific treatises and speeches on philosophy, politics and intellectual history , Volume 95). Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-428-85570-4 .
  • Gennaro Imbriano: The Concept of Politics. Modernism as a time of crisis in Reinhart Koselleck's work . Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2018, ISBN 978-3-593-50860-3 .
  • Gennaro Imbriano, Le due modernità. Critica, crisi e utopia in Reinhart Koselleck . DeriveApprodi, Roma 2016, ISBN 978-88-6548-147-9 .
  • Michael Jeismann: The century under your skin. The vanquished make history: on the death of the German historian Reinhart Koselleck . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . February 6, 2006, No. 31, p. 33.
  • Hubert Locher, Adriana Markantonatos (ed.): Reinhart Koselleck and the political iconology . Munich / Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-422-07161-2 .
  • Theo Jung: The new of the modern age is its time: Reinhart Koselleck's theory of temporalization and its critics , in: Moderne. Kulturwissenschaftliches Jahrbuch 6 (2010/2011), pp. 172–184.
  • Ernst Müller, Falko Schmieder: Reinhart Koselleck's concepts and figures of thought . In this. (Ed.): Conceptual history and historical semantics. A critical compendium . Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-518-29717-9 , pp. 278–337.
  • Marian Nebelin: Reinhart Koselleck's picture of Prussia . In: Hans-Christof Kraus (Ed.): The subject of “Prussia” in science and science policy before and after 1945 . Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-428-14045-9 , pp. 333-384.
  • Niklas Olsen: History in the Plural. An Introduction to the Work of Reinhart Koselleck. Berghahn, New York 2012.
  • Willibald Steinmetz: Obituary for Reinhart Koselleck (1923–2006) . In: History and Society . Vol. 32, 2006, pp. 412-432.
  • Historical College Foundation in the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Ed.): Third award of the Historical College Prize. Tasks, scholarship holders, writings from the Historisches Kolleg [in it: laudation by Rudolf Vierhaus for Reinhart Koselleck and the lecture How new is the modern age? von Reinhart Koselleck.] Munich 1991, digitized version (PDF).
  • Rudolf Vierhaus : laudation for Reinhart Koselleck . In: Historical magazine . Vol. 251, 1990, pp. 529-538.
  • Stefan Weinfurter (Ed.): Reinhart Koselleck, 1923–2006. Speeches on the 50th anniversary of his doctorate in Heidelberg . Winter, Heidelberg 2006, ISBN 3-8253-5205-6 .
  • Reinhart Koselleck: Who can be forgotten? The Holocaust Memorial hierarchizes the victims . In: The time . No. 13 , 1998 ( ).
  • Stephan Schlak: gifted concept magician. Reinhart Koselleck's posthumous work - a profound compendium on the reflective use of political and social language . In: The time . No. 50 , 2006 ( ).
  • Christian Meier : In the layers of time. History as experience turned into body: On the death of the Bielefeld historian Reinhart Koselleck . In: The time . No. 7 , 2006 ( ).
  • Hasso Spode : is history a fiction? In: NZZ Folio , 3/1995 (chargeable / archive) Interview with Reinhart Koselleck.

Web links


  1. Niklas Olsen: History in the Plural. An Introduction to the Work of Reinhart Koselleck. Berghahn, New York 2012, pp. 10-12 ( online ).
  2. ^ Matriculation of the Maximiliansgymnasium Munich, school year 1939/40
  3. Ute Daniel : Reinhart Koselleck . In: Lutz Raphael (Hrsg.): Classics of the science of history . Volume 2: From Fernand Braudel to Natalie Z. Davis . Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54104-6 , pp. 166-194, here. P. 167.
  4. Niklas Olsen: History in the Plural. An Introduction to the Work of Reinhart Koselleck. Berghahn, New York 2012, p. 12 f. ( online ).
  5. Sebastian Huhnholz: From Carl Schmitt to Hannah Arendt? Traces of origin in Heidelberg and layers of liberalization in the Federal Republic of Reinhart Koselleck's "Critique and Crisis". Scientific treatises and speeches on philosophy, politics and intellectual history, No. 95 . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-428-85570-4 .
  6. Jürgen Habermas: Notorious progress - misunderstood century: on the criticism of the philosophy of history. Review of: Peter F. Drucker: The Foundation for Tomorrow; Reinhart Koselleck: Criticism and Crisis; Hanno Kesting: Philosophy of History and Cosmopolitanism . In: Merkur , 5, 1960, No. 147, pp. 468-477.
  7. See Marian Nebelin: Preußenbild , p. 334 f.
  8. ^ Deceased Fellows. British Academy, accessed June 20, 2020 .
  9. ^ List of members . In: Yearbook of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences . tape 2006 , no. 1 , 2007, p. 271 .
  10. Ingo Lohuis: Bielefeld University mourns Reinhart Koselleck (press release from Bielefeld University), February 4, 2006, accessed on July 21, 2012.
  11. Christof Dipper : The "Historical Basic Concepts" .
  12. ^ Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann : What the future holds. About Reinhart Koselleck's history. In: Merkur, 63, 2009, pp. 546-550
  13. See Hubert Locher: Thinking in Pictures. Reinhart Koselleck's program on political iconology . Journal for the history of ideas , 3, 2009, issue 4, pp. 81–91 as well as the articles in ders./Adriana Markantonatos (ed.): Reinhart Koselleck and the political iconology . Munich / Berlin 2013.
  14. See Marian Nebelin: Time and History. Historical time in historical theories . In: Andreas Deußer, Marian Nebelin (Ed.): What is time? Philosophical and historical theoretical essays . Berlin 2009, pp. 51-93, especially pp. 61-78.
  15. Ernst Müller, Falko Schmieder: Conceptual History and Historical Semantics (2016), esp. Pp. 383–392.
  16. with foreword by Koselleck. Table of Contents (pdf)
  17. Rites of Remembrance - Review by Harro Zimmermann in: Die Zeit , No. 19, May 5, 1995