Welcome from the Head of Department

I would like to extend a warm welcome from the Department of History at Central European University. We are proud that in more than two decades excellent students from all around the globe have chosen our department for their graduate studies. We are delighted to see that afterwards they build successful and international careers in academia and beyond. However, our department looks for students who want more than that.

Methodological challenge: Our programs are designed to give our students a broader perspective beyond their particular research fields and their accustomed method. The multinational character of our faculty and their backgrounds in different academic traditions work strongly in favor of this goal. We have earned international renown for our rigorous training in research skills which offers students a variety of historiographical approaches, different ways of analyzing historical documents and visual materials, and methodological challenges.

Comparative analysis: Our courses provide unique comparative perspectives, for example on the Habsburg, Romanov, and Ottoman Empires, on totalitarian regimes in the twentieth century, on the history of religion, and on numerous aspects of political, social, intellectual, and cultural history. This allows our students not only to discern parallels and to integrate their own research into larger spatial and temporal contexts, but also helps them to gain a deeper understanding of what is peculiar and unique. We encourage our students to learn about unfamiliar periods and regions and to look at seemingly familiar subjects with fresh eyes.

Critical scholarship: Most importantly, we want our students to be critical and self-reflexive. We look at them as young researchers who bring their own views and expertise. We want them to read critically, to write thoughtfully, and we want them to be a real challenge to their course teachers. They are encouraged to reflect on questions of historiography which go beyond mere methodological issues and take them out of academic provincialism: Why do we need history? How does history help us understand our own situation? Whose history are we writing? What is historical truth? What are historical facts? What is the role of the historian in society? What are the ethical implications of history writing?

Intercultural experience: Last but not least “learning” means more to us than course work. Our students come from all over the world and constantly learn from each other, about other cultures, religions, customs, languages, dishes, and drinks, and about other moral and political standards. Discussion takes place in the classroom, in the pubs around the corner, and in the dormitory. Thus, the comparative perspective is not only the essence of our educational program; it is also part of our students’ daily life.

I invite you to look through these pages and learn more about us, our department, and our programs. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have questions. I hope you will follow up by contacting our staff and/or arranging a visit. 

Jan Hennings

Head of the History Department