Ed McLuskie, Susanne Kinnebrock & Christian Schwarzenegger: European Communication History: An Introduction


This two-part special issue on “European Communication History” involves authors from a variety of linguistic traditions in a journal usually appearing in German. While medien & zeit has published in English before, we note that authors find themselves leaving behind their primary linguistic homes. The act is a move beyond borders even when indigenous materials of historical research may defy the linguistic inflection. This is not to say that a decidedly “European history” is embraced by all authors in this volume. Ambivalence in suggesting commonalities across multiple cultures and nationalities has both academic and societal precedence. Moreover, historical research offers its analyses while political and economic circumstances chart directions and erect barriers between cultural groups and nation-states. In the midst of struggles to keep transnational dimensions afloat, harder lines shape EU nations as conservative movements display an ironic transnationalism through diffuse but recognizably cautious orientations vis-à-vis many faces of diversity and economic similarities. Research offers its claims on whether “Europe” can be a baseline category for communication history while European identity confronts pulls from two opposed directions: familiar lands of the past and uncertain globalization going forward. “Europe,” “history,” and, here, “communication” each lean into contemporary debates as soon as their respective definitions and elaborations appear. “History” refers to indigenous but also mutually defining cultures. “Communication” means struggles for solidarity or the means of transmission and influence, welcome or otherwise. This range of problematic definitions and situations produces replies as this journal asks, “What is European Communication History?”

Add to this question the predicament of the historian locked into the present to reconstruct earlier human experience, perhaps through media content, its channels, or national and regional communication policies. As “facts” of history meet the historian’s acts of interpretation per the hermeneutic traditions, that which survives for the historical narrative depends on the narrative as much as the facts to shed light on what to consider “European” and “communication.” …

Nelson Ribeiro: The Rise of a New Field Researching Communication History in the Iberian Countries

The article demonstrates how Communication History developed in Portugal and Spain demonstrating that, despite the fact both countries were ruled by dictatorships between the 1930s and the 1970s, the field of media studies in general received totally different treatment from the two authoritarian regimes. Moreover, it also demonstrates that after the implementation of democracy Communication History continued mostly on two different paths in the Iberian countries due to the distinct ways in which media studies were integrated in the academia. The different stages of development achieved by the field in the two countries are also explained. Nevertheless, despite all the differences, the author points out common themes that have been researched on both sides of the Iberian border and demonstrates that, despite media history being mostly dominated by nation-bound approaches, today there are common patterns on how it is produced in Portugal and Spain with clear similarities to the work also being carried out in other European countries.

Marcel Broersma: From Press History to the History of Journalism National and Transnational Features of Dutch Scholarship

In this essay the historiography on journalism in the Netherlands is critically examined. Three stages are distinguished in scholarship, moving from press history, i.e. mapping the institutional history of the press, to journalism history to the history of journalism. The latter indicates a shift from history focused on news production and professionalization to an approach that also includes the content, form and style of news coverage. It is argued that this pattern is not necessarily unique to the Dutch case and might be present in other European countries as well. Furthermore, following in the footsteps of Carey and Curran it is contended that a transnational grand narrative of journalism is implicitly in evidence in European historiography. This narrative is a story of continuous progress in which the development of journalism is interpreted as a long road from a partisan press to press freedom, including the establishment of an autonomous profession independent of political and economic powers that obeys more or less the objectivity regime and the practices and formal conventions resulting from it. This article concludes with a plea for a more nuanced history of journalism that takes reflective styles of journalism seriously and demonstrates the interplay between national specificities and transnational universals.

Cornelia Bogen: Structures of European Communication History The Case of Health Communication

This paper presents a comparison of health discourse in times of different media revolutions, focusing in particular on the rise of the “typographeum” during the 18th century, with the emergence of the digital revolution today. Three structures of media evolution are identified in the discourses of professionals and medical laymen over these three centuries, i.e., the communicative structure of contradiction, of sensationalism, and of self-reference. Focusing on melancholy, a main topic in health communication in various countries of Western Europe during the age of enlightenment, and depression in the present, it is argued that the presentation of medical information is probably determined more by media processes and media strategies of attracting the public’s attention, rather than by the increasing knowledge of medical science. Thus it is suggested that when it comes to the analysis of developments within European communication history, evolutional, transnational, and actor-oriented perspectives have to be taken into account.

Rezensionen 3/2011

Klaus Arnold, Walter Hömbert & Susanne Kinnebrock (Hg.): Geschichtsjournalismus. Zwischen Information und Inszenierung. (= Kommunikationsgeschichte, Bd. 21). Münster: LIT Verlag 2010, 320 Seiten.
– rezensiert von Wolfgang R. Langenbucher

Regine Buschauer: Mobile Räume. Medien- und diskursgeschichtliche Studien zur Tele-Kommunikation. (= MedienAnalysen, Bd. 9). Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag 2010, 361 Seiten.
– rezensiert von Christian Schwarzenegger