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.” …