Free University Berlin - Department of History and Cultural Studies: Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut

History of the Institute

The “Historisches Seminar” (History Seminar) was founded in 1948, nearly coinciding with the establishment of the Freie Universität Berlin. Friedrich Meinecke, a renowned historian, not only founded and led FU Berlin as a whole, but would also undertake the management of History Seminar, despite his advanced age of 86 years. Three years later, the seminar became the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institute (FMI). The institute almost immediately attracted important historians. The institute originally focused on Medieval and Modern History and wouldn’t include Ancient History until 1969. Significantly, since its founding the institute has aimed to include all valid schools of history in its teaching. Since 1998, the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institute has an independent academic unit (Wissenschaftliche Einrichtung WE 1) of the Department of History and Cultural Studies.

Koserstraße 20 – classic modern architecture surrounded by villas

Eventually, the FMI grew too large for its original home. In 1951, the institute moved from Boltzmannstraße 3 to Altensteinstraße 40. In 1973, the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institute moved into the newly opened “Rostlaube.” By 1998, FMI settled in its current Bauhaus-style home at Koserstraße 20. Architects Wassili Luckhardt and Hans Joachim Wandelt designed and built Koserstraße 20 in the 1960s. The building is in a prime location, offering a beautiful overlook of trees and villas beside the Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Privy State Archive). In addition to its bright rooms and contemporary equipment, the building also houses the Friederich-Meinecke Institute’s library. The extensive collection includes approximately 160,000 volumes and is one of Europe’s largest libraries of historical literature.

Research at the FMI

At the FMI, the study of history is conducted in the most detailed way possible, through a wide exploration of different schools of thought and methods of historical study. As a matter of principle, FMI holds itself to the highest standard of academic openness and pluralism. For this reason, all eras of history are taught, from Antiquity to Contemporary History. The institute’s members conduct research in the following five subject areas:

Even though these ares of study are sorted chronologically, at the FMI, the borders between these historical eras are not seen as breaks, but as transitions illustrating both the continuity and gradual transformations of history. The historians and students of the FMI seek to understand and analyze these characteristics of history and receive support from the historians of the Central Institutes, the John F. Kennedy-Institute, the Institute of Latin America and the Institute of Eastern Europe.

Study and Teaching

Courses at the FMI are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level with or without the option for Educators’ Training. Courses are offered with a focus on any of the four chronological subject areas of history listed above. Currently, 1,750 students study at FMI, with 950 studying History as their major. Not only are FMI students studying to becomes historians or history teachers, but they are also building a foundation in history that they will use in diverse fields such as media and advertising, adult education, and public relations. FMI headquarters the Erasmus-Socrates program, which has been an important part of the institute for many years, enabling students to study abroad in another European university. Students who are looking for an internship or who need career planning advice receive support from Career Services with information and career preparation courses. In order to satisfy the students’ diverse needs and interests, the members of the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut strive to offer as diverse a selection of courses as possible.

Prof. Dr. Oliver Janz, Dean of the Department of History and Cultural Studies