The challenges of the new information and communication technologies facing history teaching

European History :
16th-20th Centuries

Teaching and research based on WWW, CDs, and CD-ROMs :
Five years of experience at a University level


Interactive means active in the first place.
Please prepare in advance.

Since 1995, my university activities as a professor of European history from the 16th to the 20th century at the Free University of Berlin are based exclusively on the new technological possibilities given by the WWW, audio CDs and CD-ROMs (cf. Archives and the CD-ROM-Collection). As a consequence, I am no longer publishing on paper myself, nor do I accept any longer paperwork from my students. Even dissertations (Ph.D., M.A.) have to be published online respectively on CD-ROM. A clickable list of some chosen examples is given below.

Due to the fact, that my special field in teaching and research since twenty years is historical demography, much of the following presentation is connected to that discipline. And since historical demography has normally much to do with 'éléments de longues durées' (such as changes in birth rates, the level of infant or maternal mortality, the average life expectancies of males or females at a given age, etc.), developments over several generations or centuries are usually taken into consideration. Looking at one century only, e.g. the 16th, the 19th, or the 20th would not be appropriate.

One of the most important demographic aspects of the last four, five centuries is certainly the fundamental change from a centuries old insecure and more or less short to a relatively predictable expanded life time and its fare reaching consequences: for every individual, for families, for societies as a whole. For the first time in history, we can - and should - organize our long lives of usually sixty, seventy, eighty or more mostly good years according to a 'life plan'. - See and listen to further explanations in a clickable list below.

In our time of multimedia, visualization, including sound and motion is crucial to get a message (e.g. the concept of a 'life plan') through. To demonstrate this point, the presentation makes use of:

  • an image data base of some 1200 votive tablets from the 17th to the 20th century from Sammarei, a renowned place of pilgrimage in Bavaria near Passau (a data bank with interactive online research possibilities)
  • an interdisciplinary interurban online team work, concentrating on the topic of the four seasons, including an art museum, meteorology, astronomy, musicology, history, historical demography, and art history.

If you should not yet be familiar with the enumerated topics (votive tablets, the interdisciplinary aspects and working possibilities of the four seasons, but even with connected problems such as copy respectively intellectual property rights, historical source critique when manipulating images [colors, shapes, compression rates] in an image data base, etc.), please do so in advance, making use of the clickable list(s) below. "Interactive means active in the first place."

If time allows, the presentation will take up one further topic. (The relevant material will be available in Andorra.) Since this conference is held under the auspices of The Council of Europe and since participants of many of its member states are present, we will make use of multilingual material which has likewise been prepared under the auspices of the same Council of Europe, i.e. the "26th Council of Europe Exhibition" on "1648 - War and Peace in Europe" (25 October 1998 - 17 January 1999 in Münster and Osnabrück, Westfalia). The referring new media activities were considerable, both on the web as on CDs / CD-ROMs. According to the 1998-Calendar of events of this very Project "Learning and teaching about the history of Europe in the 20th century", an earlier conference, held at Bled, Slovenia 20-25 September 1998 had as its title "Theatrum Europeum 1648-1998 - Simulation of the Treaty of Westphalia. Study the past to understand the present und prepare for the future".

But as far as I can see, the many bits and pieces are purely, if at all, interconnected. On the one hand, we may see elaborate websites, on the other hand video-clips, on the third listen to fine audio-CDs, on the fourth have a look at a multilingual CD-ROM. It is unfortunate that in a time of multimedia (most of) the websites and even the CD-ROM have no (adequate) sound, the video is not interactive, and the audio-CDs include no visualization. Can we - as historians - imagine that our past at any given time really was soundless? That it was without motion? Let's do an experiment and start with the easiest part: i.e. bring at least pictures and sound together. The history will immediately become a different, in my mind a more appropriate one. And our audience propably a more attentive one (cf. again a clickable list below.)

Topic: Background: Historical demography, Life plan, Ars moriendi, etc.

Please get familiar with some basics of historical demography by clicking the blue balls. The 'hard facts' (high infant or maternal mortality, low life expectancy, etc.) can be visualized by 'soft data' (individual illustrations of infant mortality, of various life threatening risks, accidents, etc.). The fundamental change from an insecure to a secure life time and some of its underlying causes and consequences are presented at some length. - If you should encounter difficulties listening to the built-in sound-clips (in mp3-format) when using the Netscape Navigator, try the Microsoft Internet Explorer instead. Please observe that most of the notified CD- or CD-ROM-material is not online (question of copy-rights), but will be available and demonstrated at the conference.

Historical Demography I: CD-ROM plus WWW ('hard' facts)
Example: Seasonal Variations of Births in Traditional Societies
Looking for different test regions (villages, parishes) in Germany in an interactive way?
Historical Demography II: Visualization by Votive tablets ('soft' data)
From the insecure to a secure life time: A fundamental change (Listen 187 KB mp3)
Life time and Free time (Listen 228 KB mp3)
More free time: For physical needs only? (Listen 135 KB mp3)
More leisure time for intellectual and cultural needs (the concepts of a life plan) (Listen 521 KB mp3)
To Live a Fulfilled Life - To Die a peaceful Death: An Ars moriendi for our Time
Plague - Hunger - War: Good Old Days ? (Please test the different plug-ins).

Topic: Votive tablets, Sammarei, the Four Seasons, Property rights

Learn more about votive tablets, about the working pilgrimage place of Sammarei, about the image database, about the team work connected to the Four Seasons, but likewise about copy and intellectual property rights, about source critique when manipulating digitalized images, sound or video clips.

CD-ROM "100 votive tablets from Sammarei"; A student team work, explained by themselves
What are Votive Tablets? Listen to a sound clip from an other CD (471 KB mp3)
Votive Tablets in Berlin: A team work with the Museum of Ethnology (Museum für Volkskunde)
Interactive calculation of areas within votive tablets: A Java program for testing a historical theory
The Votive tablets from Sammarei as historical source (M.A.-Dissertation)
Historical research online: Working with the Sammarei votive tablet database (CeBIT99-presentation)
The Four Seasons online - and on CD - ROM
Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia (Penn State U Libraries)
Intellectual Property Rights (Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography, U of Houston Libraries)
Intellectual Property Online (Electronic Frontier Foundation, San Francisco CA)
World Intellectual Property Organization (Geneva, Switzerland)
Source Critique (working with colors; e.g. The Four Seasons)

Topic: New media publications by students: Webpages and CD-ROMs

Be amazed both by the hard work and the creativity of history students who are willing to work with the new media for their 'term-papers' (web-pages and/or CD-ROMs). They normally have a good understanding of the possibilities to present a historical topic in an appropriate way. When it comes to dissertations, the scientific community has immediate access to the new contributions the world over.

Kindheit in der Frühen Neuzeit (Childhood in the Early Modern Periode; 'term-paper')
Kinder (children) auf Joos de Mompers Vier Jahreszeiten ('term-paper')
Kleidung (garments) in den Vier Jahreszeiten des Joos de Momper ('term-paper')
Reisen zu Zeiten des Joos de Momper (Travelling in the times of Joos de Momper; 'term-paper')
Das Stadttor im Winterbild des Joos de Momper (3D-reconstruction of a fortification tower; 'term-paper')
Die Kunstkammer (The Curiosity Cabinet; 'term-paper')
Berlin im Biedermeier (Berlin in the Biedermeier era; a CD-ROM team-production as 'term paper')
100 votive tablets from Sammarei (a CD-ROM team-production as 'term paper')
The votive tablets from Sammarei as historical source (M.A.-Dissertation)
Säuglingssterblichkeit (Infant Mortality) im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert (Ph.D.-Dissertation)

Topic: The Thirty Years' War 1618-1648 and the Peace of Westfalia 1648

In 1998, much work has been done on a European level to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Peace of Westfalia. Publications of all kind tried to reach intrested people: books, videos, audio CDs, CD-ROMs, web-pages. Let's try to bring some pieces together, starting with web-pages, images, and sound.

1648 - War and Peace in Europe (Council of Europe Exposition; Münster, Osnabrück 1998/99)
1648 - Guerre et paix en Europa (Exposition du Conseil de l'Europe)
1648. Krieg und Frieden in Europa (War and Peace in Europa; a multilingual CD-ROM, 1998)
350 Jahre Westfälischer Friede (350 Years Peace of Westfalia; Museum & U Münster)
'Friedens-Seufftzer und Jubel-Geschrey'. Music for the Peace of Westphalia 1648 (2 CDs, 1998)
Online introduction to the 'Music for the Peace of Westphalia' by Stefan Hanheide, U Osnabrück )
War and Peace: Lieder vom 30jährigen Krieg (Songs from the Thirty Years' War; CD 1998)
Der Dreissigjährige Krieg (The Thirty Years' War; a German CD-ROM, 1997)
Pieter Bruegel t. E.: The Netherlandish Proverbs (a multilingual CD-ROM 1998)

Acknowledgment: I would like to thank Professor Miquel Viladrich, Escola d'Informatica d'Andorra, for his technical help, and Peter Bär, History Department, University of Bern, for his fine collection of links and comments, as to the situation in Switzerland.
A. E. Imhof - 1999-01-04