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Commercialised History: Popular History Magazines in Europe

Approaches to a Historico-Cultural Phenomenon as the Basis for History Teaching

Edited By Susanne Popp, Jutta Schumann and Miriam Hannig

This volume of essays is the result of the EU project «EHISTO», which dealt with the mediation of history in popular history magazines and explored how history in the commercialised mass media can be used in history teaching in order to develop the media literacy and the transcultural competences of young people. The volume offers articles which for the first time address the phenomenon of popular history magazines in Europe and their mediating strategies in a foundational way. The articles are intended as introductory material for teachers and student teachers. The topic also offers an innovative approach in terms of making possible a European cross-country comparison, in which results based on qualitative and quantitative methods are presented, related to the content focus areas profiled in the national magazines.
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Popular history magazines between information and entertainment. A qualitative study on the expectations of consumers

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Miriam Hannig

Popular history magazines between information and entertainment. A qualitative study on the expectations of consumers

1. Introduction

In the year 2014, hundred years after the ‘great seminal catastrophe of the 20th century’ (George F. Kennan), the periodical racks in supermarkets, kiosks and station bookshops throughout Europe paint a similar picture: cover pages showing battle scenes, trenches, prominent political actors such as the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, or also the assassination of Sarajevo are supposed to attract the buying interest of potential customers to the corresponding history magazine. But who are these ‘potential customers’? And which one of them actually turns towards the magazine and therewith gets out their wallet? Which considerations and attitudes influence the purchase decision for a specific magazine?

So far, relatively little can be said about this,1 since popular history magazines have only recently attracted the attention of historians and history ← 335 | 336 → education experts,2 of researchers in the field of communication and media. In this context it is not surprising that empirical research on the recipients of the magazines has so far not been carried out. This article shall be a first contribution to empirical considerations on the recipients of popular history magazines. The aim is to get to know the audience of the magazines and learn more about their motivation to ‘consume’ history magazines, about their reading behaviour, the favoured topics and preferred magazines. Moreover, since 65% of the survey’s participants are or were students training to be teachers it is interesting whether and how the consumers of the magazines could imagine them being used in school. Empirically, this study is based on group discussions, which were held at Augsburg University – with readers of history magazines – in August 2014.

In the following, the methodology and the participants will first be addressed before the results of the group discussion are illustrated. In the concluding considerations starting points for further research in this area will be presented.

2. Methodology

In order to outline the recipients and their demands on the magazines, it does not suffice to merely consider the data on the buyers published by the publishers, which most of the time only mirror the subscribers. It became apparent in the study that many recipients of the magazines are not also buyers at the same time. The magazines are passed on, lent out or given away especially among students and young professionals, who formed the majority of the participants. All these recipients are not depicted in the magazines’ own collection of data, which aims at presenting the magazine to the advertising customers in a highly profitable way.

In order to also include these recipients, readers of history magazines were found in the university courses offered by the Chair of History Didactics who would be prepared to participate in a roughly 50 minute group discussion. Since the students were also asked to find further readers in ← 336 | 337 → their circle of friends, 20 people could be gathered for three group discussions in August this year: two groups, one with six and the other one with seven participants, consisted of persons who study or have studied history and/or history didactics: eight of the participants study history as a fourth subject, five of the participants with a main focus on didactics.3 The youngest participant was born in 1994, the oldest participant in 1984.

A third group with seven participants was formed with further readers with professional backgrounds in all areas. Accordingly, a student of mathematics (born in 1990), a graphic designer (born in 1985), and a physiotherapist (born in 1956) took part in the survey. In this group, the age structure reached from participants born in 1990 to participants born in 1955. In contrast to the magazines’ analysis, where the gender ratio among the readers is roughly 62% male and 38% female buyers,4 the survey here was balanced. Ten men and ten women volunteered to participate in the discussion.

A qualitative structure was chosen for the study due to the knowledge interest. The aim of the study was to offer the recipients the possibility to freely talk about their reading habits and opinions about magazines so as to express their motives of use, their expectations, evaluations and their self-conception. This is enabled by a qualitative approach since it is – when it comes to the aims mentioned above – superior to the standardised quantitative methods. Of course, it has to be considered in this respect that the results at hand have emerged in the scope of a very small group of discussion participants and have to be further verified. However, this contribution ← 337 | 338 → may pose a useful starting point as a first approach to the actual recipients of history magazines.5

3. Results

Each group was questioned about their ‘consumer behaviour’ regarding popular history magazines, their favoured topics, the further use after having read the history magazines as well as their assessment of the use of popular history magazines in school. Additionally, the participants were presented with six magazines on the topic ‘World War One’ on which the participants were supposed to comment. Thereby, possible unconscious attitudes towards the magazines, personal preferences and dislikes were supposed to be recorded. A further aspect of discussion was the extent to which very-special-interest magazines are familiar and whether their partially ideological alignment is known or rather suspected. Furthermore, two Brazilian magazines were presented and the participants were asked about the impressions they made on them.

3.1 Consumer behaviour: when and where are popular history magazines bought?

Already at the age of 12 three students received a subscription of G/GESCHICHTE, whereby the parents of two participants have already cancelled the subscription. For one student the subscription is still active (born in 1988 and now a father himself) his mother is still paying for it. Two further participants bought a subscription (GEO EPOCHE and ← 338 | 339 → G/GESCHICHTE respectively) during their studies, whereby one subscription has already been cancelled ‘since it is more economical to buy the issues individually instead of receiving twelve issues per year, when, in the end, I don’t read them all’6. A further participant mentioned that she intensively read P.M. HISTORY during her school years, because the history presented by the magazine was processed in an interesting way and was far more exciting than the school book. In her opinion, the magazines have now become ‘too expensive and too popular scientific’ and for her taste contain ‘too much Hitler’.

The expense factor is of importance in all statements: in general, the magazines are read with pleasure, but the participants are not always willing to or cannot always afford this. They cancel the subscriptions or their parents are still paying for them, they borrow the magazines from libraries or receive them in form of ‘class reading material’. Accordingly, one participant (born in 1994) stated that popular history magazines were the foundation of her higher level history class at school: the presentation of different historical events in various magazines, films and the school book were analysed and compared.

Furthermore, the history students also reported that they often received popular history magazines from relatives and acquaintances. The parents think ‘that it is useful’ to provide them with the magazines and in this way the magazines end up on their desks ‘because, after all, it is history’. The magazines are also borrowed and passed on among the participants since most of the participants find it too expensive to regularly purchase the magazines. If they themselves buy a magazine, then this often happens at the airport, the train station or motorway service stations, i.e. just before a longer journey, as ‘reading material for the trip’. Moreover, the choice of history magazines is much broader at e.g. airports than at the place of residence. The participants buy the magazine themselves if it deals with topics which are currently of particular relevance and in this way appealing to them. For instance, if the magazine is about the history of the holiday destination, if the topic is relevant for the final exams or for a planned lesson at school, or if it deals with the favourite epoch. ← 339 | 340 →

3.2 Preferred topics: which topics are favoured in popular history magazines?

Regarding the preferred topics, two groups emerge: whereas the history students prefer topics which they know nothing or only little about, the ‘non-historian’-group mentions mainly topics as starting points which they were already interested in during their school time.7 Accordingly, this group is mainly interested in event history and less in epochs or regions. Time-wise, they rather tend towards contemporary history and only little can be noticed from the ‘NS fatigue’, which is evident in statements made by the ‘history group’ such as ‘that by now everything is known about Hitler, even his slippers’. Rather, the contrary is the case: the NS period is described as interesting by the discussion participants, because they think that ‘more’ statements by contemporary witnesses and sources are available for this topic. One participant furthermore stated that he knew enough about this topic so as to be able to easily follow the presentations in the magazines. A further participant added that the magazines were so very interesting because they – other than classes at school – ‘encourage finding one’s own topic and you can reach beyond the material covered at school, the school book knowledge and the “prescribed dismay” and you [can] rather explore the background circumstances’. Especially global connections and not only the German perspective are interesting to the participants. One participant added that she is ‘still expecting to understand at some point why this all happened’. These comments explain partly why so often well-known leading NS figures ‘decorate’ the magazine covers.8

In contrast to this, the history group was especially interested in topics which they regarded as rather ‘marginal topics’, i.e. topics which are less covered in school and at university. Accordingly, Asia or South America were mentioned as regions, but also topics which have managed to be on the cover page for anniversaries, but which are otherwise lesser known such ← 340 | 341 → as e.g. ‘The Council of Constance’9 or ‘The House of Welf on England’s Throne’10. It can be assumed that the students try to fill supposed ‘knowledge gaps’ by buying the magazines. Accordingly, some state that they have bought magazines with cover topics which they knew little about. This would also comply with the statement that some buy the magazines as a starting point for exam preparations if the relevant topic is the main topic in the magazine and also that some of the magazines are revisited during exam preparations in order to make proper use of the bus ride to university, for example.

3.3 Exemplary comparison of the magazines on the same topic: how are the different magazines seen?

Which opinions and attitudes do the participants have towards the individual history magazines? Which one would they actually buy – irrespective of the cover topic and corresponding preferences?

For the study, the discussion participants were presented with six German history magazines, special-interest magazines, which are most widely disseminated in Germany.11 Since the preference for the topic was not to distract from the layout and the associated magazine attribution the last issue each published on the topic ‘World War One’ was chosen. This included:

 P.M. HISTORY 11 (2013): ‘Der Erste Weltkrieg’12

 GEO EPOCHE 14 (2004): ‘Der Erste Weltkrieg’13

 SPIEGEL GESCHICHTE 5 (2013): ‘Der Erste Weltkrieg’14

 ZEIT GESCHICHTE 1 (2014): ‘Der Erste Weltkrieg’15 ← 341 | 342 →

 G/GESCHICHTE 11 (2013): ‘Der erste Weltkrieg – Als die Welt in Flammen aufging’16

 DAMALS 3 (2014): ‘Alptraum Erster Weltkrieg 1914–1918’17

Especially the aesthetic dimension18 of the history culture – i.e. the dimension which is decisive for the presentation of history to actually reach the consumer by attracting their attention – plays an important part here. Of course, it is not only the aesthetic dimension that effects the buyers, also the attributions which are ascribed to the publishers ZEIT, SPIEGEL, GEO or P.M. affect the subjective evaluation and therewith the purchase decision. Accordingly, it is a widespread opinion about P.M. HISTORY that the ‘added value’ of other magazines is higher, the headlines are constantly sensational and the magazine tries to transport emotions rather than scientific knowledge. Only one participant said that she finds the coloured cover pages appealing and interesting and that they are – in comparison to the other black-and-white cover pages – an eye-catcher. The fact that P.M. HISTORY is a multi-thematic magazine is also the reason why the participants would decide for or against the magazine: three participants found the combination of the topics dinosaurs, World War One and Japanese emperors interesting and they would buy the magazine if they were only looking for ‘amusing entertainment’. Others in particular regarded this as an impossible combination in a history magazine.

Similarly, the announcement of diary passages on the cover pages is received in a differing way. For one part of the participants this is very interesting and partially the trigger to buy the particular magazine. The history trainee teacher participating in the discussion stated that it was ‘worth a lot since several lessons could be “crafted” from this as it stands’. For one participant from the ‘non-historian group’ this is ‘yet another diary reporting about personal fates’. According to her own statements she rather values ‘facts’ and connections instead of the presentation of individual fates. ← 342 | 343 →

Besides the presentation of diaries, especially pictures are relevant to future teachers. Accordingly, it is not surprising that several participants tend towards GEO EPOCHE, the magazine which ‘tells stories about history’19 and features a high share of images. Several participants are ‘convinced of the proven GEO quality’ and would buy this magazine if they were interested in the topic. Otherwise, the magazine would be too expensive for them. SPIEGEL GESCHICHTE and ZEIT GESCHICHTE receive positive feedback from the SPIEGEL and the ZEIT readers, whereby all participants would describe the cover page of ZEIT GESCHICHTE as very appealing: the special format of the magazine, the individually depicted soldier who is looking into the camera – ‘I have the feeling he wants to tell me something’ – and who is not depicted engaged in battle actions at the front as is the case in the other magazines. The reserved layout is not least mentioned as a further reason for this. However, the categorisation of G/GESCHICHTE is especially interesting, which just as P.M. HISTORY and DAMALS is a multi-thematic magazine and was originally published as a pupils’ magazine, but has ‘grown up’ during the last 35 years even if history is still to be conveyed in an informative and entertaining way.20 The case is different for DAMALS, the magazine for ‘people with great interest in history, arts and culture, politics and social issues’, for which ‘distinguished historians [write] in an exciting, understandable and entertaining way’21. Both covers show a black-and-white scene with one or several soldiers at the front. Whereas in DAMALS there is a person who almost fills the entire cover, in G/GESCHICHTE there are several soldiers in front of barbed wire fences; one of them is shouting something towards the camera. Further soldiers are storming towards the frontline while explosions, smoke and airplanes can be seen in the sky. Both cover pages are assessed as conventional and as belonging to subject-specific magazines ‘for people who are really into history’. This discourages most of the participants. Additionally, both magazines appear to be ‘somehow outdated’ in the view of the discussion participants. Moreover, for one participant (economist, born in 1988) DAMALS sparks associations to propaganda pictures. ← 343 | 344 → This is interesting insofar as these tendencies and connections sparked by DAMALS and G/GESCHICHTE would surely not have been associated with the regular cover pictures of G/GESCHICHTE,22 since regarding the cover pages so far it has been apparent that the pictures are collages e.g. from several individual pictures, as is also the case with the issue at hand. Accordingly, the cover page is comprised of at least three individual images: one photograph which shows soldiers in the image foreground, one photograph which was partially doubled and shows a German thrust troop in its ‘own barbed wire enclosure’23 as well as a further picture showing an explosion24, which was also doubled for the cover page. Additionally, a further image showing airplanes must have been included. However, this was not named by the publisher upon request – in contrast to the three pictures mentioned above. Additionally, it can be assumed that the images may possibly be film scenes.25 In this case, however, the manipulation of the picture was not recognised as such even by the historians and history students asked. It can be said that with this picture manipulation on the cover page of G/GESCHICHTE the magazine gained a higher reputation regarding the subject knowledge, but at the same time this has contributed to the fact that the participants would rather shy away from buying the magazine.

3.4 Very-special-interest magazines: are ideological subtexts expected?

Besides the magazines mentioned above, which are special-interest magazines since they exclusively deal with the topic ‘history’, there are, moreover, so-called ‘very-special-interest magazines’, which address a specific group of buyers with specific topics. Representatives of both magazine types can be found in well-sorted newsagents, but also at the kiosk around the corner. If the consumers are asked which magazine they read or would ← 344 | 345 → buy on the topic ‘World War One’ the market of the very-special-interest magazines has to be considered: several of these magazines have specialised in military history and some represent a revisionist image of history, which only becomes apparent when critically examining the articles. In how far this is known or whether the subject group is already sensitised was supposed to be determined by presenting the subject group with the two very-special-interest magazines – DEUTSCHE GESCHICHTE and HUSAR – indicating that both are pure military magazines bought at the local station kiosk. DEUTSCHE GESCHICHTE26 is a history magazine which can be situated in the right-wing of the political spectrum and is specialised in revisionist German military history. However, the magazine published by Gerd Sudholt at the publishing house Druffel & Vowinckel27 aims at a larger segment of buyers, which is why most of the time the ideological alignment is not explicitly presented on the cover page.28 The magazine chosen for the survey was a special issue with the title ‘1914 – The Prelude to Destruction’29. Besides the title, the indication of the price (14.80€ in Germany and 15.90€ in Austria) and the logo of DEUTSCHE GESCHICHTE no further information can be found on the cover page. The ‘glossy cover’ is illustrated with a collage of historical paintings: the German military on horseback is shown in the background, in the lower third of the page the Russian Tsar Nicholas II30, the German Emperor Wilhelm II, and the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph are lined up at the lower end of the magazine. ← 345 | 346 →

The second magazine HUSAR ‘is entirely apolitical and supports no political option. We are only interested in military history alone without any prejudices whatsoever’31, as can be read on the magazine homepage. Published in Croatia since 2007, the ‘illustrated magazine for military history and militaria HUSAR’ has positioned itself also on the German market since November 2013. At a price of 5€ it is one of the cheaper magazines. The cover page of the first magazine advertises with the topics ‘Rommel in Africa 1912–42. His strategy. His greatest successes’ as well as ‘Germany’s history until 1914: War plans. War games’ and acknowledged in the name: ‘The Hussars. Horsemen with furs and feathers’. The cover page shows an illustration of Rommel standing in front of a tank and wearing a uniform.

‘Have you already noticed such magazines?’ or ‘have you already purchased such magazines or would you be encouraged to buy them?’ These were the questions according to which the participants positioned themselves.

Surprisingly, only one of the participants has already noticed such kind of magazines at the kiosk or in the supermarket. The participants in the survey agreed that they would not buy such magazines due to a lack of interest in military history. Some stated that DEUTSCHE GESCHICHTE may be for experts and explained this assumption with a reference to the price of 15.90€ and the size of the magazine. Regarding the ‘biased presentation of history’ only one of the participants said that the HUSAR appeared as a ‘magazine for military interest groups’, but thereby referred to the strong technical alignment and less to the possible subliminally conveyed mind-set, which could enter the articles. This result makes clear that the participants in the survey are not aware of the idea that commercialised presentations of history, which they encounter in every-day life, may indeed contain political messages that follow a right-wing nationalist to neo-fascist alignment as is discernible in DEUTSCHE GESCHICHTE. Naturally, this does not apply to all military magazines, but a generally more critical approach to presentations of history would be, however, desirable – which was not the case with the participants here. ← 346 | 347 →

3.5 Brazilian history magazines: ‘childish’ or different viewing habits?

In a further step the participants were shown two issues of the Brazilian history magazine AVENTURAS NA HISTÓRIA.32 The specialty of these magazines is that they strongly back on drawn illustrations in contrast to the history magazines most widely disseminated in Germany or Middle-Europe.33 Accordingly, both issues at hand feature drawn figures – Napoleon Bonaparte34 and praying Muslims35 respectively – on their cover pages. The participants were supposed to look at the cover pages of the magazines and freely express their thoughts on the layout. Additionally, the participants were given the information that the magazines were Brazilian magazines.

In all groups, the participants expressed associations with ‘fairy tale magazines for primary school pupils’, ‘Mickey Mouse’ and ‘Yps comics’36 ← 347 | 348 → or similar magazines addressing the target groups young children and youths (‘target group aged 8–12 years’).37 Furthermore, in both ‘history groups’ the cover page of the ‘Islam issue’ encouraged comparisons with children’s bibles or the design of the Jehovah’s witnesses’ magazine ‘The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom’. On the other hand, it was emphasised that the Middle-European viewing habits may be the reason why the drawings are right away linked to children (‘it is drawn, it is for children’). Both groups of history students agreed that the magazines were aimed at children; that it was indeed ‘nice to have something drawn’, but that the recipients would ‘miss the seriousness which a photograph would convey’. One reader assumed that the pictures were especially drawn for the magazine for illustrative purposes, which would discourage him from buying the magazine. A further reader also questioned the seriousness of the magazine due to the drawings: ‘You don’t really know whether they are serious’. Overall, the history students had the impression of not being taken seriously due to the layout of both magazines and especially due to the use of drawings. In comparison to this, the statements of the ‘non-historians’ are interesting. Also in this group statements were made which described the pictures as ‘inadequate’ or as ‘belittling’ the topic. However, there were also two participants who stated that this could indeed make sense ‘because not everything can be proven by pictures’. The graphic designer was aware of this and regarded drawings as a possible way. The history students indeed like the use of illustrations, but they have to be either ‘true’ or info-graphics. The participants were unaware of the possibility that especially with regard to the topic area ‘World War One’ many propaganda pictures are not indicated as such, that photographs are not per se ‘true’, that the supposed original which is presented on the cover page of G/GESCHICHTE consists of at least three individual pictures of ← 348 | 349 → which at least one was doubled.38 In the contrary: this picture suggested seriousness and scholarliness to the participants.

3.6 To what extent do the ‘history groups’ think that their expectations of popular history magazines are different from the expectations of the broad readership?

How do those readers of history magazines who study or have studied history and/or history didactics at university assess their expectations of popular history magazines in comparison to the wishes of the broad readership? Do they differentiate between a broad, popular readership, their expectations and scientific magazines? The survey revealed: this is mostly the case and the participants at the same time indicated that the change in their way of thinking only started with studying history. Accordingly, a student training to become a teacher said ‘before studying, we paid attention to different things and not to the fact that historians are involved in the writing; I also wouldn’t consider the sources before; I do think that we take a different perspective, because we rather deal with history’. A history student states that he enjoyed watching documentaries during his school years, but by now after the ‘indoctrination of the university’s ways of working’ these documentaries make his ‘toes curl’. However, at the same time he acknowledges that the magazines are not professional journals and that consequently other standards would have to be expected from such a magazine. Another student of teaching emphasises this in recalling that it is the claim of some magazines to already engage 12-year-olds in history and deterrents, such as footnotes for instance, would not be conducive to this. Only one student candidly states that if he merely wants ‘to kill time – in the waiting room of a doctor, for example’ – he is less interested in specialist and academic working methods. He negates the question of a fellow student asking whether he could not ← 349 | 350 → read other magazines instead by referring to the fact that he is not interested in the topics of other magazines.

3.7 After the reading or what happens to the magazines after they have been read?

‘You’ve bought it because you were interested and you usually don’t lose your interest just because you’ve read it and maybe know it now. Normally, you don’t read such a thing back to front, meaning there are always aspects which you haven’t dealt with so that it may be possible that I might have the time to deal with it again.’ This quote by a student of teaching applies to almost all participants. Only one stated that he generally disposes of the magazines after reading them ‘in an orderly way’. Three others said that they would discard the magazine ‘if it is bad and the world has to be protected from it’ or that the interesting pages are removed and kept. The remaining 17 persons fully agree that they keep the magazines since they are ‘far too expensive to be thrown away’. More than 50% of the participants further said that they pass on the magazines to friends and acquaintances. All students of teaching additionally stated that they keep the magazines so as to occasionally use them to prepare lessons.

3.8 History magazines in school: potential and limits

All participants agreed on this question: yes, history magazines are suitable for the use in schools, even with some limitations at times. The participants of the ‘non-historian group’ expressed concern in that the magazines may possibly be designed in a too ‘commercialised’ way and, accordingly, the look is more important than the content. Indeed, ‘stories’ too were entitled to be part of history lessons so as to e.g. create motivation for a topic. However, it should be clear whether or not they are fictitious. Besides the concerns regarding the ‘commercialisation’ the magazines were presumed to have a political alignment. After all, ZEIT GESCHICHTE and SPIEGEL GESCHICHTE are two magazines that are published by large German weekly newspapers or news magazines and are sometimes described as ‘leading medium’39. At the same time, however, this was also ← 350 | 351 → recognised as a learning opportunity: the participants suggested comparing the different ways of presenting one topic in different popular history magazines – also internationally if possible – in order to reveal potential tendencies and differences in the presentation and also to determine ‘that not everything is true only because it is printed’.40 This suggestion was also brought forward by the group of history students, whereby the suggestion was expanded with the comparison of further media, e.g. the school book or TV documentaries. Concerns were aired regarding the time required for the preparation and implementation as well as the problem in coming by some foreign magazines so as to realise this idea for lessons.41 As further advantages, the ‘historian group’ named the present-day references of magazines which e.g. react to anniversaries and the latest state of research as well as the wide range of topics dealt with. Working with the magazines is especially useful when starting a new topic, but also for group work and to enhance media literacy.

4. Desiderata and prospects

As already mentioned at the beginning, this study, which had to work with a very small number of participants, can only be regarded as a first step to further in-depth studies on recipients. Firstly, the amount of participants would have to be increased and secondly, it further has to be considered that not only subscribers are taken into account, but that also the wider field of recipients is included who are not buyers themselves. Besides broadening the quantitative aspect within the market of German-language history magazines, it would be especially interesting to include European or international studies on recipients. With regard to the global sales market of the magazines in particular and the wide dissemination of ← 351 | 352 → individual publishers, such as e.g. GEO EPOCHE or G/GESCHICHTE, which are also distributed in other countries, the views of the recipients would be interesting. The World War One centenary therefore offers the best prerequisites since almost every magazine has produced an issue with a corresponding cover page and related contents.

A further so far completely neglected area is the question about the learning progress made with popular history magazines. Besides the contents the ability to deconstruct history should also always be a learning objective, which goes hand in hand with the enhancement of media literacy and intercultural learning. Especially the results of the study on recipients at hand regarding the uncritical observation of the military magazines and the categorisation of the G/GESCHICHTE cover page as a ‘true’ and ‘serious’ depiction should stimulate further prompt engagement with this topic.

1 In contrast to research on the reception of history programmes on TV, where some few studies were published during the past years (cf. Michael Meyer/Senta Pfaff: Rezeption von Geschichte im Fernsehen. Eine qualitative Studie zu Nutzungsmotiven, Zuschauererwartungen und zur Bewertung einzelner Darstellungsformen. In: Media Perspektiven 2 (2006), p. 102–106; as well as: Michael Meyen: Was wollen die Zuschauer sehen? Erwartungen des Publikums an Geschichtsformate im Fernsehen. In: Albert Drews (eds.): Zeitgeschichte als TV-Event. Erinnerungsarbeit und Geschichtsvermittlung im deutschen Fernsehfilm. Rehburg-Loccum 2008 (Loccumer Protokolle, vol. 31), p. 55–74; cf. an expansion of the study in: Senta Pfaff-Rüdiger/Claudia Riesmeyer/Michael Meyen: Deutungsmacht des Fernsehens? Das Selbstverständnis von Geschichtsjournalisten zwischen normativen Ansprüchen und Publikumswünschen. In: Klaus Arnold/Walter Hömberg/Susanne Kinnebrock (eds.): Geschichtsjournalismus. Zwischen Information und Inszenierung. Berlin 2010, p. 109–126), only the information on the recipients published by the magazines themselves is available so far to address advertising customers. Cf. Marlene Hiller: Der Spagat zwischen Öffentlichkeit und Wissenschaft. Oder: Geschichte schreiben für Liebhaber. In: Sabine Horn/Michael Sauer (eds.): Geschichte und Öffentlichkeit. Orte – Medien – Institutionen. Göttingen 2009, p. 161–168.

2 A first inventory was provided on this by the international conference ‘History sells’, which was held in Amsterdam from 19–21 August 2010 upon the invitation of Susanne Popp (Augsburg University).

3 Four participants study – or have studied – history to become secondary school teachers. One of them is already a teacher trainee and another one has additionally obtained a Master’s degree in History Studies. Three participants study primary school teaching with history as a teaching subject, one participant studies history as a third subject for primary school and two for comprehensive school. One of them studies for a Master’s degree in Mediating Culture, a further participant studies history as teaching subject for comprehensive schools and is also enrolled in the Master’s degree programme Mediating Culture. One participant each is only enrolled in the Master’s degree course Mediating Culture or in the Master’s degree programme Historical Studies respectively.

4 Average result of the readers’ gender regarding the magazines DAMALS (URL:, 1.8.2014), P.M. HISTORY (URL:, 1.8.2014) and GEO EPOCHE (URL:, 1.8.2014).

5 The empirical study is based on a study by Michael Meyen and Senta Pfaff-Rüdiger (Munich University, Institute for communication studies and media research), who examined the reception of history on television in 2005. In cooperation with the media research of the ‘Bayerischer Rundfunk’ the qualitative study examined the motives of use, the expectations of the viewers and the evaluations of individual forms of history presentations on TV from the perspective of the recipients. The answers to this question are based on group discussions, which were held in May 2005 with 31 persons in total: five students and 13 persons each from the age groups ‘30 to 49 years’ as well as ‘50 years and older’. Cf. (note 1). In the following, I refer to the study from the year 2006.

6 All German quotations have been translated.

7 Both students of the Master’s degree programme ‘Historical Studies’ are an exception. They are mainly or exclusively interested in their subject and, for instance, in a magazine with the topic ‘pirates’ only read the contributions about pirates regarding their respective epoch.

8 Cf. the results of the cover analysis in Sweden (Vinterek), England (Haydn), Denmark (Gorbahn) and Germany (Springkart) in this volume.

9 Cf. DAMALS 2 (2014): ‘Konstanzer Konzil’, URL: (1.8.2014); G/GESCHICHTE 4 (2014): ‘Ketzer, Kaiser, Päpste: Das Konzil zu Konstanz’, URL: (1.8.2014).

10 Cf. DAMALS 5 (2014): ‘Welfen auf Englands Thron’, URL: (1.8.2014); SPIEGEL GESCHICHTE 4 (2014): ‘Britanniens Krone’, URL: (1.8.2014).

11 Cf. the contribution of Springkart in this volume.

12 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

13 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

14 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

15 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

16 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

17 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

18 Cf. Jörn Rüsen: Die fünf Dimensionen der Geschichtskultur. In: Jacqueline Nießer/Juliane Tomann (eds.): Angewandte Geschichte. Neue Perspektiven auf Geschichte in der Öffentlichkeit. Paderborn 2014, p. 46–57, p. 48.

19 Self-portrayal of GEO EPOCHE, URL: (1.8.2014).

20 Self-portrayal of G/GESCHICHTE, URL: (1.8.2014).

21 Self-portrayal of DAMALS, URL: (1.8.2014).

22 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

23 Cf. picture agency Interfoto, image number: 00494085.

24 Cf. picture agency getty images, image number: 3286484, URL: (1.8.2014).

25 Cf. picture agency Bridgeman, image number: SZP 355510, URL: (1.8.2014), also picture agency SZ Photo, image number: 00059582, URL: (1.8.2014).

26 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

27 Amongst others, the publishing house mentioned also publishes the biography ‘Mein Leben mit Reinhard’ written by Lina Heydrich about her husband in which she captures ‘very personal memories of her husband, his life, his work, and his achievements’ as well as the ‘first and so far only biography about the entire life’ of Adolf Hitler’s sister Paula. Cf. Lina Heydrich: Mein Leben mit Reinhard. Die persönliche Biographie. Stegen am Ammersee 2012; as well as Alfred Läpple: Paula Hitler – Die Schwester. Ein Leben in der Zeitenwende. Stegen am Ammersee 2005, URL: (1.8.2014).

28 For a comparison of several magazine covers of special issues cf: URL: (1.8.2014).

29 DEUTSCHE GESCHICHTE, special issue 1 (2014): ‘1914 – Auftakt zum Untergang’.

30 Detail of the oil painting by Earnest Lippgart around 1900.

31 Self-portrayal of HUSAR, URL: (1.8.2014).

32 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

33 An exception will be the popular history magazine ALL ABOUT HISTORY, originally from England and available on the German magazine market as of October 2014, cf. URL: (23.9.2014) and also URL: (23.9.2014). The multi-thematic magazine ‘represents an innovative approach to exploring the past and offers an energizing alternative to the academic style of existing titles. The key focus of ALL ABOUT HISTORY is to tell the wonderful, fascinating and engrossing stories that make up the world’s history and inspire new interest and joy in a subject so often presented as dry and dusty. Using stunning illustrations and infographics throughout, this is a brand that strives to deliver knowledge in the form of visually and mentally stimulating entertainment.’ (Cf. URL: (23.9.2014)). As described in the advertising text to the English edition, the magazine relies excessively on specially designed graphics and illustrations. It remains to be seen if this magazine can take root on the German magazine market in the long run or if it remains a single publication like the multi-thematic popular history magazine ILLUSTRATED HISTORY (cf. URL: (1.8.2014)).

34 AVENTURAS NA HISTÓRIA 49 (2007), cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

35 AVENTURAS NA HISTÓRIA 48 (2007): The cover page depicts a detail of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s (1865) ‘Prayer in Cairo’, cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

36 The ‘Yps magazine’ is a comic with joke articles included as gimmicks, which was published for children from 1975–2000 and 2005–2006; since 2012 the magazine has been published as comic for 30–45 year olds, who grew up with the magazine. Cf. Maximilian Kloes: Das ‘Yps’-Heft kehrt zurück. FOCUS-Online, URL: (1.8.2014).

37 The fact that the magazines here address an adult readership is made clear by the title of the Napoleon issue, which no one of the participnts, however, was able to translate from Portuguese: ‘Napoleon, the great conqueror. The great emperor seen from a new perspective: underneath the sheets of his mistress’.

38 Cf. Anton Holzer: „Going Over The Top“. Neue Perspektiven aus dem Schützengraben. In: Gerhard Paul (ed.): Das Jahrhundert der Bilder. Vol. 1: 1900 bis 1949. Göttingen 2009, p. 196–203; Thomas Knieper/Marion G. Müller (eds.): Authentizität und Inszenierung von Bilderwelten. Köln/Halem 2003; Stefan Leifert: Bildethik. Theorie und Moral im Bildjournalismus der Massenmedien. München 2007; Gerhard Paul: Bilder des Krieges. Krieg der Bilder. Die Visualisierung des modernen Krieges. Paderborn 2004.

39 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

40 That this is a very important learning objective and that learning opportunities in the area of media literacy should indeed be given to pupils is shown e.g. by: Jamie Bartlett/Carl Miller: Truth, lies and the internet. A report into young people’s digital fluency. London 2011; URL: (1.8.2014).

41 Cf. the EHISTO homepage, where extracts from Spanish, Polish, English, German and Swedish magazines as well as prepared tasks – all in the languages mentioned – can be downloaded free of charge, URL: (1.8.2014).