From Gutenberg to Facebook:How Technology and Media Shaped German History - GE553

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
5 15 (7.5)







This module provides a unique perspective on German cultural history alongside key developments in technology and media. It draws on cutting-edge research in German studies as well as history, philosophy and media theory. Topics span from the 1400s to the present day and include: 1) How the invention of the printing press enabled the Protestant Reformation; 2) How German literature was born from the culture of letter writing in the Eighteenth Century; 3) The pivotal role of newspapers for a German national conscience in the 1900s; 4) How the radio paved the way for Nazi dictatorship; 5) The effects of television in overcoming German post-war division; 6) Social Media's impact on the emergence of right-wing populism.

Students will engage with a range of historical documents, literary texts, audio as well as visual media, and analyse their impact on German culture and politics. There will be the opportunity for students to present their work in both traditional and innovative forms of assessment (short videos, podcasts and blogs). Besides a deep analytical engagement with the culturally transformative effects of technology and media, students will gain practical skills in the expression and presentation of their ideas, using a variety of conventional as well as digital means.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

• Essay (2,000 words) – 30%
• Blog Post (500 words) – 15%
• Podcast or Videocast (15 Minutes) – 15%
• Examination (2 Hours) – 40%

Indicative reading

Reading list (Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually)
Bösch, F. (2015). Mass Media and Historical Change: Germany in International Perspective, 1400 to the Present. New York: Berghahn
Hagen, W. (2012). German History in Modern Times: Four Lives of the Nation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press
Kittler, F. (1999). Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Trans. and intro. G. Winthrop-Young and M. Wutz. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press
MacGregor, N. (2014). Memories of a Nation. London: Allen Lane
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Routledge
Pettegree, A. (2016). Brand Luther: 1517, printing, and the making of the reformation. New York: Penguin
Ross, C. (2008). Media and the Making of Modern Germany: Mass Communications, Society, and Politics from the Empire to the Third Reich. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Winthrop-Young, G. (2011). Kittler and the Media. Cambridge: Polity Press

Learning outcomes

- Demonstrate critical knowledge and understanding of key episodes in German history and the impact that developments in technology and media have had on it;
- Demonstrate competence in applying this knowledge within new and differing contexts (e.g. as regards cultural and political impacts of technological innovation, the significance of the relationship between technology and media for developments and transformations of the public sphere);
- Critically analyse a range of relevant primary sources, including historic documents, literature, visual materials, films and multimedia;
- Understand and critically engage with historiographical as well as political debates relating to the impact of technology and media on German culture.

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