”Begriffsgeschichte” (History of concepts)

History of concepts or conceptual history is a research area that has gained an increasing interest in later years. In recognizing that the meaning of terms are imbedded in cultures and are constantly changing, Begriffsgeschichte maps how a given word has been associated with different meanings. The insistence in a historical perspectives makes Begriffsgeschichte an alternative to positivist orientations. An example of a semantic tool developed in this tradition is Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturwissenschaft (Weimar, 1997-2003), which provide the following information for each term:

Such historically oriented dictionaries may, especially in the humanities, serve the searchers needs for semantic tools in a deeper way than, for example, thesauri are able to. (They may represent another paradigm in knowledge organization, a paradigm more related to a hermeneutical epistemology).





Hampsher-Monk, I.; Tilmans, K. & Vree, F. van (Eds.). (1998). History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.


Koselleck, Reinhart (1972): Einleitung. In: Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. Bd. I, XIII-XXVIII, Stuttgart: Klett.


Reinhart Koselleck, R. (ed.). (1979). Historische Semantik und Begriffsgeschichte, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.


Palonen, Kari (2002b): The History of Concepts as a Style of Political Theorizing. Quentin Skinner’s and Reinhart Koselleck’s subversion of normative political theory. European Journal of Political Theory 1, 96-111.


Schwartz, R. L. (1983). Der Begriff des Begriffes in der philosophischen Lexikographie: ein Beitrag zur Begriffsgeschichte. Minerva Publikation Saur.


Weimar, K. (Ed.). (1997-2003). Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturwissenschaft Band 1-3. 3. neubearb. Aufl. Berlin : Walter de Gruyter.


Journal: Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte.



Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 23-04-2007