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Introduction and Prefaces to the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe

(Basic Concepts in History: A Historical Dictionary of Political and Social Language in Germany)

Reinhart Koselleck and Michaela Richter

This is the first English translation of Reinhart Koselleck's "Introduction" to the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe (GG, Basic Concepts in History: A Historical Dictionary of Political and Social Language in Germany), which charts how in German-speaking Europe the accelerated changes occurring between the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution were perceived, conceptualized and incorporated into political and social language, registering the transition from a hierarchy of orders to modern societies. The "Introduction" presents the problematic and method formulated in 1972 by Koselleck for writing the history of concepts (Begriffsgeschichte). During the twenty-five years needed to complete the GG, he continued to revise and develop this method. In prefaces written for subsequent volumes, he replied to criticisms of its choice of basic concepts and findings. In these prefaces Koselleck both summarized the great contribution to our historical knowledge of political and social terms that this work and its index volumes had made, and suggested further research projects to build upon its achievements.

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Reinhart Koselleck, Translated By Margrit Pernau, and Sébastien Tremblay

The bells tolling on 9 May 1945 were heralding peace. The question remained: what kind of peace and for whom? Thousands of us marched on a trail for many kilometers, from Mährish-Ostrau eastward, like a silent accordion, sometimes extended, sometimes compressed, chased, not knowing where we were going. The voices of the bells echoed over our column and raised hopes from whose nonfulfillment countless people would perish, not being able to bear the disappointments of the new forthcoming peace. However, it was all unknown to us, we did not even know where we were going. Yet we knew where we were coming from, from the cauldron that had continuously tightened over four weeks, and from which we had definitely failed to escape on 1 May. With a wounded soldier on my back, I laid down my gun. At that point, we didn't know yet that the Americans would hand all the prisoners that had reached the redemptive West from Bohemia and Moravia back to the Russians. So this fight had been futile and every death in vain. The dead were still lying around in countless numbers.

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Conceptual History, Memory, and Identity

An Interview with Reinhart Koselleck

Javiér Fernández Sebastián, Juan Francisco Fuentes, and Reinhart Koselleck

Among the many subjects you have worked on throughout your career, we would like to concentrate on those related to the methodology of intellectual history, especially conceptual history. We will then go on to make you a few questions about your recent work on memory and identity.