The name sehepunkte (viewpoints) captures the character of this review journal perfectly. When the theologian and historian Johann Martin Chladenius (1710-1759) applied the concept - originally found in optics - to the writing of history in his Introduction to the correct interpretation of rational speech and writing ("Einleitung zur richtigen Auslegung vernünftiger Reden und Schriften") of 1742, he was, as is well known, taking a remarkable step. The "historian's perspective-based view" was now clearly marked out. The insight that all historical writing is subjective in nature was making headway: there is no such thing, according to Chladenius, as objective truth. The observer's position, and therefore his specific "Sehepunckt", is expressed in every perception and interpretation of historical events: "This is true of all history; a rebellion is viewed differently by a loyal subject, rebel, foreigner, courtier, citizen, or peasant".
Chladenius's plea for a pluralist history is still valid today. Sehepunkte, the fruit of collaboration between the history department of Munich University and the State Library of Bavaria, and supported by the German Research Community, shares a commitment to this approach.
Sehepunkte is interdisciplinary and ranges freely across historical eras. It presents not only an ever-changing repertoire of reviews but also discussions of both monographs and edited collections in fields such as the history of medicine, law and art. While German language writings form our key focus, research from the rest of Europe and the wider world is continuously being included. For example, sehepunkte publishes a focal theme about the "Islamic Worlds" ("Forum Islamische Welten") regularly since 2006.
It is no accident that we chose to make sehepunkte a freely available monthly online review journal (published mid-month). In contrast to other types of text, book reviews require particularly speedy publication if they are to inform the scholarly community quickly and comprehensively about the latest research trends and controversies. While printed journals are naturally limited in their ability to do this because of the lengthy preparation they demand and lack of space, online reviews have the advantage of being exceptionally up-to-date; they can be published on the world wide web shortly after a text hits the bookshops.
Speeding up publication must not, of course, compromise scholarly standards. Sehepunkte is therefore explicitly based on a model of shared and networked scholarship in which expert German and international editors are responsible for reviews covering a diverse range of disciplines in German, English and French. Since its first issues, sehepunkte cooperated with respected institutions like the Herder-Institut (Marburg) or the Münchener Institut für Zeitgeschichte. Additionally, an advisory board of renowned scholars critically supervises sehepunkte since day one.
Munich, March 2007
Gudrun Gersmann / Peter Helmberger / Matthias Schnettger