Project History


German History in Documents and Images (GHDI) was conceived in 2002 by a small group of German- and American-born historians who sought to make a large collection of German historical documents available online in German and English translation. Modeled on other early websites such as the “Internet History Sourcebooks,” GHDI aimed to provide free and easy access to a broad range of sources needed for historical research and academic teaching. Whereas other sites of its generation focused on digitizing existing collections, GHDI aimed from the start to create a new corpus of primary sources accompanied by critical commentaries.

In 2003, the project’s organizers received a multi-year founding grant from the Max Kade Foundation, New York, and a generous supplementary grant from the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius. With funding in place, the organizers then chose as editors a small group of well-known historians of Germany, none of whom had previously participated in a “born digital” project. The original version of German History in Documents and Images was launched later that year, with a handful of sources that grew over time into a collection of thousands. The first edition, or GHDI 1.0, was declared officially complete in 2012.

The first edition of GHDI (GHDI 1.0) attracted a large and varied audience—professors, researchers, university students, writers, and the interested public. It inspired roundtable discussions at the German Studies Association conference in 2009 and the American Historical Association meeting in 2010. It was awarded the James Harvey Robinson Prize of the American Historical Association in 2010. Three years later, it was the subject of an article in Central European History.

In 2015–16, the GHI commissioned twenty historians of Germany to review the project. In parallel, the GHI developed a GHDI user survey that was completed by more than 1,000 respondents from all over the world. Additionally, the GHI convened a focus group of experts in German and digital history to gather feedback on the project. At the conclusion of this review process, the GHI decided to relaunch GHDI with two primary objectives in mind. The first (or technical) objective was to migrate the website to a new infrastructure with enhanced functionality and better long-term preservation prospects and to create a modern and responsive user interface. The second (or editorial) objective was to revise and expand the contents of GHDI to reflect new developments in historiography and methodology, especially the transnational and visual turns in historical research and writing. The GHI was fortunate to secure two grants: one from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) to support the realization of the technical work program, and one from the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius to sponsor the editorial program.

The new revised and expanded edition of GHDI (GHDI 2.0) includes virtually all of the sources included in the original version (in some cases, sources were removed when copyright permissions could not be extended). Each volume also includes a selection of new sources (with commentaries) chosen by the editor of the second edition. The editorial board for the revised edition includes familiar names from the first edition as well as newcomers to our project. All of the editors, both new and returning, reviewed their respective volumes of GHDI and revised them with an eye toward incorporating new media (when applicable), diversifying the range of perspectives on German history, and introducing a more complex, connected, and outward-looking Germany.