Spaces, Places, and the Historians: A Comment from a German Perspective

This article discusses from a specifically German point of view the 'spatial turn' in history and the approaches of this forum. Many recent interventions have suggested that 'space' (as opposed to 'time') was for many years a marginalized category in the German historiographical debate because of the ideological contamination of the category 'space' by the Nazis. In the context of the vivid, lively 'provincial' or 'regional' history practiced in Germany, however, 'space' has always played an important role. The debates around the spatial turn nevertheless provide the opportunity for deliberate reconceptualization. This comment proposes a relational understanding of 'space' as the core of the new approach and identifies some central elements and terms for it: the differentiation of 'spaces,''places,' and 'locations'; movement in space; the division of space in the form of boundaries; finally, the ordering and classification of space in the form of written or visual representations.