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 he was well aware, 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 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 will present 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. German language writings will initially form our key focus. In the longer term, research from the rest of Europe and the wider world will increasingly be included.
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. An advisory board of renowned scholars will also critically supervise sehepunkte from day one.
In practice, the concept underlying sehepunkte will no doubt have to prove its value over the coming months and years. The present editors, in any event, hope that the journal will develop into a lively forum for scholarly discussion and debate.
Munich, November 2001
Gudrun Gersmann / Peter Helmberger / Matthias Schnettger