This paper critiques several recent works on the history of the mass media in Germany by contextualizing them within the wider wave of interest in the subject since the 1990s. It highlights the limited extent to which the findings of this research on the history of mass communications have been integrated into broader structures of interpretation for the period since the middle of the nineteenth century. Although we have long had a reasonably detailed understanding of the technological, commercial and aesthetic development of the media, the works under review reflect the more recent trend towards investigating their immense social and political impact in the broadest sense. For the twentieth century in particular, the mass media played an absolutely central role in social, cultural and political life. They both reflected and helped to generate profound changes in all of these spheres, and approaching the media as an integral part of 'mainstream' history thus furnishes a powerful tool for analysing the multiple interconnections between them.
- public sphere
- twentieth century