Historical Studies

Open Access in 60 Seconds

Video about Open Access. (CC BY 3.0 DE)
Source: Brinken, H., Hauss, J. &  Rücknagel, J. (2021). Open Access in 60 seconds, open-access.network. https://doi.org/10.5446/50832

Open Access in Historical Studies

Historians are generally well disposed towards all forms of open access.

The number of open access journals and digital collections in the field of historical studies is steadily growing. However, open access to monographs and edited collections still has a way to go. Blogs are another form of publication used to distribute scholarly knowledge in this field.

Besides publications, freely available historical sources, especially in the form of digital reproductions and machine-readable digital editions, are of great importance. Moreover, in the areas of digital humanities of relevance to historical studies, open access tools (e.g. for text mining) also play a role.

Open Access Journals

As of September 2021, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed over 1,100 entries under the search term ""History".

Important open access journals include:

Financing of Open Access Articles. [german] (CC BY 3.0 DE)
Source: Brinken, H. (2020). Finanzierung von Open-Access-Artikeln, open-access.network. https://doi.org/10.5446/49536

Open Access Books

As of September 2021, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) listed almost 1,900 monographs and edited collections under the keyword "History" and under further keywords from the fields of history and auxiliary sciences. The OAPEN Online Library also provides access to full texts of publications on historical topics. As of September 2021, the publication platform OpenEdition listed 16,867 open access documents in several European languages under the keyword "History".

The German-language university presses in the consortium AG Universitätsverlage strongly support the open access movement. A large percentage of these presses publish monographs and edited collections from the humanities.

Within the framework of the transition to open access, scholarly publishers, for example Barbara Budrich, de Gruyter, transcript, Wachholtz, and Wallstein, increasingly offer authors – also from the historical sciences – the option of publishing their works in open access.

The Edition Open Sources, which is hosted by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), makes academic editions of primary sources available in open access.

Stand-alone publications funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), including publications on historical topics, are made available in open access in the FWF-E-Book-Library.

Gutenberg-e is a programme of the American Historical Association and Columbia University Press. The digital monographs published by Columbia University Press are freely accessible.

In the series Historisches Forum, themed issues with contributions and reports from the historical sciences are published in collaboration with Clio-Online and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Disciplinary Repositories

As of September 2021, the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) listed almost 290 repositories under the search term “History and Archaeology”. Content of relevance to the historical sciences can also be found in repositories, databases, and other indexing systems of neighbouring disciplines. A document server especially for historical studies is currently under construction at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

An important role in providing content is played by the Specialised Information Service (FID) Historical Studies, historicum.net. The portal is a point of entry to publishing, archiving, and search services. 

Other relevant repositories:

Other specialised information services also offer important added value for historians. Because of the multiperspectivity of the discipline, a lot of historical studies content can be found in the repositories of various sub-disciplines by using appropriate search filters (e.g. “history”):

  • Numerous full texts on historical topics relating to sub-Saharan Africa can be found via ilissAfrica by using corresponding keywords.
  • As of September 2021, the Specialised Information Service Low Countries Studies’ (FID Benelux) document server, Benelux-Doc, provided access to over 27,200 full texts and digital reproductions under the keyword “History”. FID Benelux also provides open access publication services (Benelux OA Publications.journals, Benelux OA Publications.book).
  • The full-text server of the virtual library CrossAsia enables searches for historical content with a focus on East Asia.
  • GINDok, the repository of the Specialised Information Service Germanistik im Netz, provides full texts on the history of literature.
  • OstDok, the central open access subject repository for interdisciplinary research on Eastern, Central Eastern, and South Eastern Europe, also provides numerous resources on historical topics.
  • The Social Science Open Access Repository provides over 4,000 open access full texts in the discipline “History”.

Source: Brehm, E. (2021). Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht für Wissenschaftler*innen [german], open-access.network. Brinken, Helene. https://doi.org/10.5446/51789 (CC BY 3.0 DE)

Other Offerings


The humanities and social science blog portal Hypotheses is hosted by the open access service provider Open Edition. The portal provides a central platform for numerous blogs, including blogs on topics related to historical, archival, and auxiliary studies. As of September 2021, almost 250 blogs from the German-speaking area were listed under "History & Archaeology". The Redaktionsblog of the German-language Hypotheses portal serves to develop and disseminate scholarly information and to create a network.

Subject Portals and Platforms

Subject portals provide central points of entry for searches for open access publications, historical sources, and other materials.

  • Clio online is a portal for historical studies. It is involved in numerous projects, for example subject portals and Zeitgeschichte online, the subject portal for contemporary historians. It is also involved in H-Soz-Kult.
  • H-Soz-Kult is a moderated information and communication platform for historians; it publishes academic news and publications.
  • historicum.net provides access to a wide range of resources from the field of historical studies.
  • H-Net – Humanities and Social Sciences online provides a forum for academics in the humanities and social sciences.
  • perspectivia.net, the publication platform of the Max Weber Foundation – German Humanities Institutes Abroad, provides free access to the full texts of journals, reviews, monographs, and conference proceedings (digital publications and retrodigitised versions of works) of its institutes and their cooperation partners.
  • European History Online (EGO) publishes scholarly contributions on the history of Europe from 1450 to 1950. The contributions in English and German are linked to a range of different materials.
  • The publisher Edition Topoi was established within the framework of the DFG-funded project Excellence Cluster Topoi (The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations, 2007-2019). Edition Topoi publishes monographs, edited collections, and journals; it also has a repository.


The Registry of Research Data Repositories re3data.org provides an overview of databases, also under the keyword "History".

The online archives JSTOR and Project MUSE now make open access content of relevance to historical studies available.

Open Science in Historical Studies

Across the wide spectrum of historical studies, key aspects of open science exist in the form of digital sources, machine-readable editions, the use of open access tools for innovative digital research, and the publication of research results in open access. However, concrete positioning on open science is rare. The German Archaeological Institute (DAI) is committed to open science, but it does not, for example, provide gold open access to its publications. The Working Group “Digital Historical Studies” of the Association of German Historians deals with the potential of digital humanities, or e-humanities, for historical studies and provides a forum for exchanges with neighbouring disciplines that use historical methods. The working group also has its own blog, Digitale Geisteswissenschaft

The EU project Social Sciences & Humanities Open Cloud (SSHOC) develops the social sciences and humanities area of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) with the aim of promoting interdisciplinary research and collaboration in the social sciences and humanities.

The European research infrastructure OPERAS promotes open scholarly communication in the social sciences and humanities in the European research area. OPERAS supports open science, for example through projects such as TRIPLE, which is devoted to developing a multilingual and multicultural discovery service for the humanities and social sciences.

Content editor of this page: Isabella Meinecke, Open Access Representative of the Hamburg State and University Library (SUB) (Last updated: September 2021)