Volume II – No. 3 – February 2006
In the spotlight this month we look at the career and interests of Hans-Liudger Dienel. A familiar to many in transport circles, Hans has recently taken on the position of Foreign Language Book Review Editor for the Journal of Transport History. Before Christmas the newsletter managed to pin him down for five minutes to ask him some questions.
1 – How did you first become interested in transport and mobility history?
After my Ph.D (on university-industry-relations in the 19th and 20th Century), I began research on the history of transport and – together with Helmuth Trischler and other colleagues – set up a Transport History Study Group at the Deutsches Museum in Munich and the University of Munich. I wanted to combine high standard historical research with contemporary transport studies. And that’s still the motivation behind my research in Berlin, almost 10 years later.
2 – Taking on the “foreign book” review job for the Journal of Transport History is an interesting assignment. What do you hope to achieve here?
T2M is a truly international association, but the Journal of Transport History – though the leading international journal in the field – did not recognize and present non-English books and non-English research sufficiently. By taking over the book reviews editorship for non English books, I will try to broaden the geographical scope and audience of journal.
3 – Do you think it is fair to talk of a “European” approach to transport history? What can Europe teach other parts of the world?
Compared to the United States, I see a European Style in transport, despite all differences within the continent and despite convergent trends. Public transport systems remain more important, the European city functions differently, the state is more active, and the public supports this engagement. This shapes transport history. There is relatively more research on the car and the aircraft in the US than in Europe, where railway history still has the biggest audience in the field. Methodologically, I see differences too. In recent years, there have been more and more comparative studies in Europe, e.g. in the Tensions of Europe project or the COST 340 network. Social science transport studies have much to tell to the history of transport and mobility, and there is a fruitful multidisciplinary debate on national levels in Europe. It is still not very visible in our association.
4 – You’ve been heavily involved in T2M from its inception. What are the highlights and lowpoints so far? And how do you see T2M evolving in the future?
I am fascinated by the international atmosphere of our association. There is no better platform for international comparisons of transport styles. We are – according to my feeling – less advanced in establishing a disciplinary and multidisciplinary platform. Personally, I am in favour of a multidisciplinary integration, and would like to see more transport sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, ethnologists, geographers and economists in T2M. In the long term, I would envision an international association of social science transport studies with an historical nucleus. I am convinced that T2M has the duty and responsibility to push for the establishment of this new discipline at the international and national level.