Change of the Image of 'Abiturienten' Between 1871 and 1933

The doctoral project “Change of the image of 'Abiturienten' in Germany between 1871 and 1933: Ritual construction and biographical transitions“ researches the stability and change of the image of “Abiturienten”, as are grammar school graduates called in Germany, from the German Empire to the Weimar Republic on the basis of contemporary expectations of these high school graduates, as tested by the school, among others, as well as biographical transition patterns, as they are reflected in the typical circles of high school graduates.

Project Description

While there is a relatively good state of research in educational history research literature on the institutionalization process of the German Abitur, its functionalization as a university admission, and on research into the dominant awarding authority of the "Gymnasium" (grammer school), its central, predominantly male actors
– the 'Abiturienten' – have not yet been explicitly addressed. In the doctoral project, which is part of the interdisciplinary research project “Abitur examination practices and respective essays from 1882 to 1972“, the connection between young 'candidates' and the ritualized examination process is to be examined in particular. The demands on the graduates, their ideas about them and their 'maturity' to be certified, as reflected in social, professional and school discourses and examination practices, will be traced by means of a broad body of sources (e.g. association journals, guidebook literature, examination files, further documents from school authorities and individual schools) with the aid of content analysis and hermeneutical procedures.

The main research thesis is that transformation processes as well as continuities in the image of high school graduates appear in the context of the gradual social opening, expansion and differentiation of the German higher education system from the end of the 19th century onwards. Presumably, the authorization system transports hierarchies of school forms that also have effects on the image of high school graduates and socio-culturally influenced educational decisions. For this reason, the social milieus from which high school graduates came are examined on the basis of the high school graduates of individual schools, and the results are compared with existing socio-historical findings on educational mobility. To this end, small prosopographic case studies and micrological analysis categories will be used to correlate various data on social structures of the student body with their respective school evaluations and career or study preferences. The relationship between parental home and high school will also be examined, for example by investigating how biographical transitions are arranged and how they are answered for. With special regard to available source material on Prussia, which was the driving force behind many educational reforms, a historical longitudinal analysis for the period of the German Empire and the Weimar Republic is aimed at in order to outline the communicated images of the 'mature' person - still minority in the age group throughout the period under study - as a function of social and school political developments.


The doctoral thesis is part of the third-party funded project “Abitur examination practices and respective essays from 1882 to 1972“.

Project Management

Project Details

Project type: Qualification project
Current project
05/2018 - 03/2025
Research field: Historical Practice of School, Instruction and Education
Contact: Denise Löwe