The first lecture dedicated to the topic of politics was given at Leipzig University as early as 1410. The academic study of politics has formed part of the university ever since. In 1745, Georg Heinrich Zincke, Professor of Cameralism at Leipzig University, first used the German term Staatswissenschaften, which literally translates as “sciences of the state”, i.e. political science. Scientists in the fields of statistics, history, sociology, economics and constitutional law researched political connections and attempted to provide a rational explanation of politics. During the political upheavals of the 19th century, a number of university professors were already teaching political science in Leipzig. However, a standalone subject did not emerge until later on.
The Zeitschrift für Politik (“journal of politics”) founded in Leipzig in 1907 functioned as an important catalyst for the development of political science. Political interests, however, also advanced the evolution of the subject. The Saxon State Ministry of Culture and Public Education approved the application made by Director of the Legal Faculty Richard Schmidt to set up an Institute for International Political Knowledge in 1923. The start of the 20th century saw a network of academics emerge in Leipzig who were working on a teaching concept that looked at state social science. Hermann Heller was crucial to this concept. He is seen as one of the founders of political science in Germany and went on to disseminate the concept across the nation, also at the German Academy for Politics in Berlin.
Shifting external political influences helped shape the emergence of political science as an independent scientific discipline. A conflict of interests between supporters of an emancipated science, which observes issues impartially, and those looking for a practice-oriented affinity to politics had already influenced the early development of political science. This conflict of interests did not disappear. Scientists and students themselves actively contributed not only to the emergence and establishment of political science as a standalone discipline, but also to the establishment and persistence of different political systems – a fact that compels people to take a critical view of the roles assumed by science and the university. This concerns, for instance, the activities of Richard Schmidt at Leipzig University, the National Socialist era and the GDR.
You can read more about this topic in the following publications, among others:
Dieter Koop, Politikwissenschaft, in: Ulrich von Hehl/Uwe John/Mandfred Rudersdorf: Geschichte der Universität Leipzig 1409-2009, Band 4, Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag 2010, S. 826-845.
Dieter Koop, Wissenschaft und Politikverständnis im Wissenschaftlichen Kommunismus, in: Michael Th. Greven und Dieter Koop (Hrsg.), War der Wissenschaftliche Kommunismus eine Wissenschaft? Vom Wissenschaftlichen Kommunismus zur Politikwissenschaft, Opladen: Leske und Budrich 1993, S. 35-48.