The focus of the Center is the history of philology since its beginnings, with particular attention given to subfields in German language and literature. This encompasses scholarly estates of over 230 academics, archives and collections located at the German Literature Archive Marbach.
In 1972, Eberhard Lämmert and Walter Müller-Seidel called on the Deutscher Germanistenverband (Association for the Study of German Language and Literature) to provide an institutional documentary framework for the research and history of German language and literature with particular emphasis on the years spanning 1933–1945 and the responses elicited by the literature of the period. Their call found a sympathetic ear at the German Literature Archive. The Center for the Research of the History of German Language and Literature at the German Literature Archive provided German literary scholarship a space for historical self-reflection. Since its establishment in 1972, the Center has expanded the scope of its focus to encompass international scholarship on German language and literature from the year 1800 on. Further, the Center has also expanded its areas of concentration to research, communication, the collection of sources and documentation. Research essays, repertories and bibliographies contribute to the documentation of international academic history—published annually in the journal, Geschichte der Germanistik(History of German Language and Literature).