German Historical Institute London

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Public Lectures

European Leo Baeck Lecture Series

New Approaches to the History of Knowledge

Lecture Series | Autumn Term 2018

This lecture series will explore new approaches to the history of knowledge from a wide geographical and thematic angle. Addressing knowledge production in contexts ranging from medieval European societies and colonial settings to the modern challenges of climate change and the digital humanities, the talks will exemplify how these methods can be applied in a variety of disciplines.

13 November

Lauren Kassell (Cambridge)
Inscriptions, Digitization, and the Shape of Knowledge: Lessons from the Casebooks Project

Day by day, around 1600, a pair of English astrologer–physicians documented their consultations, filling 30,000 manuscript pages with cases. This is one of the largest surviving sets of private medical records in history. Reflecting on what it means to create a new archive out of an old archive, this talk focuses on the Casebooks Project, a tool for searching these records. It brings together approaches from the histories of science and medicine to the production of knowledge, both on paper and in xml, with broader questions about the history of record-keeping and the nature of scholarship in the twenty-first century.

Lauren Kassell is Professor of History of Science and Medicine at the University of Cambridge. She has published on the occult sciences, gender, and generation. She is Director of the Casebooks Project, a digital edition of early modern medical records that has produced a dataset, a web-based search interface, and explanatory material.

20 November

Miles Ogborn (London)
The Great Map of Mankind: The Historical Geography of Early Modern Knowledge

This talk considers the history of knowledge as a geographical problem, suggesting that where knowledge was produced matters to how it was produced and to its contents and uses. Drawing on research on the English East India Company in India and on the slave societies of the British Caribbean—and focusing on modes of communication in speech, script, and print—the talk will demonstrate the different scales, and the different sorts of spaces, places, and networks that need to be taken into account to understand the history of knowledge about Europe and the world beyond it.

Miles Ogborn is Professor of Geography at Queen Mary University of London and the author of Spaces of Modernity: London’s Geographies, 1680–1780 (New York, 1998); Indian Ink: Script and Print in the Making of the English East India Company (Chicago, 2007); and Global Lives: Britain and the World, 1550–1800 (Cambridge, 2008).

4 December

Nico Stehr (Friedrichshafen)
The Atmosphere of Democracy: Will Climate Change Trump Democratic Governance?

This talk focuses on what climate change discussions may call an ‘inconvenient democracy’. This refers to the huge gap that exists between the claims of scientific knowledge and good policy. The resulting sense of political futility leads to a disenchantment with democracy and the conclusion that the state, led by experts, should be a source of security for society in the face of extreme risk and danger from climate change. The talk argues that these gloomy views about the efficacy of democracy are mistaken.

Nico Stehr is Karl Mannheim Professor of Cultural Studies at the Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany. His recent books include Knowledge (with Marian Adolf; London, 2014); Understanding Inequality: Social Costs and Benefits (with Amanda Machin; Wiesbaden, 2016); Information, Power and Democracy (Cambridge, 2016); and Is Knowledge Power? (with Marian Adolf; London, 2017).

11 December

Martin Kintzinger (Münster)
History of Knowledge in the Middle Ages: Discussions and Perspectives

Moving away from the institutional and legal history of schools and universities, research on the history of knowledge has recently undergone a fundamental change. Instead of focusing on the social history of learned scholars or the traditions and challenges of education, it has started to look at knowledge systems in dynamic processes of change within contemporary societies: the construction of a learned elite; the migration of ideas; and the reception of foreign knowledge through intercultural communication. This talk will argue that global aspects of medieval history will lead to a new definition of what defined knowledge in medieval European societies.

Martin Kintzinger is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Münster and President of the Gesellschaft für Universitäts- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. He works on the history of universities and knowledge; intellectual history; the history of international relations, foreign policy, and diplomacy; and the beginnings of international law in the Middle Ages.

Seminars are held at 5.30 p.m. in the Seminar Room of the German Historical Institute.
Tea is served from 5.00 p.m. in the Common Room, and wine is available after the seminars.

Guided tours of the Library are available before each seminar at 4.30 p.m.

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Previous Seminars

Public Lectures 2018

11 October

Neil Gregor (Southampton)
German Orchestras, the Volksgemeinschaft, and the Persecution of the Jews, 1933–1945

GHIL in co-operation with the Modern German History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London

This lecture examines the ways in which antisemitism manifested itself in German concert life during the Nazi era. Drawing on a wide variety of examples ranging from prestige civic institutions such as the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra to small provincial theatre orchestras, it examines how the social practice of the symphony concert became infected with the racist agendas of the National Socialist movement. It also notes, however, the presence of other social and political logics in operation in the concert hall, and argues that the underlying forms of bourgeois sociability centred on this space remained largely intact, providing a site on which forms of social distinction were maintained despite the social egalitarianism of the regime.

Neil Gregor is Professor of Modern European History at the University of Southampton. He has published widely on twentieth-century German history, including Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich (1998) and Haunted City: Nuremberg and the Nazi Past (2008), both of which won the Fraenkel Prize for Contemporary History. He is currently completing a book on the symphony concert in Nazi Germany.

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21 November

Jakob Vogel (Paris)
Through Humboldt’s Glasses? Latin America in European History of the Early Nineteenth Century

GHIL in co-operation with the Faculty of History, University of Oxford

Apart from Alexander von Humboldt’s voyages in the Spanish Empire and to the United States between 1799 and 1804, Latin America is rarely mentioned in the general narratives about nineteenth-century European history. But the political and cultural interactions between Europe and the Latin American world were much more important and diverse in the early nineteenth century than the standard narrative suggests. The lecture explores the ways in which the myth of Alexander von Humboldt as the ‘ideal’ German traveller focused attention on specific elements of a broader history of Latin American–European relations that were increasingly neglected by general European historiography.

Jakob Vogel is Professor of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century European History at the Centre d’Histoire, Sciences Po, Paris. His publications include Europa: Notre Histoire (ed. with E. François et al., 2017) and Shaping the Transnational Sphere: Experts, Networks and Issues (ed. with D. Rodogno and B. Struck, 2015).

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Previous Public Lectures

European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London, 2017-18

The Difficulties of Writing Family History

This season’s topic intends to discuss the challenges which arise when writing a European-Jewish family history set in the historically and politically charged period of the late 19th to the mid-20th century. What scholarly problems does a writer encounter, what emotional difficulties does an author face – especially in terms of allowing the public access to one’s own personal history, and how can these challenges be dealt with?

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