German Historical Institute London

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Public Lectures

Leo Baeck Institute 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

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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27 November

Johanna Gehmacher (University of Vienna)
Translating Feminism in National and Transnational Spaces. A Biographical Perspective on Women's Movements around 1900

Gerda Henkel Visiting Professorship Lecture

Venue: London School of Economics (Wolfson Theatre)

Political movements such as women’s movements around 1900 operated mostly in national arenas. The ideas and demands they propagated were, however, circulated (and transformed) transnationally. The talk takes the example of Käthe Schirmacher (1865-1930), a Danzig-born political activist who travelled widely through Europe before the Great War to discuss how women’s movements could share their different political concepts.

Johanna Gehmacher’s research focuses on women’s and gender history of the 19th and 20th century in Europe. Among other issues she is interested in the history of biographical thinking as a site of recurring de- and reconstructions of gendered and nationalised identities.

The Gerda Henkel Visiting Professorship is a joint project of the GHIL and the International History Department of the LSE and is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

Previous Public Lectures

Leo Baeck Institute Lecture Series London, 2018-19

The Seeing Jews in Art: Networks Fantasies and Dreams

This season’s topic aims to explore the agency of Jews within the networks shaping visual culture. Spanning from the middle ages to the present, and across a range of different media, it will focus on the point of intersection of Art by Jews with Art about Jews and the complex interplay of Jewish reactions to their depiction in Western art and Gentile attitudes towards Jewish visual culture. How do Jews respond and attempt to re-shape their images, stereotyped by the majority societies surrounding them? How does Jewish material culture influence Western visual culture, and how were Jews entangled with the art world?


1 November (GHIL, 6.30pm)
Katrin Kogman-Appel (Münster)
A Jewish Look on World Politics: The Catalan Mappamundi (1375)

The richly illustrated Catalan Mappamundi is among the most celebrated medieval maps surviving to this day. Commissioned by Peter IV of Aragon as a gift to Charles V of France it was put to parchment by Elisha Cresques, a Jewish scribe, illuminator, and cartographer in the City of Majorca. The talk explores how Elisha, from his delicate position as a Sefardi intellectual in the service of the Court coped with his patron’s agendas while, at the same time, voiced his own views of the politics of his time.
6 December (GHIL, 6.30pm)
Ruth Oren Grossmann (Haifa)
‘Coming back to History’: The Jewish Image in Landscape Photographs of ‘Eretz-Israel’, 1898-1961

This visual presentation about Zionist landscape photography in Palestine (Eretz-Israel), from its beginning in 1898 until 1961, explores the ‘returning’ of the Jews to modern history and geography and the formation of the ‘mental landscape’ of Israel as it was created in the Zionist photographic narrative. Landscape photography, produced and consumed within the National Zionist Institutions, created a utopian image of the Jewish environment by developing a coherent iconography rooted in the hegemonic ideology of cultivating and ‘building’ a country for the Jewish nation.

More information is available on the Leo Baeck Inistute website.