The Department of the History of Intellectual Culture


The Department draws on the methods propagated by the International Society for Intellectual History that has been working since 1994. It enriches the research characteristic of the history of culture (J. Burchardt), especially the history of ideas (A. Lovejoy) by a social analysis of conditions and modes through which to popularise culture, including the history of mentality. The subject matter and methods are complex here, the history of mentality is treated in line with the ideals of "new history," as "histoire complexe" that combines the history of ideas and the history of structures ("cadres") and forms of intellectual life, assuming their "longue durée." Its interdisciplinary character is highlighted in the first place. This is manifested by an interest in philosophy, science, literature, language, and art. At the same time the manners by which it is popularised, multiplied, and communicated are stressed. They are connected with the history of institutions that ensure such processes, e.g. education of publications (print, resp. libraries and reading). Thereby this "cultural history" or "Kulturgeschichte" is close to the history of educated people ("Gelehrtengeschichte"). It does not only report on learned and intellectual discussions, including matters concerning one's outlook, but also presents people who disseminated those ideas or studied them, a fact defined as "social history of ideas" that examines "dissemination of ideas", and eventually the "governing élite," or even the "liberal professional élite" (L.W.B. Brockliss).


Out of many domains of the history of intellectual culture, the Department studies especially the history of philosophical culture. It concentrates on the analysis of the dissemination of philosophical ideas and their impact of culture and social life, and the history of education. The education and culture of the Enlightenment and its characteristic philosophical culture are the focal point of the Department's interest. Thus various aspects of the Commission of National Education are studied against the backdrop of Europe.