Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History for the 21st Century

December 2010

This exploratory seminar convenes 15 scholars from around the United States and Europe for a two-day intensive discussion concerning the current state of modern European intellectual history. After several decades of marginalization, intellectual history has recently made a comeback of tremendous proportions, with the inauguration of a new journal, Modern Intellectual History (Cambridge University Press), and the relaunching of The Journal of the History of Ideas (University of Pennsylvania Press). The state of the discipline was last surveyed in a conference volume published over two decades ago, edited by Dominick LaCapra and Steven Kaplan, Modern European Intellectual History: Reappraisals and New Perspectives (Cornell University Press, 1982). Since that time, significant changes have come to our field: older ideological and political formations such as Marxism have waned, while the study of religion has made a dramatic return, and international history has challenged European historians to look for heretofore unacknowledged connections across the globe. Under the auspices of three current Harvard faculty—Judith Surkis, David Armitage, and Peter Gordon—we bring together a diverse array of scholars, all making significant contributions to our discipline. The aim is to engage in a searching and critical conversation about what our discipline has been and where it will go in the future.

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