Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für die Erforschung der Europäischen Aufklärung

Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg Siegel

Interdisciplinary Centre for European Enlightenment Studies

The IZEA was founded in 1990 as a central scientific institution of the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg. As a research institution for the history of culture and ideas, it explores the foundation of modern Western societies through the study of ideas and cultural patterns developed in the 18th century.

18th century studies

The research program includes research and publishing projects dedicated to a wide variety of themes, such as the history of universities, societies and communication; anthropology, aesthetics, culture and knowledge transfer, scholarly culture and literary forms of representation in the 18th century; the development of cultural patterns; the Enlightenment in global networks; and the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz.

Connected with the region's research institutions

The IZEA is located in the Red School, built in 1896, which was formerly the Higher School for Girls of the Francke Foundations. The IZEA houses a public library containing primary sources and research literature related to the Enlightenment in regional and European contexts. The Alexander von Humboldt Chair of Modern Written Culture and European Knowledge Transfer and the Immanuel-Kant-Forum also have their offices in the building.

Enlightenment studies in international networks

Thanks to its outstanding library, its publishing projects, its geographic proximity to important historic sites related to the Enlightenment (including extensive archives, libraries and art collections), and its partnerships with major cultural and scientific institutions,  the IZEA is now one of the most important international research institutes dedicated to the study of the Enlightenment, and is an essential meeting point for scientists from around the world.

Historical-Critical Edition of the correspondence of Christian Thomasius (1655–1728)

Project manager: Dr. Frank Grunert, Prof. Dr. Daniel Fulda

Editors: Dr. Frank Grunert, Dr. Matthias Hambrock, Dr. Martin Kühnel, Dr. Andrea Thiele

Research assistants: Dipl. pol. Christine Isenberg, David Maneke BA

Since May 2010 the DFG is funding the preparation and publication of a historical-critical edition of the entire correspondence of the Halle lawyer and philosopher, Christian Thomasius. The project takes into account the extraordinary importance of Thomasius for the formation of the Enlightenment in Germany and fulfils a long-standing need. The systematic edition of these primary sources makes possible for the first time the exact reconstruction and organisation of Thomasius’ multifaceted oeuvre as well as of his biography.

Project Discription

Thomasius: “Knowledge Manager” of the Early Enlightenment

[Translate to Englisch:] Christian Thomasius (1655–1728)

The correspondence provides a multifarious picture of Thomasius as a university teacher in Leipzig and Halle, as a "manager of knowledge", a networker, and a thinker as controversial as combative, who took part in or even initiated important debates of his time. Such discussions involved scientific landscape of central Germany, the fundamental debates of the decades around 1700, as well as radical changes in terms of mentalities, the history of ideas and the social context. In addition, the correspondence conveys information about the local history of Leipzig and Halle, about the various form of governance in Saxony and Brandenburg-Prussia and the effects of pan-European conflicts.

The Network

[Translate to Englisch:] Brief von Pufendorf an Thomasius ...Angaben??

Among the 277 identified correspondents, big names of the early Enlightenment Res publica litteraria can be found, such as for example Samuel Pufendorf or - even if only a few letters - Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Noteworthy is the correspondence between Thomasius and his patron Duke Moritz Wilhelm of Saxe-Zeitz, which extended over a period of 28 years. The fact that he had numerous contacts with pietists or representatives of nonconformist Protestant faiths is notable, such as for example with Friedrich Breckling, Gottfried Arnold or Pierre Poiret. A great part of the letters come from individuals who are hardly known today, such as pastors, teachers, lawyers and (former) students with whom he usually only exchanged one or very few letters. They address a wide range of topics from different areas of life, and thus scholarly practice can be observed in the variety of its everyday fields of activity. Thomasius communicated and acted on different levels, as teacher, legal advisor, administrative official, citizen and not least as a friend, who was considered as an accomplished interlocutor in the legal, theological, confessional, philosophical, scientific, and political fields.

The Correspondence

The correspondence gathered here, which was scattered over numerous archives in Germany and abroad, is extending from 1679 to Thomasius' death in 1728; it consists of more than 1,200 letters that were either written by Thomasius himself or addressed to him. Two thirds of the manuscript letters come from Thomasius' estate; the rest is mostly the official correspondence with rulers, ministries or university bodies. A surprisingly large number of references to Thomasius' correspondence (in the form of notices or longer quotations) could be found in his own works, in other publications of the time, and in the correspondence of other scholars. Thanks to these testimonies, it is possible to close several gaps in the correspondence.

The edition

The edition consists in a total of 4 volumes of letters, which are supplemented by another volume. The latter contains, aside from the list of sources, references and registers a biographical encyclopaedia of all correspondents and persons mentioned in the letters (with currently contains than 844 names). This dictionary provides invaluable insights into the network of Christian Thomasius. The correspondence of Christian Thomasius will appear as a historical-critical edition to be gradually published by Walter de Gruyter in Berlin. The first two volumes are being prepared for the press: volume 1 includes the correspondence for the years 1679 to 1692 and will be appear in the summer of 2016; volume 2 contains the correspondence for the years 1693 to 1698 and will be published in late 2016. The parallel supplementary volume will appear after the entire edition is in print. Until then, the relevant information for each volume will be made available online.

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