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.

7. Anhalt-Dessau: Model Land of the Enlightenment?

Anhalt-Dessau was, at the end of the 18th century, among the so-called “less-powerful” imperial territories. The territory owed its reputation beyond its narrow borders to the willingness of Prince Leopold III (Friedrich Franz von Hanhalt-Dessau) to display his prestige in the Garden Kingdom of Wörlitz. This landscaped garden and its buildings already earned the prince a great renown during his lifetime. Today, the Garden Kingdom is an outstanding example of English landscape architecture, and is part of the World Cultural Heritage of the UNESCO.

The garden, as the embodiment of the Prince’s prestige largely shapes the image that we still have today of the builder of this landscaped garden: he was a prince dedicated to reform, enlightened, a benevolent sovereign, and a promoter of religious tolerance. Thus, Prince Franz is, along with other rulers in the Old Empire in the second half of the eighteenth century, such as Friedrich the Great of Prussia or Carl August of Saxony-Weimar, perceived much more as an individual outstanding personality than as a representative of his time and status.

In the case of Prince Franz von Anhalt-Dessau, the image of his personality is also greatly influenced by the fact that the assessment of his leadership was until now based mostly on statements from writers and intellectuals that he sponsored.

The goal of this series of studies is to take into consideration the practice of sovereignty and the representation of rulership and thus to consider the social and political contexts much more than has been done so far. The “practice of representation” of the Prince was dominated by political motives which had not so much to do with the reformative concepts of the Enlightenment, but rather with concepts of legitimation of the dynasty and the goal of princely assertiveness and claim to status, as the conference on the political dimension of garden design (on which a book was published in the autumn of 2014) has shown. Paul Beckus’ research on the princely court and the administration practices of Prince Franz (published in January 2016) has already made clear that the court corresponded much more to the usual conventions of princely court practices in the Old Empire than has heretofore been acknowledged in the research on Hanhalt-Dessau. Another project on the development and interpretation of the council’s protocols examines in depth for the first time the Prince’s practice of government over the entire period of his reign, and will also make possible a new appraisal of the Princes’ political governance.


Autocracy or Consensus – Oriented Governance? Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau (1758–1817) and “Regierung aus dem Kabinett”

Andreas Pečar, Paul Beckus

Leopold III Friedrich Franz, Ruling Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, is mainly known as the builder of the Garden Kingdom of Wörlitz. He is considered one of the most representative examples of the enlightened rulers of the late 18th century.

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Residenzschloss in Dessau vor 1700

Court and Administration of Prince Franz of Anhalt-Dessau (1758–1817). Structure, Personnel, Functionality

Paul Beckus

Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau (1758-1817) was considered by his contemporaries as the ideal of an enlightened ruler. Prince Franz, today largely unknown, was amongst the most popular rulers of the late Old Empire.

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[] Hoftheater in Dessau

Dessau-Wörlitz Commission Conference

Wolfgang Hirschmann, Adrian La Salvia

At the heart of the conference lies the source-based research on the musical landscape of Dessau-Wörlitz in the long eighteenth century (from 1766 until around 1830) and its significance for the Dessau-Wörlitz cultural site.

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