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.

Social Production of Knowledge in the Enlightenment – Analytical Text and Network Discourse Reconstruction. The Halle Newspapers and Journals, 1688–1815

Project manager: Prof. Dr. Daniel Fulda

Researcher: Anne Purschwitz, MA.

Project team: Prof. Dr. Matthias Müller-Hannemann, PD. Dr. Alexander Hinneburg (Institut für Informatik der MLU)

Duration of project: in preparation

The project considers the functional mechanisms of the construction of knowledge based on the widest possible range of sources. A discourse reconstruction based on the Halle newspapers and journals will open up new perspectives on various discourses and their development and will allow comparisons between them with regard to the generation and transformation of knowledge.

Project Description

Studies in the humanities that deal with issues of production and dissemination of knowledge through public discourse can usually only selectively grasp historical controversies, because the inventory of available digital sources has become too large for hermeneutical methods, and continues to grow. Previous studies therefore focus generally on a partial image of the production, representation, reception, and evaluation of knowledge in terms of the history of ideas. It would be more productive to analyse the functional mechanisms of the construction of knowledge based on the broadest possible and already available source base.

Combining Qualitative/Hermeneutic and Digital Methods

The proposed investigation intends to take up this challenge through an innovative use of both qualitative/hermeneutic and digital methods. The project has three core objectives: We will develop new methods that firstly, adequately take into account the complexity of historical sources, secondly, identify and categorize discursive patterns and thirdly, can be applied in practice and help interpret the development, processing and relevance of different types of knowledge in the Enlightenment.

Diversity of the Sources

[Translate to Englisch:] Marienbibliothek Halle, Sterberegister St. Marien, Bd. 098, 1801-1817, Eintrag aus dem Jahr 1804, fol. 593.

The project will provide a computer-assisted systematic analysis of all 356 newspapers and journals published in Halle between 1688 and 1815, as well as information on all actors involved in the process. These data will be associated with already existing information on the demographic structure and on the economic, political and cultural contexts. Different groups of actors will be described comprehensively for the first time in terms of discursive, communicative and personal forms of knowledge through a microhistorical in-depth analysis.

The Pre-Modern Society of Knowledge

[Translate to Englisch:] Pränumerantenliste auf das Jahr 1785 des „Damenjournal zum Besten des Roseninstituts“, Halle 1785.

The study assumes that there was a “pre-modern society of knowledge”, for which analysis the periodical press of the Enlightenment as a source is particularly suited. Newspapers and journals closed a communicational and institutional gap, and formed a variable and open medium for different public discourses without thematic limitations.

Discourse Reconstruction – Text and Network Analysis – Discourse Comparison

[Translate to Englisch:] Inhaltsverzeichnis der „Observatiorum chymico-physico-medicarum curiosarum“ herausgegeben von Georg Ernst Stahl, Halle und Francofurti 1698.

The project intends to make three major contributions: Firstly, qualitatively, we go beyond the standard discourse analysis, by taking advantage of the abundance of available digital texts and information on networks for the reconstruction of Enlightenment discourses; secondly, these combined quantitative methods for text and network analysis make it possible to monitor the relevance of different actors directly in the discourses; thirdly, a reference system for the assessment and comparison of different discourses will be established, which scholarly research relating to the Enlightenment can use as a "general point of reference" (Kempf). In order to achieve this, the individual tasks - discourse reconstruction, discourse differentiation, discourse comparison and interpretation - will use specific qualitative and quantitative measurements. For this, we will develop, implement and evaluate innovative methods for network analysis as well as topics models. We will create an interactive, web-based analysis software and make it available as open source. A locally oriented model study, whose digital approach allows for extensions and additions will be conducted. All compiled metadata will be stored as part of the Historical Data Centre of Saxony-Anhalt and edited for future use. The developed software will provide an entirely new perspective on different discourses and their development and make possible comparisons with regard to the generation and transformation of knowledge.


The publication of the complete bibliography of all 356 Halle newspapers and journals is in preparation. In February 2016, a funding application was submitted to the Volkswagen Foundation together with Prof. Dr. Matthias Müller-Hannemann and PD. Dr. Alexander Hinneburg (Institute of computer science, MLU) in answer to the call for projects on "'Mixed Methods' in the humanities".

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