The Gotha Research Centre studies the history of culture and knowledge in the modern era. We are not only interested in elaborate forms of knowledge – philosophy, scholarship, natural history, arcane knowledge, especially with a view to the prehistory of the later humanities and cultural studies – but also in more practical forms of knowledge, be they formed by institutions (e.g. administrative, state and legal knowledge) or predominantly experience-based (practical knowledge, lay or everyday knowledge, “tacit knowledge”). The epistemological focus of our research lies especially on knowledge production, i.e. the practices that produce and structure knowledge. In addition to knowledge passed down in texts, we examine pictorial knowledge – stored, for example, in emblematic representations, graphics or maps – and, in particular, objects and collections as material sources of knowledge.
Our research thus unites a broad spectrum of questions and topics, ranging from the classical history of ideas to the cultural history of collecting and to current new approaches in the historical study of science (history of science, history of scholarship), and is always linked to other disciplines in history and cultural studies. In keeping with the ducal collections of the Gotha Research Library and the Friedenstein Castle Foundation (Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein Gotha), the temporal focus of our work is the early modern period from around 1500 to 1800, including its transitions.
Methodologically, we are committed to a culturally informed, theoretically reflected and at the same time source-oriented approach. The specific history of knowledge at Gotha is thus just as interested in practices as in ideas and discourses, in spatial relations, visual media and material things as in complex theoretical contexts. In addition, we constantly embrace the thematic and methodological suggestions generated by our scholarship holders and guest researchers in their research projects in order to further hone the programme of a transdisciplinary, collection-related history of knowledge and to make it fruitful for the empirical work with the Gotha collections.
Our research priorities and projects are grouped into the following three research fields: