The genesis of the unique Gotha collections is closely connected with the history of the Gotha court and the European court culture of the 17th and 18th centuries. The extremely rich holdings of the former Secret Archives also offer the opportunity to explore the structures of a medium-sized German residence in an exemplary manner using the example of Gotha. The study of the Gotha court and its European interconnections in political as well as cultural terms are therefore among the preferred areas of the research activities of the Gotha Research Centre. The topics range from classical historiographical questions such as politics, diplomacy, military and finance to the study of the Gotha court as an eminent cultural and scientific center or the social reality of Africans at the German courts of the early modern period. The focus of corresponding studies is currently on court ceremonial, ducal finances, the history of knowledge of the Gotha military and the development of the corresponding sources, as well as the practices of secret diplomacy, the correspondence of the Gotha duchess Luise Dorothea (1710-1767), self-testimonies of noble court officials, the natural sciences at the court of Ernst II, and the person of the enlightened prince. In 2022, two major conferences on "Rudolph Zacharias Becker and Intellectual Gotha" and on Duke August also drew a broad panorama of science, arts and music in Gotha around 1800, also examining the role of the intellectual and middle-class milieu in the city centered around the court.
The study of socialization in the 18th century has also been one of the research center's focal points for some time. First and foremost is research on the history of the Illuminati Order, whose knowledge production was initially investigated within the framework of a DFG project on the Illuminati essays of the late Enlightenment. This resulted in the Gotha Illuminati Research Base, which is now part of the overarching FactGrid project, and the Illuminatenforschung Arbeitsstelle, which regularly organizes conferences and workshops and coordinates ongoing research on the history of the order, including the planned digitization of the famous "Schwedenkiste". In addition, the links with the order have brought the Masonic Lodge, founded in 1772, into focus, to which a major exhibition of the Friedenstein Castle Foundation, conceived in cooperation with the research center, will be dedicated in 2023.
In addition, the Enlightenment in all its facets represents a focus of research at the FZG. In terms of time, this ranges from the early Enlightenment to the "saddle period" around 1800 and in terms of content from the examination of historical-philosophical concepts of Enlightenment to the study of well-known authors such as Lessing to the Radical Enl ightenment and the exploration of the so-called underground, for example in connection with the postgraduate school"Religion and Enlightenment: Heterodoxy, Dissidence and Subversion 1650-1750," as well as banned books and genres such as pornography. In September 2023, an international conference marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of Friedrich Melchior Grimm (1723-1807), the eminent mediator of the ideas of the French philosophes in Central and Eastern Europe, will focus on the role of Gotha in his European networks.