Research Profile & Foci

Old books on a shelf

The Gotha Research Centre is researching the history of culture and knowledge in the modern era. 
Therefore, we are interested in both elaborate forms of knowledge - philosophy, erudition, natural history, arcane knowledge, especially with a view to the prehistory of the later humanities and cultural studies - and more practical forms of knowledge, be they institutionally formed (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 in particular on knowledge production, i.e. the practices that produce and structure knowledge. In addition to text-based knowledge, we examine both pictorial knowledge - stored, for example, in emblematic representations, graphics or maps - and, in particular, objects and collections as material sources of knowledge.

Thus our research 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), which is always linked to other disciplines of history and cultural studies. With regard to the ducal collections in the Gotha Research Library and the Friedenstein Castle Foundation, the 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 this history of knowledge constantly takes up the thematic and methodological suggestions from the research projects of our scholarship holders and guest researchers in order to further contour 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 around the following three research fields:

Practices of erudition - Knowledge production - Arcane knowledge

History of Collections - Material Culture - Global Networks of Knowledge

Court - Socialisation - Enlightenment