Current Projects

Bücherregal der Forschungsbibliothek in Gotha

Network texts: Technologies of writing, reading and publishing in 17th and 18th century botany (Dr Bettina Dietz)

This project examines the intertwined practices of producing and publishing botanical knowledge that characterised the networked knowledge culture of early modern botany. The focus is on text-based practices, which have long received little attention in research due to a persistent fascination with scientific objects. Specific forms of production and circulation of botanical texts created a publication system that was used by the botanical community and at the same time constituted it.

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Project manager: Dr Bettina Dietz
Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG) € 300,000
Duration: 01.04.2023-31.03.2026


Institutionalising the Law of Nature and Nations: The Universities of Kiel, Greifswald and Rostock 1648-1806 (Dr Mikkel Munthe Jensen)

The project is about the history of the teaching of natural law at the three north German universities in Kiel, Greifswald and Rostock during the period 1648-1806. It is concerned with why, how and to what extent this academic discipline developed in three different political settings along the Baltic coast. The project is based on the general presumption that natural law was of great significance for the period's intellectual development and state building endeavours. The general aim of the project is to show that "modern" natural law, even at smaller north German universities, was playing an important role in this matter.

project webpage

Project Director: Mikkel Munthe Jensen
Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG) € 350.000
Period: 01.07.2022-30.06.2026

Ways and works of Michael Kosmeli (1773-1844) (Dr Dirk Sangmeister)

Born in Silesia, Michael Kosmeli (1773-1844), a trained lawyer, versatile writer, polyglot translator, virtuoso Jew's harpist and botanist with a doctorate, never had a permanent job or even a permanent residence, but spent his life travelling all over Europe and Asia as an itinerant scholar and Musician. He was the exact opposite of a parlour scholar. Kosmeli preferred to travel along the corridor that connected East Germany and Eastern Europe with the Ottoman Empire and Persia. Favourite stops and hubs on his travels were Berlin, Breslau, Riga, Reval, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Tbilisi, Jassy and Constantinople, where Kosmeli had loose networks of local scholars and friends who could accommodate and assist him. He travelled as far as Persia (Isfahan, Shiraz) and, according to contemporaries, even toyed with the idea of converting to Islam; years often passed before he temporarily returned to Silesia and Prussia. Kosmeli not only continually and effortlessly crossed countless geographical, political, cultural and religious borders, but actually felt at home in this Eastern European-Ottoman region. Through his "Rhapsodic Letters on a Journey to the Crimea" (1813) and the "Harmless Remarks on a Journey via Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev to Jassy" (1822), through his translations, especially of poetry (including from Polish, Russian, Modern Greek and Persian), through his contacts with some of the most outstanding scholars and writers of his time, including Hammer-Purgstall, Goethe, Chamisso and Jean Paul, and through his constant concert appearances at home and abroad, Kosmeli was the most mobile and versatile mediator of texts, ideas and Music between West and East of all German-speaking actors in the early 19th century, in both directions. Despite his extensive travels, diverse connections and various publications, Kosmeli has long been a completely forgotten figure, who has so far only been examined in a single essay published in 2011 (by Dr Dirk Sangmeister), but is now to be embedded in the overarching context of "Transottomanica". In a first step, the research project aims to reconstruct Kosmeli's labyrinthine, sometimes lost life and all his works in context by means of a short biography with a detailed bibliography and an annotated edition of his scattered letters. Building on this, the second step will be to analyse his role in the circulation of knowledge in the trans-Ottoman region, his connections, interdependencies and interactions with scholars, writers and musicians in the West and East, as well as his transfer achievements in the course of adapting texts, ideas, knowledge and compositions.

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the project for a period of three years as part of the "Transottomanica" priority programme. Since 2017, more than a dozen humanities scholars have been researching Eastern European-Ottoman-Persian mobility dynamics from the early modern period to the 20th century as part of the priority programme conceived and led by historians Stefan Rohdewald (Leipzig), Albrecht Fuess (Marburg) and Stephan Conermann (Bonn).

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Further information can be found here

Contact: Dr Dirk Sangmeister
Funding: DFG funding as part of the priority programme "Transottomanica"
Duration: 2021 - 2024

Strategies of Collecting and Displaying China in Nineteenth-Century Germany: Gotha’s Chinese Cabinet (Dr. Emily Teo)

My research project brings renewed attention to a significant Chinese collection in early-nineteenth-century Germany, the Chinese Cabinet in Gotha, established by Duke Emil August (1772-1822) of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg from 1804 to 1810. Consisting of over 2000 objects, the Cabinet was a great sensation during the first decades of the nineteenth-century and was described as the most important Chinese collection in continental Europe. However, following the establishment of national museums across European metropoles in the late-nineteenth century, smaller, regional collections such as the Chinese Cabinet gradually faded from memory. Despite its former fame, this collection is scarcely heard of today. The project argues that the Chinese Cabinet deserves further scholarly attention and takes a micro-historical approach to investigate the historical, cultural and social processes behind its creation. In doing so, this project offers new conclusions about the history of collections in nineteenth-century Germany, German perceptions and representations of China, and the provenance of Chinese objects during the early-nineteenth century.

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Funding: DFG
Period: May 2021 - April 2024

Ownership and Habit. On the political anthropology of property in Western modernity

The FZG is involved in the Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio CRC TRR 294 "Structural Change of Property", which was established in 2021, with a subproject on "Property and Habit. On the Political Anthropology of Property in Western Modernity".

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