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New research on early modern law of nature and nations

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is supporting the research project "Institutionalising the law of nature and nations: The universities of Kiel, Greifswald and Rostock 1648–1806" at the Gotha Research Centre of the University of Erfurt with 350,000 euros over the next four years. It will be led by Dr Mikkel Munthe Jensen, coordinator of the research unit "Early Modern Natural Law" at the University of Erfurt.

The project deals with the history of the teaching of natural law at the three North German universities. The aim is to research how, to what extent and why this academic discipline developed in the northern German coastal region with its different political contexts. Based on the assumption that natural law was of great importance for the intellectual development and state-building efforts of the time, it will be shown that "modern" natural law also played an important role in this respect at smaller universities. Against this background, Dr Mikkel Munthe Jensen will explore the question of the extent to which the institutionalisation of natural law was dependent on the political needs of the state, and conversely, the extent to which the development of early modern states was influenced by certain academic teachings of natural law.

"In the project, I would like to combine the Intellectual History with so-called prosopography, i.e. the systematic research of a specific group of people, as well as with university history in a comparative study of northern German universities," explains the project leader. "In this way, the project should go far beyond studies of individual great thinkers and provide new insights into the meaning and function of early modern natural law."

Funding for the research project was approved as part of a package proposal involving the University of Erfurt and the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of the European Enlightenment (IZEA) in Halle.

The research centre "Early Modern Natural Law" was founded at the University of Erfurt in 2016 and has been a joint institution of the Max-Weber-Kolleg (MWK) and the Gotha Research Centre (FZG) at the University of Erfurt since 2019. "In this sense, the close cooperation between FZG, MWK and the IZEA in Halle is to be deepened and, with the further development of Natural Law 1625-1850: Database, the cooperation with the Gotha Research Library of the University of Erfurt and the Thuringian State and University Library in Jena is also to be strengthened," Jensen affirms.

Coordinator of the Research Centre for Early-Modern Natural Law
(Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies)
Forschungszentrum Gotha, Schloss Friedenstein
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