The Oxford-Berlin Enlightenment Hub

The Oxford-Berlin Enlightenment Hub

An aegis for existing and future collaboration, the Oxford-Berlin Enlightenment Hub examines 18th-century culture for the elucidation of some of the most pivotal political, social, and broader intellectual challenges of 21st-century societies. Following a decade of economic crises and political turbulence, our aim is to shed new light on the Enlightenment origins of modern notions of popular sovereignty, religious toleration, and literary and scientific practices. The Hub also explores key economic and political practices that evolved together with such intellectual innovations: free markets, new modes of resource extraction, and projects for national improvement or international co-operation. Proposing neither a straightforward path linking Enlightenment and ‘modernity’ nor a rose-tinted view of 18th-century thought, the Oxford-Berlin Enlightenment Hub reconstructs a series of cultural patterns – that is, a confluence of concepts and practices, perpetuated through cultural habitualization – which shaped and continues to inflect our modern worldview.

As the field of Enlightenment Studies is inherently interdisciplinary, the Oxford-Berlin Enlightenment Hub enables both academic communities to pool together their significant strengths in this area, spanning the disciplines of History, Philosophy, Theology, Literary Studies, History of Science, Social and Political Sciences and, on the Oxford side, institutions such as the Voltaire Foundation, the Bodleian Libraries, and further University museums and collections. On the Berlin end, beyond the core activities at the Humboldt-Universität and the Freie Universität, we also seek to collaborate with the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Preußischer Kulturbesitz), the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.  At the same time the Oxford-Berlin Enlightenment Hub complements two of Berlin’s successful cluster projects in the federal and state governments’ Exzellenzstrategie. It provides a historical foundation for the cluster Contestations of the Liberal Script, whose notion of the ‘liberal script’ derives from a set of concepts first developed in the eighteenth century. The Oxford-Berlin Enlightenment Hub also serves as an interlocutor for the excellence cluster Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Perspective. Our investigations into the cosmopolitan ramifications of Enlightenment thought offer new perspectives on a global intellectual phenomenon that transcends national boundaries.


The outcomes will be joint funding applications to national, European or international schemes in the field of intellectual and cultural heritage, as well as digital humanities. We also hope to produce a Berlin-Oxford volume of articles.  At our first conference, Enlightenment Projects (Oxford, 30/09-2/10 2019), we surveyed 18th-century projects of critique and reform. Our second large-scale event, Enlightenment Futures (Berlin, March 2021) draws on Enlightenment thought concerning the future (in different fields) while suggesting new directions for Enlightenment Studies within the humanities and the social sciences.




Steering group:

Nicholas Cronk (French Literature and the Voltaire Foundation, Oxford)

Mark-Georg Dehrmann (German and Comparative Literature, HU)

Howard Hotson (History and Digital Humanities, Oxford)

Avi Lifschitz (History and the Voltaire Foundation, Oxford)

Kathryn Murphy (English Literature, Oxford)

Barry Murnane (German Literature, Oxford)

Anita Traninger (Romance and Comparative Literature, FU)