Latest issue of History of Humanities has been published!

The latest issue of History of Humanities 2(1) deals with Practical and Material Histories of the Humanities.

The so-called practical and material turns that have occurred in recent historiography of science also apply to the history of the humanities. The present issue therefore begins with a “Theme” section on the practices of historical research in archives and libraries. The six articles in this section deal with seemingly mundane aspects such as editing, copying, inventorying, and the handling of archival objects (including boxes and paper clips), as well as with the limitations of archival access, their ergonomics, and even their lighting and temperature. The authors contend that such practical aspects are relevant for understanding continuities in the humanities to a much larger extent than has previously been thought.

The “Forum” section explores the history of the analysis of materials and techniques in art. The “material turn” is clearly one of the characteristic features of the humanities in the early twenty-first century. It has dislodged the centrality of the human element and foregrounded the social life of things, the agency of objects, and actor-artifact assemblages. Textual and language-oriented models of knowledge are complemented by studies of “tacit” and “embodied” knowledge.

For more info and the Table of Contents of issue 2(1) click here.

How a New Field Could Help Save the Humanities

Here’s my essay in the Chronicle Review that has just been published. I make a case for studying the general history of the humanities on par with (and in close alliance with) the history of the sciences.

“Unlike the history of science, the history of the humanities is not an academic discipline. This is surprising — humanists are among the most historically minded scholars. How can it be that humanists care about the history of everything except about their own? The situation is of course more subtle: There is historiography of philology, of history writing, of religious studies, of art history, of musicology, of literary studies, and more, but what is missing is an academic discipline that explores the history of the humanities together. For the “humanities” to be more than just an umbrella term, this bewildering gap in intellectual history must be remedied. […]”

Click here for the complete essay.

History of Humanities Conference, Oxford, 28-30 September 2017

The sixth conference on the history of the humanities, ‘The Making of the Humanities VI’, will take place at the University of Oxford, Humanities Division and Somerville College, UK, from 28 till 30 September 2017.

Goal of the Making of the Humanities (MoH) Conferences

The MoH conferences are organized by the Society for the History of the Humanities and bring together scholars and historians interested in the history of a wide variety of disciplines, including archaeology, art history, historiography, linguistics, literary studies, media studies, musicology, and philology, tracing these fields from their earliest developments to the modern day.

We welcome panels and papers on any period or region. We are especially interested in work that compares scholarly practices across humanities disciplines and civilizations.

Please note that the Making of the Humanities conferences are not concerned with the history of art, the history of music or the history of literature, and so on, but instead with the history of art history, the history of musicology, the history of literary studies, etc.

Keynote Speakers

Elisabeth Décultot, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg: From an Antiquarian to an Historical Approach? The Birth of Art History in the 18th Century

Shamil Jeppie, University of Cape Town: Styles of Writing History in Timbuktu and the Sahara/Sahel

Peter Mandler, University of Cambridge: The Rise (and Fall?) of the Humanities

Paper Submissions

Abstracts of single papers (30 minutes including discussion) should contain the name of the speaker, full contact address (including email address), the title and a summary of the paper of maximally 250 words. For more information about submitting abstracts, see

Deadline for abstracts: 15 April 2017

Notification of acceptance: June 2017

Panel Submissions

Panels last 1.5 to 2 hours and can consist of 3-4 papers and possibly a commentary on a coherent theme including discussion. Panel proposals should contain respectively the name of the chair, the names of the speakers and commentator, full contact addresses (including email addresses), the title of the panel, a short (150 words) description of the panel’s content and for each paper an abstract of maximally 250 words. For more information about submitting panels, see

Deadline for panel proposals: 15 April 2017

Notification of acceptance: June 2017

Fall issue of “History of Humanities” has been published!

The 2016 Fall Issue of “History of Humanities” has just been published:

Click here for the Table of Contents.

The theme is “Going Global”:

While the academic conception of the humanities, or Geisteswissenschaften, may be a Western invention, attempts to analyze literature, art, music, language, theater, and history are not exclusively European phenomena but have originated in different parts of the world. For this reason, one of the stated goals of this journal is to advocate the study of the history of the humanities from a global perspective.1 In the first issue we included one aspect of the humanities in China. The current issue includes essays on the humanities in precolonial Mali, pre-Hispanic America, the Ottoman Empire, and the Soviet Union. What do we gain from a global perspective? A transgeographical history of the humanities not only helps avoid a parochial view but also shows to what extent practices and ideals in the humanities in different parts of the world are connected and comparable. In the current issue, Shamil Jeppie argues that the humanities in precolonial Timbuktu can be properly understood only if they are viewed as part of a larger network of learning that included North Africa and the Middle East. Sara Gonzalez asserts that Peruvian history writing focused on images as the basis for historical narratives in which the pre-Columbian rulers were connected to the Habsburg dynasty. Michiel Leezenberg draws attention to the fact that processes of vernacularization took place simultaneously in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere in the world. Floris Solleveld focuses on Europe but discusses the notion of “revolution” in the humanities across different countries. Boris Gasparov makes us aware that, even in relation to the secluded situation of the Soviet Union, a comparative perspective is rewarding. We wish to further encourage the study of the history of humanities from a pluralistic, comparative point of view. Our argument in favor of a global perspective does not, however, exclude the journal’s other goals. In fact, this issue’s Forum contributions by Herman Paul and colleagues deal with the question of how to write a history of the humanities that transcends disciplines. They hypothesize that scholarly personae offer a promising focus for such a project. By contrasting different disciplines and scholars, they show that a comparative perspective is fruitful not only for a global but also for a primarily local history of the humanities.

Our recent volume “The Making of the Modern Humanities” reviewed in premier History of Science journal (Isis)

“A must-read for anyone interested in the history of a broad range of the humanities. It combines case studies of great historical precision with methodological considerations of historical epistemologies, with the explicit aim of matching the work done in the history of science with equivalent historical epistemologies of the various humanistic disciplines—including philology, musicology, art history, linguistics, archaeology, theater studies, history of philosophy, media studies, Oriental studies, and literary studies—often in light of their intersections with science or the social sciences (the particular innovation of this volume).”

For more information on: Rens Bod, Jaap Maat, and Thijs Weststeijn (Editors): The Making of the Humanities, Vol. 3: The Modern Humanities, see the review by Katherine Arens.