New Edition of “A New History of the Humanities”

A new paperback edition of “A New History of the Humanities” is in press and will appear by end September 2015. Since the academic landscape has changed considerably in the meantime, the paperback edition contains a new preface, which is printed in full below:

Preface to the Paperback Edition 

Five years after the publication of the original Dutch book (De Vergeten Wetenschappen, 2010) and two years after its English translation (A New History of the Humanities, 2013) the academic landscape has changed. The “History of the Humanities” has developed from a non-existing field into a flourishing discipline with its own journal (History of Humanities), an annual conference (The Making of the Humanities), an academic society (Society for the History of the Humanities) and several monographs. An increasing number of universities across the globe are teaching the History of the Humanities on par with the History of Science, and the premier journal in the History of Science, Isis, has recently devoted a special Focus section on The History of Humanities and the History of Science (June 2015). It seems that the humanistic disciplines have been brought back to their rightful place in the family tree of knowledge.

Nevertheless, in terms of funding and student numbers the humanities continue to be under immense pressure. Few people realize that without the humanistic disciplines the entire academic system would collapse. A general history of the humanities and their relations to the sciences remains thus more urgent than ever. But there are also signs of hope: the idea of the unicity of humanities and science has hit a nerve among natural scientists. The June 2015 issue of Scientific American dedicated a column to A New History of the Humanities concluding that “Regardless of which university building scholars inhabit, we are all working toward the same goal of improving our understanding of the true nature of things, and that is the way of both the sciences and the humanities, a scientia humanitatis.”

However intriguing these developments are, my greatest source of inspiration remain the animated discussions with my readers, especially with the students who use my work as a textbook. The book and its translations have found their way in courses in philosophy, history of science, cultural history, media studies, literary criticism, and in liberal arts programs. I am most grateful for the feedback and criticism I received from my readers. News and updates about the book and about the history of the humanities in general can be found on the weblogs (for all translations) and (for the English translation).


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