HIS 74. Enlightenment in Denmark, Scandinavia, and Europe: Contexts, Ideas, and Practices

Course content

Historical Subject 2: Academic Writing with Focus on Source Analysis
Enlightenment in Denmark, Scandinavia, and Europe: Contexts, Ideas, and Practices
This course focuses on the Enlightenment in Denmark, Scandinavia, and Europe. If the Enlightenment was once associated with a little flock of irreligious Parisian Philosophes, recent interpretations have broadened not only the canon of Enlightenment thinkers and the locations in which the Enlightenment took place, but also the catalogue of ideas and practices that constituted the Enlightenment, not least in regard to science, religion, and government. Yet, Enlightenment remains an essentially contested concept. Is the Enlightenment a uniform, transnational movement, whose advocates wanted the same whether they lived and wrote in London or Naples, Paris or Copenhagen? Should we think of the Enlightenment in terms of centres and peripheries? Or should we seek to understand individual writers and texts in national context? And how should we understand the ideas of the Enlightenment? Should we distinguish radical ideas from moderate, and how? Or was the Enlightenment as such devoted to reason or to human betterment? What is the role of religion? And the Republic of Letters?

This course approaches the Enlightenment from the perspective of intellectual history. During the course, we shall read works by Danish, Scandinavian, and European writers, tracing the trajectories of key debates on government and religion through different intellectual, institutional and geographical settings. The course, thus, seeks to understand the nature and scope of the Enlightenment through the lenses of different analytical scales or jeu d’échelles, ranging from the local and the national to the trans-European and beyond. Looking at the Enlightenment through these scales, the course will address three interconnected questions: First, in which contexts (geographical places, institutional spaces, intellectual traditions, languages etc.) do key works and ideas of the Enlightenment become meaningful? Secondly, what were the key ideas of the Enlightenment, what did Enlightenment authors intend to do with them, and how can we describe and evaluate them (conservative, subversive, radical, moderate etc.)? And, finally, through which intellectual practices were these ideas presented (translations, university dissertations, journals, travel accounts etc.)?

Students should expect to read modern historical works as well as eighteenth-century sources in Danish, English and Swedish. Knowledge of Danish and Swedish is not, however, a requirement.

Course objectives (clarification of some of the objectives stipulated in the curriculum): 
 After the course students will be able to:
• analyse and discuss central ideas and debates of the period and explain their intellectual context
• analyse and discuss the differences and similarities between Danish, Scandinavian and European writers in the eighteenth century
• explain key positions, interpretations and problems in Enlightenment historiography
• write an academic paper, that is, formulate a precise and relevant research question and answer it in written form, taking into consideration both eighteenth-century sources and modern historiographical interpretations


Historical Subject 2: Academic Writing with Focus on Source Analysis (HHIK03741E)
[Curriculum for Master´s Programme in History, 2015-Curriculum]

Historical Subject 2: Academic Writing with Focus on Source Analysis (HHIK03741E)
[Curriculum for the Master’s Minor in History, 2015-Curriculum]

History (ONLY BA-elective for BA students of History)
Module T5: Historical elective project (HHIB10511E)
[BA-elective studies, 2013-Curriculum]

Group instruction / Seminar

- Dan Edelstein: The Enlightenment: A Genealogy. Chicago and London, 2010.
- Jonathan Israel: A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy. Princeton and Oxford, 2010.
- John Robertson: The Enlightenment: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, 2015.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 203
  • Exam Preparation
  • 129,5
  • English
  • 388,5