Early Modern Studies

Early Modern Studies (EMS) is a new cross-departmental focus area for early modern history. Supported by CEU’s Humanities Initiative, the formation of EMS highlights the university’s existing strengths in both teaching and research in the broad interdisciplinary field of early modern studies.

Traditionally seen as an age of transition between the middle ages and modern times (c. 1450-1800), the "early modern period" evades precise definition when it comes to its timeframe, geographical relevance, and overall characteristics, thus continually generating productive discussions about periodisations and methodology among historians. Emerging from the historiography of Western Europe and associated with the period that witnessed the rise of the modern state, the discovery of the Americas, the emergence of the printing press, the humanist turn to history, the scientific revolution, the project of the enlightenment, but also religious dissent, cultural asymmetries and socio-economic crisis, "early modernity" has become a controversial term among historians for invoking long-held views on progress and the supremacy of the West. In recent decades scholars have begun to speak about "early modernities," thus reducing Europe's experience of the period to one among many, while at the same time looking for global developments and their local manifestations that have allowed them to understand the period on its own terms rather than as the origin of or a transit to modernity. Important interventions from new comparative research in fields such as Eastern and East Central European history, Russian and Eurasian history, Ottoman or South Asian studies have thrown older models of modernity and its European origins into disarray. Digital reproduction and increased availability of source materials force historians to reconsider the production and distribution of knowledge in the Internet age. These challenges, both intellectual and practical, lead to new pressing questions with which early modernists grapple all around the world, while many of the big questions that make the humanities relevant today remain at the core of early modern studies: How do societies create meaning? How has the contact and transfer of meaning shaped the world? How does the memory of the past affect human action in the present? What are the historic pre-conditions for our contemporary commitments?

Since its foundation, CEU has been a meeting place for scholars from different intellectual and academic backgrounds. This tradition places EMS very well to probe the narratives of early modernity. Trans-cultural approaches to the early modern period are a common discernment of our faculty, and both students and researchers benefit from the combined expertise of the Medieval Studies Department and the Department of History with their thematic emphasis on Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe in their Western European and Mediterranean entanglements, the three land empires (Russian, Habsburg and Ottoman), the interactions of Eastern and Western Christianities with one another and with Islam and Judaism, as well as Jewish and Armenian diasporas.

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EMS is currently advertising a two year Junior Research Fellowship, participates in an international graduate exchange between Princeton, Oxford, Münster, Istanbul, and Budapest and plans a range of activities to provide a stimulating environment for the study of early modernity.