Descartes – Huygens Premodern History of Knowledge Colloquium with Richard Kirwan and Tobias Winnerling – 11 March 2019 (Utrecht)

11 March 2019 – 15.15 – 17.00h, Sweelinckzaal, Utrecht University

“Religious Conversion and Scholarly Identity in the Confessional Age”
The confessionalisation of learning that followed the Reformation gave rise to competing academic cultures, each promoting distinctive models of behaviour and identities for scholars. As confessional orthodoxies became established in universities, adherence to these norms was encouraged to the point of exclusivity, particularly among professorial cohorts. In this context, the migration of scholars on grounds of religion presented challenges for origin and destination institutions. Particularly problematic was the departure or arrival of would-be religious converts. Their presence exposed the boundaries between confessionalised academic behavioural modes and identities and tested the integrity of the host society. This paper will explore the responses of universities and academic communities to the phenomenon of religious conversion among scholars. It will examine how universities sought to accommodate, supervise and re-educate these uncertain subjects. In particular, it will scrutinise efforts to acculturate would-be converts to the social norms and characteristics that defined academic belonging in the host university.

Dr Richard Kirwan
Dr Richard Kirwan specialises in early modern European history with a focus on the German-speaking lands of the Holy Roman Empire. His research interests include the social and cultural history of early modern universities and the world of learning, early modern print culture, and the Reformation. Dr Kirwan’s publications include Empowerment and Representation at the University in Early Modern Germany: Helmstedt and Würzburg, 1576–1634 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009), and the edited volumes Scholarly Self-Fashioning and Community in the Early Modern University (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013) and Specialist Markets in the Early Modern Book World (Leiden: Brill, 2015) (edited with Sophie Mullins). Dr Kirwan’s current project is a study of religious conversion, exile and migration among scholars in the Holy Roman Empire, c. 1555- c. 1648. This project is funded by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung. Prior to his appointment at the University of Limerick, Dr Kirwan held posts at the University of St Andrews; the European University Institute, Florence (as a Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow); the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (as an IRCHSS Postdoctoral Fellow); and Trinity College Dublin.

“Constructing ‘remembrance’ in the 18th century learned world”
The memory of the scientific community was a contested ground in the beginning of the 18th century where actors competed to establish traditions, disciplines, lineages, and fame to further and perpetuate their own positions. As such, it could be used as a power tool, creating and transforming the history of learning. Caspar Burman (1696–1755), son of the Utrecht professor Pieter Burman (1668-1741), born into a family with a long scholarly tradition, in 1738 published his Trajectum Eruditum, a compendium of scholars who according to him had been Utrecht’s paragons of learning. Of his own lineage that included several relations besides friends of the family. The work was explicitly constructed to remember those whose achievements should not be forgotten. Ironically the reason for this was that their scholarly achievements were to be considered eternal and immortal. Burman implicitly acknowledged that the scholarly achievements granting “everlasting fame” to their holders only could do so as long as they were discursively constructed and disseminated. So how did he do so, and to which effect?

Dr Tobias Winnerling
Dr Tobias Winnerling studied History, Philosophy, and Modern Japan at the Universities of Hagen and Düsseldorf. He obtained his PhD in 2013 from Düsseldorf University with a thesis on the early Jesuit mission to India and Japan. At Huygens ING he is pursuing his postdoctoral project “The Fading of Remembrance. Charting the process of getting forgotten within the humanities, 18th – 20th centuries: a historical network research analysis” under EU funding by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship grant. The central questions in the project focus on why scholars got forgotten, and why and how those that are remembered have been selected over the period from the 18th to the 20th century. He also is interested in the history of European-Non-european encounters, history of knowledge, and Early Modernity in Digital Games.