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Masterclass – Darrin McMahon (Dartmouth)

The Return of the History of Ideas?

Date: Tuesday February 3 2015
Time: 10.00 – 12.30
Venue: UB – Belle van Zuylenzaal, Singel 425 Amsterdam
Open to: RMa students and PhD candidates (Huizinga and OPG)
Fee (non-members): € 50,00
Organisers: Annelien de Dijn & Matthijs Lok (UvA)

Darrin McMahon will also give a public lecture on Monday February 2: 15:00-17:00
at the Doelenzaal (UB Universiteit van Amsterdam, Singel 425) 
‘The Return of the History of Ideas?
More information:


Long dismissed as a hopelessly outdated form of inquiry, the “history of ideas” is today making a comeback as a viable form of intellectual history.  What are the promises and the pitfalls of a renewed history of ideas?  In this discussion, Professor McMahon will take up the question both from the standpoint of past criticism and current methodological concerns.

Darrin M. McMahon is a historian, author, and public speaker, who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and is a Professor of History at Dartmouth College. Formerly McMahon was the Ben Weider Professor of History and Distinguished Research Professor at Florida State University.

Born in Carmel, California, and educated at the University of California, Berkeley and Yale, where he received his PhD in 1998, McMahon is the author of Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity (Oxford University Press, 2001) and Happiness: A History (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006), which has been translated into twelve languages and was awarded Best Books of the Year honors for 2006 by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Library Journal, and Slate Magazine.

McMahon has just completed a history of the idea of genius and the genius figure, Divine Fury: A History of Genius, published in October of 2013 with Basic Books. He is also the editor, with Ryan Hanley, of The Enlightenment: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, 5 vols. (Routledge, 2009), and, with Samuel Moyn, of Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History (Oxford University Press, 2014).

McMahon has taught as a visiting scholar at Columbia University, New York University, Yale University, the University of Rouen, the École Normale Supérieur, and the University of Potsdam. His writings have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

Preparation and reading
  • David Armitage (2012): What’s the Big Idea? Intellectual History and the Longue Durée , History of European Ideas, 38:4, 493-507.
  • Darrin McMahon, ‘The return of the history of ideas?’ in: Darrin M. McMahon, Samuel Moyn (red.),  Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History (2014), 13-31.

Participants are required to prepare a few (at least one) questions for Professor McMahon regarding his paper, preferably relating to your own research. In addition, participants are requested to prepare a short statement (max. 500 words) on their research interests. Please email questions and short research statement by Wednesday January 28 2015 to: