Intellectual History

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Intellectual History at Duke draws on a collaborative graduate program, combining the faculty, student and library resources of Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and NCSU. Our intellectual historians emphasize the social, cultural and discursive setting of thought, using biography, intellectual fields and political movements to set the context for intellectual change. Transnational and interdisciplinary in their interests, they explore Diaspora, intelligentsia, émigrés, and cosmopolitanism, just as happily as ethnicity, nationality and empire, or emotions and the self. They excel at querying unusual intersections—gender and military strategy, race and commerce, religious and economic discourse, political theory and philosophy of science. They apply insights from a broad range of disciplines, including anthropology, literary and gender studies, and philosophy, but they seek an understanding of thinkers, ideas, texts and discourses that is emphatically contextual and historical.

In the modern European, Russian and Jewish fields, the program offers unparalleled resources. It collaborates with the Political Theory and German Studies Programs, the Duke-UNC Jewish Studies Seminar, the Center for the History of Political Economy, and the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine. It has international exchange programs with the University of Vienna and the International Center for Cultural Studies in Vienna. Faculty serve on the board of the field’s leading journal, Modern Intellectual History. 

Students develop plans of study involving intellectual historians from all three universities. Thanks to the diversity of faculty, students can explore a wide variety of themes, combining intellectual history with cognate fields in history and other disciplines. They can apply concepts and insights from economic, literary or political theory, from a range of cultural and religious discourses, from studies of nationality and ethnicity, German, Jewish and Science Studies, philosophy and social theory. As part of their departmental requirements, all students take the colloquium on the methodology and historiography of intellectual history, offered bi-annually, as well as topical 200-level seminars. They also take part in the monthly seminar at the NHC, which provides additional intellectual stimulation and opportunities for professional interaction with faculty, distinguished visitors, and NHC fellows. Students comment on papers by visitors and local faculty, and, at the dissertation stage, present their own work.