History of Knowledge Blog

GHI's History of Knowledge Blog

Knowledge does not simply exist, awaiting discovery and use. Knowledge is produced, adapted, forgotten, rejected, superseded, expanded, reconfigured, and more—always by human beings (at least in this more-or-less pre-AI age), alone or in communities, always in culturally, socially, economically, and institutionally specific contexts.

Knowledge is central to most purposeful human practices, whether at work, in the family, or for worship, whether implicitly or explicitly, whether passed down by hands-on training or through books and other storage and retrieval systems. Both product and basis of human interactions, knowledge has a history. Indeed, human history cannot be understood apart from the history of knowledge.

This blog aims to serve as a venue for the exchange of ideas and information on the history of knowledge. It is currently managed by a small team at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC, but it desires contributions by and engagement with scholars working elsewhere.

  • Latest Posts
    • Organizing Knowledge for a Modern Church: The Functional Order of Catholic Libraries in Wilhelmine Germany

      Wednesday, 10. July 2019 - In the early years of the twentieth century, Catholic libraries in Germany adopted modernized methods of organization to simplify their use: the arrangement of books by subject, alpha-numeric classifying systems, and card catalogs. The adoption may not seem like much, but in the structure and...

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    • Consumer Engineering and the Rise of Marketing Knowledge, 1920s–1970s

      Thursday, 27. June 2019 - Marketing knowledge—information and analysis concerning markets, consumers, and their behavior—became a crucial asset for businesses and governments during the twentieth century. In 1971, the German-American market researcher Alfred Politz drafted a memoir of his time in marketing...

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    • Knowledge Notes

      Friday, 21. June 2019 - Article: “How How ‘Facts’ Shaped Modern Disciplines: The Fluid Concept of Fact and the Common Origins of German Physics and Historiography” by Sjang L. Ten Hagen. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 49, no. 3 (June 2019): 300–337. Blog post: “Religion as...

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    • The Politics of Measurement: Knowledge about Economic Inequality in the United Kingdom and Beyond since 1945

      Sunday, 02. June 2019 - If you had a conversation about the growing gap between rich and poor almost anywhere in today’s world, you would very likely refer to “the top one percent,” a phrase that evokes the skyrocketing wealth of the superrich. A similar conversation in West Germany in the 1970s or...

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    • Knowledge about Democratic Silence: Political Science and the Rise of Electoral Abstention in Postwar Switzerland (1945–1989)

      Saturday, 01. June 2019 - In recent decades, a diagnosis of democratic crisis or even of a post-democratic condition has emerged in public debate in many Western states. The rise of electoral abstention, particularly since the 1970s and 1980s, often serves as statistical evidence for this assessment.1 Yet what exactly...

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