Humboldt and the modern German university

An intellectual history

By Johan Östling

Humboldt and the modern German university


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-9-1983-7680-7
  • Pages: 312
  • Publisher: Lund University Press
  • Price: £30.00
  • Published Date: April 2018
  • BIC Category: History of education, Society & social sciences / History of ideas, Germany, Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, HISTORY / Europe / Germany, HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century, EDUCATION / History, History of education, History, Modern History
  • Series: Lund University Press


This book is about the idea of the university in modern Germany. Its primary focus is how the Humboldtian tradition was transformed and how it gave direction to debates around higher education. By combining approaches from intellectual history, conceptual history and the history of knowledge, the study investigates the ways in which Humboldt's ideas have been appropriated for various purposes in different historical contexts and epochs. Ultimately, it shows that Humboldt's ideals are not timeless - they are historical phenomena and have always been determined by the predicaments and issues of the day. Nevertheless, many of the key concepts and fundamental ideas have endured throughout the twentieth century, though they have been interpreted in different ways.

An electronic version of this book is available under a creative commons licence:


'Sophisticated in its concepts and methods, lucid in its exposition, balanced and perceptive in its judgements, Johan Ostling's book exemplifies a new and rich approach to the history of universities.'
Peter Burke, Emeritus Professor of Cultural History, Emmanuel College, Cambridge


Prologue: Unter den Linden 6
1 The history of the university
2 Wilhelm von Humboldt and his idea
3 The discovery of Humboldt
4 The rebirth of the university
5 Tradition under debate
6 From Berlin to Bologna


Johan Östling is Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer in History at Lund University, Sweden

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