About our staff
Professor Thomas Ahnert
MA, PhD, FRHistS
Professor of Intellectual History; History
Affiliated research centres
I read history at St John’s College, Cambridge, graduating with a PhD in 1999. I then worked in the Munich office of an international management consultancy firm for some time, befoere accepting a three-year research fellowship at Edinburgh. This was associated with a project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, on the Science of Man in the Scottish Enlightenment. I was appointed to a lectureship in History in 2005, and subsequently promoted to Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor.
I have been the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Max-Planck Institut für Geschichte in Göttingen. In 2010 – 2011 I was the Rosanna and Charles Jaffin Founders’ Circle Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and in 2019 was a Shinhan Distinguished Visiting Professor at Yonsei University in South Korea.
- Editorial board member, Grotiana
- Editorial board member, Electronic Enlightenment
- Reviews editor, Intellectual History Review
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Britain & Ireland
- Medicine, Science & Technology
- Early Modern
- Eighteenth Century
I work on the intellectual history of early modern Europe, focusing mainly on the German-speaking lands and Britain from c. 1650 to c. 1820. One of my aims is to integrate the discussion of early modern religious thought into intellectual history more generally. Another has been to examine the connections between different intellectual disciplines in the early modern period, when any one area of inquiry and debate, such as religion, science, or morality, cannot be understood in isolation from others. This approach is reflected in my first book, a study of the early Enlightenment thinker Christian Thomasius, who wrote on matters as diverse as heresy, history, Roman Law, morality and natural science.
I have published articles and book chapters on a range of subjects such as religion and Enlightenment, the history of toleration, notions of punishment in early modern moral philosophy, Enlightenment responses to the intellectual heritage of classical antiquity, and the reception of Newtonian science in Germany. I have edited and translated several early modern texts on law and moral philosophy. I co-edited, with the late Susan Manning, a volume of essays on Character, Self and Sociability in the Scottish Enlightenment. My most recent monograph is The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment, 1690 - 1805.
I have an interest in the reception of classical Greek and Roman thought in the Enlightenment. In 2009 I co-organized (with Michael Lurie and Hannah Dawson) an international conference on Lucretius in the European Enlightenments. This was followed by a series of workshops, organized with Colin Kidd, which was funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The purpose of these meetings was to examine the importance of the critical engagement with classical antiquity for the culture and thought of Enlightenment Scotland.
Current research activities
I am currently writing a book about the reception of Newton and Newtonianism in eighteenth-century Germany. The aim of this study is to present the responses to Newton’s ideas in Enlightenment Germany as part of a more general intellectual history of eighteenth-century erudition, scholarship and philosophy, the concerns of which extend far beyond those of ‘science’ in a narrow sense. It is now well known that eighteenth-century natural philosophers were not constrained by the same disciplinary boundaries as we are. And yet, there is no comprehensive study of the responses to Newton in eighteenth-century Germany which reflects this fact.
I have recently been working on the reception of Newtonianism in the German-speaking lands, from the publication of Newton's Principia in 1687 to the early nineteenth century. This research has been supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust.
Watch a short video of Dr Ahnert speaking about his rearch interests - Media Hopper
Intellectual History from Montesquieu to Marx (3/4 Option)
Enlightenment Scotland, c. 1690 – c. 1800 (4MA)
Early Modern History: a Connected World
The 'Science of Man' in the Scottish Enlightenment
|Name||Degree||Thesis topic||Supervision type||Completion year||Link|
|Ross, Kevin||PhD||James Hutton's Metaphysics, Theory of Language, and Science, in the Scottish Enlightenment||Primary||2011|
|Ridder-patrick, Janet||MScR||Astrology in Early Modern Scotland, ca. 1543-1726||Primary||2007|
Books - Authored
Ahnert, T. (2015) The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment, 1690 - 1805. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
Ahnert, T. (2006) Religion and the origins of the German Enlightenment: faith and the reform of learning in the thought of Christian Thomasius. Rochester, N.Y: University of Rochester Press.
Books - Edited
Ahnert, T. (ed.) (2017) Christian Wolff: The Law of Nations treated according to the Scientific Method. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund Inc
Ahnert, T. and Manning, S. (eds.) (2011) Character, Self and Sociability in the Scottish Enlightenment. Palgrave Macmillan
Ahnert, T. (ed.) (2011) Institutes of Divine Jurisprudence, with Selections from Foundations of the Law of Nature & Nations. Translated by Ahnert, T. Liberty Fund Inc
Ahnert, T. and Schroder, P. (eds.) (2008) A Methodical System of Universal Law: Or, the Laws of Nature and Nations: With Supplements and a Discourse by George Turnbull. Liberty Fund Inc
Hunter, I., Ahnert, T. and Grunert, F. (eds.) (2007) Essays on Church, State, and Politics. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund Inc
Ahnert, T. (2008) Clergymen as Polite Philosophers. Douglas and the Conflict between Moderates and Orthodox in the Scottish Enlightenment. Intellectual History Review, 18(3), pp. 375-383DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17496970802319276
Ahnert, T. (2007) The 'Science of Man' in the Moral and Political Philosophy of George Turnbull, 1698-1748. Acta Philosophica Fennica , 83, pp. 89-104
Ahnert, T. (2005) Enthusiasm and enlightenment: the reform of faith and the reform of philosophy in the thought of Christian Thomasius. Modern Intellectual History, 2, pp. 153-177DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1479244305000387
Ahnert, T. (2005) Het debat over de ziel in de Schotse verlichting (The Debate over the Soul in the Scottish Enlightenment). ELLIPS, n/a, pp. 22-24
Ahnert, T. (2004) Newtonianism in early Enlightenment Germany, c. 1720 to 1750: metaphysics and the critique of dogmatic philosophy. Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 35 (3), pp. 471-91DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsa.2004.06.003
Ahnert, T. (2004) Pleasure, Pain and Punishment in the early Enlightenment: German and Scottish Debates. Jahrbuch fur Recht und Ethik, m/a, pp. 173-187
Ahnert, T. (2004) The soul, moral philosophy and natural religion in the Scottish Enlightenment. Eighteenth Century Thought, 2, pp. 233-253
Ahnert, T. (2003) Nullius in verba: Autorität und Experiment in der Frühen Neuzeit. Das Beispiel Johann Christoph Sturms (1635-1703). Zeitsprünge, 1(7), pp. 604-618
Ahnert, T. (2001) The Varieties of Contexts in Early Stuart Intellectual History. Historical Journal, 44, pp. 565-577DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X01001893
Ahnert, T. (1997) Roman Law in early Enlightenment Germany. The case of Christian Thomasius' De Aequitate Cerebrina Legis Secundae Codicis de Rescindenda Venditione (1706). Ius Commune: Zeitschrift für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte, XXIV, pp. 153-170
Ahnert, T. (forthcoming) Philosophy and Theology in Mid-Eighteenth Century Scotland. In: Fergusson, D. and Elliott, M. (eds.) The History of Scottish Theology: The Early Enlightenment to the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Ahnert, T. and McGill, M. (forthcoming) Scotland and the European Republic of Letters around 1700. In: Broadie, A. (ed.) Scottish Philosophy in the Seventeenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Ahnert, T. (2019) Newton in the German-speaking lands. In: Mandelbrote, S. and Pulte, H. (eds.) The Reception of Isaac Newton in Europe. London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 41-58
Ahnert, T. (2017) Introduction. In: Ahnert, T. (ed.) The Law of Nations Treated According to the Scientific Method. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund Inc, pp. ix-xxix
Ahnert, T. (2014) Soul and Mind. In: Garrett, A. (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Philosophy. London and New York: Taylor & Francis, pp. 297-319
Ahnert, T. (2013) Samuel Pufendorf and Religious Intolerance in the Early Enlightenment. In: Parkin, J. and Stanton, T. (eds.) Natural Law and Toleration in the Early Enlightenment. OUP/British Academy , pp. 15-33
Ahnert, T. (2013) Religion and Morality. In: Harris, J. (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 638-657
Ahnert, T. (2011) The Moral Education of Mankind: Character and Religious Moderatism in the Sermons of Hugh Blair. In: Ahnert, T. and Manning, S. (eds.) Character, Self, and Sociability in the Scottish Enlightenment. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 67-84
Ahnert, T. (2010) Fortschrittsgeschichte und Religiöse Aufklärung. William Robertson und die Deutung aussereuropäischer Kulturen. In: Hardtwig, W. (ed.) Die Aufklärung und Ihre Weltwirkung. Geschichte und Gesellschaft Sonderheft 23. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co, pp. 101-122
Ahnert, T. (2009) Epicureanism and the Transformation of Natural Law in the Early German Enlightenment. In: Leddy, N. and Lifschitz, A. (eds.) Epicurus in the Enlightenment: Mode d'emploi. Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, pp. 53-68
Ahnert, T. (2009) Problematische Bindungswirkung: Zum 'Epikureismus' im Naturrecht der deutschen Frühaufklärung. In: Fiorillo, V. and Grunert, F. (eds.) Das Naturrecht des Geselligkeit, Anthropologie, Recht and Politik im 18. Jahrhundert. Duncker & Humblot, pp. 39-54
Ahnert, T. (2008) The Atlantic Enlightenment: The Atlantic Enlightenment and German Responses to the American Revolution, c. 1775-c.1800. In: Cogliano, F. and Manning, S. (eds.) The Atlantic Enlightenment. Ashgate Publishing, pp. 97-111
Ahnert, T. (2006) Short Biographical entries (2, 250 words) on Justus Henning Böhmer, Johann Jakob Brucker, Pierre des Maizeaux, Nicolaus Gundling, Jean LeClerc, Jakob Friedrich Ludovici, Daniel Nettelbladt, Ludgwig Phillip Thümmig, Johann Georg Walch, and Johann Heinrich Zedler. In: Haakonssen, K. (ed.) Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, pp. n/a
Ahnert, T. (2005) Historicising Heresy in the early German Enlightenment: Orthodox and Enthusiast Variants. In: Hunter, I., Laursen, J. and Nederman, C. (eds.) Heresy in Transition: Transforming Ideas of Hersey in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Catholic Christendom 1300-1700. Ashgate Publishing, pp. 129-142
Ahnert, T. (2003) De Sympathia et Antipathia Rerum: Natural Law, Religion and the Rejection of Mechanistic Science in the Works of Christian Thomasisus. In: Tim Hochstrasser, P. (ed.) Early Modern Natural Law Theories: Contexts and Strategies in the Early Enlightenment. International Archives of the History of Ideas 186. Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 257-277
Ahnert, T. (2002) The relationship between the Prince and the Church in the Thought of Christian Thomasius. In: Ian Hunter, D. (ed.) Natural Law and Civil Sovereignty. Moral Right and State Authority in Early Modern Political Thought. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 91-106