August Ludwig Schlözer and Enlightenment in the ‘Age of Parallels’


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This dissertation investigates the historical and political thought of the Göttingen professor August Ludwig Schlözer, who provocatively called the period of the French Revolution the ‘Age of Parallels’. It seeks to examine the question as to how Schlözer’s historical parallels addressed the crisis of Enlightenment in the late-eighteenth century and how ‘northern’ (i.e. northern, central and eastern) Europe was re-conceptualised by Schlözer on the symbolic map of the Enlightenment. The dissertation argues that Schlözer’s lifelong scholarly endeavours were aimed at decentring world history and showing the historical importance of northern Europe in the development of European civilization. This aim was complemented by his decentring of the Enlightenment, his intellectual reaction to the political revolutions of the century. As Chapters 1 and 2 argue, Schlözer not only demonstrated that Hungary’s and Livonia’s development could be placed in parallel with the trans-Atlantic world, but also hoped that they would take directions which were different from those taken by the revolutionary centres. Schlözer saw such expectations already manifested in Russia and Transylvania. Chapter 3 argues that while the North American colonies rebelled against their king, medieval German colonists in Transylvania founded a free state under royal supervision, establishing what Schlözer considered to be ‘true freedom’. Chapter 4 argues that while, in Schlözer’s view, republican Swiss cantons and revolutionary France were heading towards decay, repeating wrong-headed historical patterns, Russia witnessed the re-emergence of developmental models which brought cultural flourishing there as early as the Middle Ages. In this sense, contemporary Russia represented ‘true Enlightenment’ as opposed to republican centres of liberty. Chapter 5 reconsiders the intellectual relationship between Schlözer and the philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder. It argues that for both Herder and Schlözer Russia, the Slavic world and Transylvania appeared to avoid several pitfalls which characterized the development of western Europe.

Whaley, Joachim
O'Reilly, William
August Ludwig Schlözer, Enlightenment, Constitutionalism, Johann Gottfried Herder, Revolution, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Slavery, Colonization, Monarchy
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
AHRC (1953428)
Arts and Humanities Research Council (1953428)