The Baltic Sea region plays no prominent role in standard works on the history of European universities. This project will thus fill an important gap by focusing on the universities around the Baltic Sea in the period 1600-1800.
To a large extent the empirical material will consist of dissertations. The dissertation – the university’s oldest and most enduring literary genre – represents the key elements of the academic culture: as well as being educational and scientific, it is a social and representative product. However it should be stressed that the dissertations per se are not the primary object of this study; it is instead the academic culture mirrored in the ideas they present and in various practices connected with them. Other categories of material that will be analysed are orations, lectures, poetry, dedicatory letters, and personal letters and official correspondence.
The project members come from Sweden, Finland, and Estonia and represent a variety of disciplines: Rhetoric, History of Ideas, Church History, and Latin. Specific studies will deal with very different issues – for example moral philosophy and warfare, official rules and academic practice, the use of Latin and vernacular languages, peregrinations and disputations extra patriam, the relationship between scientific and rhetorical Latin – but, combined, the sub-projects will shed new light on four central aspects of the academic culture in the Baltic Sea region and the development it underwent in the early modern period:
• The academy as a social arena.
• The academy as an international community and as a national interest, for example what role, or roles, did the early modern state play for the academic culture?
• What connected the cultures at different universities around the Baltic Sea with to one another, what separated them, and what connected them with other European universities? Comparisons will be made between the academic culture at different universities; developments around the Baltic Sea will be examined against the background of the broader European context
• The relationship between the spoken and written word in the academic culture, for example how did the dissertation come to serve broader purposes than simply being the basis for an oral disputation? How did the written word, the text, come to be at the core of the academic’s metier?