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Masaryk in the German context: Correspondence and digital networks

The influence of the historical figure of T. G. Masaryk extends far beyond the history of the Czech lands and of Central and Eastern Europe. His role as an Austrian intellectual has recently been arousing renewed strong interest. However, Masaryk's relevance remains no more than marginal in German research, in spite of the fact that he was quite clearly in close contact with the German intellectual scene, within which he was extremely well known.

It is precisely in the intellectual history of the late 19th and early 20th Century where much attention has been dedicated in recent years to research into networks and discourses, well beyond individual people and intellectual environments, understanding the production of ideas as a collective phenomenon. However, this reconstruction of the intellectual debates of the time only rarely crosses the barrier formerly represented by the Iron curtain.

The goal of this project is to close up this gap in the research and to demonstrate the important role played by T.G. Masaryks in the German-speaking intellectual world of his time. Three central questions will be posed by the project: 1.) on the form and content of the intellectual exchanges of the time, 2.) on transfer and modification of ideas in a variety of contexts, and finally 3.) on the origins and changes experienced by intellectuals themselves within this discourse.

In order to be in a position to answer these questions, it is planned to assemble all Masaryk's unpublished correspondence with German intellectuals during the period from 1880 to 1937 into a digital collection. This style of presentation will allow us to make elements of existing research and source work available to the public even before the project has been completed. Aside from the mainly unedited correspondence stored in the archives of the Masaryk Institute at the Czech Academy of Sciences, it is also intended to include sources stored in the archives of German universities.

The other side of the project will be to record correspondence with a view using their content and meta-data subsequently in (digital) network research. Thus the aim of the project is not restricted to creating a technologically advanced, open presentation platform for important primary sources, but will also includes setting up a digital methodological base for use in dealing with broader issues connected to existing research on the intellectual culture of Europe around the turn of the 19th Century.

The project partners are expected to include the Masaryk Institute at the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. While the Masaryk Institute will be providing the bulk of the source material from its archive and possesses the relevant thematic knowledge, the Academy's involvement will be centred on providing technical assistance within the framework of the "Historical Sciences Munich" competence network.

Johannes Gleixner

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