Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Lehrstuhl für Wissenschaftsgeschichte

M.A. Jakob Kaaby Hellstenius

M.A. Jakob Kaaby Hellstenius
jhellstenius (at)

Humboldt-Universität → Präsidium → Philosophische Fakultät → Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften → Wissenschaftsgeschichte mit einem Schwerpunkt in der Geschichte der Bildung und der Organisation des Wissens im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert
Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin

→ Vita

→ Research interests

→ Current project

→ Publications and talks



Jakob Kaaby Hellstenius received both his M.A. (2021) and B.A. (2019) in history from the University of Oslo, having also spent a semester at the Freie Univerität in Berlin through the Erasmus+ exchange programme. His M.A. thesis explored the effects of the diversification and universalisation of the written word on the reading practices of common readers in 19th century Norway. In 2021, he was the recipient of the UiO:Norden and Foreningen Norden’s Master thesis scholarship, as well as LO’s (Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions) Master thesis scholarship for studies in labour history.

Hellstenius is currently a part of the International Max Planck Research School at the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (MPIWG) in Berlin.


Research interests

  • The history of reading
  • The history of knowledge
  • Digital humanities
  • Forms of unknowledge


Current project

Ignorance in the Age of Text: Forbidden Knowledge among Common Readers in 18th and 19th Century Britain

Hellstenius_NLW_NLW_gcf08102-001.jpegHellstenius’ project is an attempt at untangling the interplay of the unknowledge and reading practices of British common readers in the 18th and 19th century. While common readers were berated by elites for reading “uninstructive” texts that did nothing to change their readers’ material and intellectual poverty — but instead deepened their ignorance — their reading was anything but a meaningless pastime.

The project explores how common readers’ understandings of medicine, economics, intimacy, human nature, and more, were shaped by the texts they read, and their practices of reading and how this, far from ignorance, was knowledge which could run contrary to that of elites, legitimised by different epistemologies and ontologies. By taking the antithetical knowledge of common readers seriously, the project attempts to consider “ignorance” as part of the history of knowledge. Methodologically, the project will rely on a range of approaches, from traditional archival work to methods from science and technology studies as well as the digital humanities.

Photo credit: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales


Publications and talks



  • Hellstenius, Jakob Kaaby. ‘Kan nasjonen føles?’ In Introduksjon til emosjonshistorie, edited by Prof. Dr. Eirinn Larsen and Prof. Dr. Jón Viðar Sigurðsson. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, forthcoming.
  • ———. ‘The Pious, the Obstinate, and the Fickle: Common Readers in 19th-Century Norway’. Master thesis, Universitetet i Oslo, 2021.
  • ———. ‘Steder uten mørke’. Molo 11 (2020): 61–68.
  • ———. ‘Ubehaget i nasjonen’. Fortid 17, no. 2 (2020): 64–73.
  • Hellstenius, Jakob Kaaby, Sigurd Bækkelund, and Magne Klasson. ‘Historikeren: Kristin Asdal’. Fortid 18, no. 3 (2020): 4–8.





  • 17/04/2018: ‘Foucault og historien’: Oslo, as a part of Kulturutvalget’s autumn program at Chateau Neuf, with Prof. Dr. Ellen Krefting, Prof. Em. Dr. Fredrik Engelstad and Prof. Dr. Svein Atle Skålevåg.
  • 22/09/2017: ‘Hva er historisk sannhet?’: Oslo, as a part of Kulturutvalget’s spring program at Chateau Neuf, with Prof. Dr. Erling Sandmo and Prof. Dr. Tor Egil Førland.