Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Chair of Early Modern European History

Prizes and awards:


Lavinia Gambini and Arndt Wille awarded the Humboldt Prize 2021

We congratulate Lavinia Gambini and Arndt Wille, who have been awarded the Humboldt Award of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin for their outstanding theses in Early Modern History. The two researchers, supervised by Matthias Pohlig, were able to prevail in the university-wide and interdisciplinary competition against a large number of top-class candidates. A list of all award winners can be found on the Humboldt Award pages.


Foto: Elisabetta Vergantini


Lavinia Gambini received the Humboldt Award for her Bachelor's thesis entitled „Heaven on their minds. Zur ‚vernünftigen‘ Epistemologie des Jenseitswissens in der Aufklärung“, in which she examined how Enlightenment thinkers attempted to gain 'uncertain' knowledge about the afterlife in a scientifically tested way. Based on the works of the Enlightenment scholars Thomas Burnet (1635-1715), William Whiston (1667-1752) and Charles Bonnet (1720-1793), the study reconstructs the methods and sources used in each case to obtain knowledge of the afterlife. Gambini shows that Burnet, Whiston and Bonnet were not 'on the fringes' of the Enlightenment, but belonged to an enlightened mainstream that wanted to make metaphysical knowledge generally accessible. Their preoccupation with the afterlife brought the three authors social prestige and involved them in the most prominent scientific discussions of their time. In the moderate Enlightenment, seeking afterlife knowledge was a consensual and plausible pursuit. (more)


Foto: J. Reske

Arndt Wille was awarded the special prize „Judentum und Antisemitismus“ for his master thesis  „Gefährdete Grenzen. Über Gestalt und Funktion von Ekel, Abscheu und Horror im christlich-antijudaistischen Diskurs im Alten Reich (1475–1550)“. Wille explores the function and context of motifs and statements within Christian-anti-Jewish discourse around 1500, which operated intensively with feelings of disgust, revulsion and horror and staged early modern Jews (more rarely also Jewish women) as detestable "others" within the Christian dominant society. These wholly fictional and demonising defamation narratives were closely tied to disturbing body images and, in particular, the transgression of skin boundaries. In the phantasmatic scenarios and narratives, the body and especially the skin became projection surfaces on which - so the leading thesis of the work - the fears and insecurities of the Christian dominant society, its fragile identities and ideas of order (for example in relation to the Lord's Supper and the doctrine of transubstantiation) could be negotiated and stabilised particularly effectively. On the one hand, Jewish communities were made into a negative mirror image of the Christian dominant society, but on the other hand, they also functioned as fantasised agents of an enjoyment that was tabooed for the Christian majority (sadism, cannibalism, blasphemy, etc.) and, furthermore, as witnesses of miraculous phenomena, they finally authenticated the religious convictions of Christianity. The work is also intended as a contribution to research into powerful (partly anti-Semitic) contemporary conspiracy narratives that aim to generate fears of body-invasive attacks. (more)


New Publications:


Philip Hoffmann-Rehnitz, Matthias Pohlig, Tim Rojek, Susanne Spreckelmeier (eds.), Semantiken und Narrative des Entscheidens vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, Göttingen 2021.

ISBN: 978-3-525-36603-5

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Tobias Graf, Rüdiger Hohls, Matthias Pohlig und Claudia Prinz, Auswertung der Online-Umfrage „Digitale Lehre“ von H-Soz-Kult: „Digitale Lehre – Online-Befragung der Geschichtslehrenden an den Hochschulen im Sommersemester 2020“, in: H-Soz-Kult, 18.12.2020,


Matthias Pohlig und Detlef Pollack (eds.), Die Verwandlung des Heiligen. Die Geburt der Moderne aus dem Geist der Religion, Berlin: Berlin University Press, 2020.

ISBN: 978-3-7374-1334-3









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Matthias Pohlig (ed.), Juden, Christen und Muslime im Zeitalter der Reformation / Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Reformation Era (Schriften des Vereins für Reformationsgeschichte 219), Göttingen: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2020.

ISBN: 978-3-579-05999-0










Cover_Juden, Christen und Muslime

Matthias Pohlig (ed.), Entscheiden als Problem der Geschichtswissenschaft (mit Philipp Hoffmann-Rehnitz und André Krischer), in: Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung 45 (2018), 217-281.


Matthias Pohlig and Michael Schaich (eds.), The War of the Spanish Succession. New Perspectives, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

ISBN: 978-0-198-81112-1

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Matthias Pohlig, Marlboroughs Geheimnis. Strukturen und Funktionen der Informationsgewinnung im Spanischen Erbfolgekrieg, Köln/Weimar/Wien: Böhlau Verlag, 2016.

ISBN: 978-3-412-50550-9

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