The Circulation of Knowledge and the History of the Humanities

Isak Hammar and Johan Östling have edited a forum section in the new issue of the journal History of Humanities (6:2 2021). It is devoted to “The Circulation of Knowledge and the History of the Humanities” (

The forum section seeks to explore a prominent concept in the history of knowledge—circulation—as well as to demonstrate the value of studying knowledge circulation for the history of humanities. While the study of the transmission of knowledge has been pursued in adjacent fields, such as the history of science or media studies, it is argued that circulation of knowledge has the capacity not only to build on existing scholarship but also to combine and galvanize previous and future efforts. Specifically, the editors believe that the interaction between the humanities and other forms of knowledge—in particular, natural science—can be fruitfully explored with a focus on how knowledge circulates. Detailed historical studies of how knowledge circulates across the divide between “the two cultures” could also be instrumental in fusing the history of humanities and the history of science. In their introduction, the editors discuss both possibilities and challenges of studying knowledge circulation. They point to a set of valuable questions that probe how the knowledge of humanists has been mobilized, negotiated, contested, downplayed, and forgotten in its historical settings.

The forum section comprises several articles, including both empirical investigations and theoretical contributions:

Isak Hammar and Johan Östling, “Introduction” (available Open Access:

Isak Hammar, “From Germany with Love: Circulating Formale Bildung in the Early Nineteenth Century”

Tamson Pietsch and Gabrielle Kemmis, “The Careers of Humanities Students in Interwar Australia”

David Larsson Heidenblad, “Environmental History in the 1960s? An Unsuccessful Research Application and the Circulation of Environmental Knowledge”

Johan Östling, “Circulating Knowledge in Public Arenas: Toward a New History of the Postwar Humanities”

Karolina Enquist Källgren, “Circulation of Fundamental Concepts: The Case of “Generation” in 1920s Germany”

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