PRIVACY CONFERENCE: Early Modern Notions of Privacy and the Private

Privacy and the private are never only about the individual. Direct and indirect notions of privacy and the private shape individuals’ relationships to space, self, body, beliefs and communities through the seclusion of private domains from professional, communal, evident or public domains. Rather than being scholarly outcomes in their own right, notions of privacy and the private are thus potent analytical catalysts that may reveal the view of, for example, space, self, body, belief and community in a given context.


Privacy and the private are elusive categories. While sometimes presented as clear-cut phenomena in the sources, instances of privacy and the private often take the form of malleable, tenuous and temporary pockets in a context that is otherwise crowded, communal, public, surveyed and so on. It takes conscious research methods to identify such pockets and the boundaries that set them apart.

At the conference Early Modern Notions of Privacy and Private we will examine how implicit or explicit instances of privacy and the private shape relations between individuals and society across diverse early modern contexts and discuss how different research fields approach this.

Eight international experts from a diverse spectrum of disciplines have accepted the invitation to show how notions of privacy and the private come to the fore in their respective research and to demonstrate which scholarly means they apply to grasp these.

The speakers are:

Roger Chartier, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Joachim Eibach, University of Bern

Paul Taylor, Photographic collection of the Warburg Institute

Alec Ryrie, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University

Claudia Opitz Belakhal, University of Basel

Elaine Leong, The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin /
University College London

Angela Vanhaelen, Professor in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University

Karl Härter, Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte

Ben Kaplan, University College London

Fabrizio Nevola,University of Exeter

Ann Thomson, Emerita Professor, Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute

These distinguished guests will be joined by PRIVACY scholars who will present research results fresh from the PRIVACY workshop during a discussion of disciplinary specificities as well as interdisciplinary challenges and opportunities when it comes to research into notions of privacy and the private.


The third conference day is dedicated to a masterclass for selected postdocs and PhD students whose research focuses on early modern topics related to privacy and the private.

The selected participants are required to give a 15-minute presentation. The international experts and Privacy scholars will engage with your project and discuss sources and strategies for developing it further.

There is no charge for attendance.

To apply for being considered for participation, please upload a proposal and a one-page CV via this link.

The deadline for submission is 1 May 2021


Please register for the conference here. Participation instructions will be sent via email on 31 May.
Final registration date: 30 May.