International Symposium ‘The Public and the Private in Early Modern Contexts: Comparative Perspectives’

Paolo Astorri (Centre for Privacy Studies) & Harald E. Braun (Liverpool)


José Luis Egio (Frankfurt, MPILHLT)

Tamar Herzog (Harvard)

Virpi Mäkinen (Helsinki)

Sarah Mortimer (Oxford)

Heikki Pihlajamäki (Helsinki)

Rudolf Schuessler (Bayeruth)

This International Symposium aims to facilitate the conversation about early modern notions and conceptualization of ‘the public’ and ‘the private’ and to connect cognate fields of historical study (e.g. the histories of law, theology, and political thought). The focus will be on the boundaries between ‘public’ and ‘private’, and the terms will be understood in the widest sense, for instance with reference to physical space or the wide range of relationships between the individual and the community (soul, body, household, city, state). Speakers will stroll across early modern cultures of belief and knowledge – touching upon Catholic and Protestant scholasticism and natural law theories, for instance - and attempt to develop comparisons. Speakers will address some of the following questions:


  • What was the impact of the first globalization on European and non-European notions of the public and the private? When, how, and why did European and non-European communities share and negotiate their respective notions of the private and the public?
  • In what ways do early modern conceptualizations of the private and the public reflect on notions of race or gender or and alterity?
  • Did processes of confessionalization, state formation, and secularization impact on notions and practices of the public and the private? What was the relationship between social, moral, political, and legal norms?
  • When and why did gatekeepers of the sacred — such as Catholic and Protestant lawyers and theologians — read, comment, and draw on one another’s ideas and concepts, and what were the outcomes?
  • In what ways did legal and theological thinking shape the boundaries between public and private, and what are the differences between cultural and confessional communities in this respect?
  • How did different notions of public authority impact on individual freedom? For instance, who defined the boundaries between the self and the soul, the household, and the community? What is the rationale behind these definitions? How could the early modern individual protect the private, inner space of conscience from public scrutiny?


Programme will be announced shortly.


Please register for participation via this link


Paolo Astorri (Centre for Privacy Studies), & Harald E. Braun (Liverpool)