Our aims

The Sydney Intellectual History Network seeks to create a new academic space at the University of Sydney. Here, established and emerging researchers will gather to interrogate ideas through the lessons learned from intellectual history.

In the longer term, our goal is to establish a centre in Sydney for research in the area of intellectual history, broadly defined to incorporate:

  • the history of the arts
  • legal history
  • the history of economics
  • political history
  • the history of philosophy
  • the history of science
  • the history of disciplines.

A collaborative program of researchers will also work on the changing nature and meaning of public thought.

Our aims

1. Provide a fertile intellectual context in which the debate about the need for conceptual innovation, including the role of universities, can be analysed and made relevant to public discussion. As a starting point, we ask:

  • why are ideas important?
  • what have been the most significant ideas to shape contemporary life?
  • how far back do we need to go to understand those ideas and their continuing relevance?

2. Initiate cross-disciplinary discourse in the pursuit of intellectual history. Most scholars engaged in Law, Economics, Social Science, Art History, Architecture, Medicine and Science are acutely aware of the value and importance of the ideas of the past in their own disciplines.

It is rare, however, for their interests to be incorporated within the framework of intellectual history as currently understood. We will place into historical perspective this contemporary debate in order to understand our present situation and the resonance of current concerns.

3. Expand the boundaries of intellectual history to encompass shared issues and concerns about the importance and legacy of earlier ideas evident in the work of scholars in many disciplines. While scholars have advocated widely the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to the generating of new ideas and to the solving of problems, they have paid little attention to the difficulties involved in this process or the best ways to engage with it.

We will engage historians of politics, science, medicine, art, architecture, philosophers, and economists in the reading of particular texts and images in order to show the different lights shed by particular disciplinary approaches and in the understanding and development of distinct concepts, both textual and visual.

The aim is both to consolidate and extend the work already being done by independent researchers, and by encouraging this alternative collaborative focus to model original forms of multidisciplinary collaboration.