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Enlightenment craving for information: the use of questionnaires for knowledge acquisition and exchange during the Eighteenth Century


The research project aims to deliver a comparative, transnational and multidisciplinary study on Eighteenth-Century questionnaires, exploring the extent to which they were systematically employed to collect, select, manipulate and disseminate information. Questionnaires offer a valuable example to examine how local knowledge was systematized within a rigid structure, transferred and implemented in another context (cultural transfer). By examining a few chosen case-studies comparatively and by applying diversified methods, the project intends to discuss concepts of information, knowledge exchange, networks, mediation and political censorship. Broad scope is to endorse a reconceptualization of the Enlightenment in transnational terms. Contrary to ideas of the Enlightenment compartmentalized in national identities, the project elaborates on the transnational and entangled nature of Enlightenment Europe. The philosophes’ ambition towards the expansion of knowledge is satisfied, inter alia, by the establishment of networks and by the use of questionnaires to acquire new information. It is in the very intention to send those questionnaires to France, Spain, Russia, Britain, Prussia among others, that the historian-philosophers of the Enlightenment already conceived Europe as a system of distinct but intertwined units. The ultimate aspiration of the project is to advance a further step towards the construction of a historical discourse which could illuminate the existence of a cohesive and entangled Europe long before the creation of the European Union. Long-range and far-reaching objective is to further contribute to the debate on whether the concept of information age is, to a certain extent, applicable to Eighteenth-Century society (retrospectively rather than anachronistically).

Call for proposal

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University Road
H91 Galway
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 183 504,60
Administrative Contact
Daniel Carey (Prof.)