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The Northern Enlightenment

The Enlightenment was crucial in shaping modern European thought and society. What characterized the Enlightenment in Norway and the North?

Old illustration of Sorø Academy with gardens.

Sorø Academy was one of the centers of the Enlightenment in Denmark-Norway. Illustration from Johann Jacob Bruun, Denmark's Kiøbstæder and Castles, Copenhagen, 1799.

About the group

This group brings together researchers from different historical disciplines to explore the Northern Enlightenment. We focus on the transmission of ideas and practices, texts and people across borders and probe the Northern Enlightenment in a European perspective.

Particular areas of interest are:

  • Political thought and political culture
  • The public sphere and freedom of speech
  • Historical writing, science and literature


The era of the Enlightenment is closely associated with enlightened philosophers, such as Voltaire, David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Internationally today, these philosophers are often invoked in public debates over free speech, the climate crisis and economic inequalities.

As a historical movement of intellectuals and ideas, the Enlightenment has become a conflict zone. Yet, this political use of history mirrors the fact that it is the Enlightenment in France, in Scotland and perhaps in Germany, that is most well-known. The Enlightenment is understood as a small band of philosophers living in Paris or other European metropolises. Figures from the European periphery is seldom seen in these discussions.

In spite of this trend, researchers have for some time now emphasized that the Enlightenment was expressed and appeared differently in different contexts across Europe. Some researchers have begun to talk of a particular Northern or Nordic Enlightenment.


The research group organizes monthly seminars with presentations by members as well as by invited speakers. If you are interested in presenting, please contact Håkon Evju at

In January 2023, the research group will help organize Norwegian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies' biannual conference. See




Published Nov. 1, 2021 1:23 PM - Last modified Nov. 7, 2022 1:08 PM