From the outset the Warburg Institute has been notable for its interdisciplinary research extending across the histories of art, science and religion to anthropology and psychology. Its contributions to the epistemological and methodological underpinnings of the histories and theories of culture have been profound and paradigm-changing.
Founded by Aby Warburg in Hamburg at the end of the nineteenth century and exiled from Germany in 1933, the Warburg Institute attracted the greatest humanist scholars and philosophers of the time – from Erwin Panofsky and Edgar Wind to Ernst Cassirer. The Warburg Institute quickly became one of the leading centres in Germany for the understanding of the interactions between images and society across time and space. It transformed the histories of art, literature, and music, and in emphasizing fields such as astrology and magic, anticipated many of the developments in the modern understanding of the history of science.
One of the Warburg’s distinctive features has always been its engagement with what are often considered the superstitious, irrational and emotional elements of cultural phenomena. This has enabled some of its most significant contributions to the understanding of both the dynamics and forms of cultural transmission.
The Warburg Library, famous for its powerful and suggestive system of classification, has unique strengths in all these areas, but particularly in the fields of Byzantine, Medieval and Renaissance art, the history of humanism and the classical tradition, Italian history, Arabic, Medieval and Renaissance philosophy, and the histories of religion, science and magic.
A hallmark of the Warburg Institute today is its disciplinary openness, which makes it a critical focal point for innovative research across the borderlines between the humanities, the sciences and the social sciences.
The Intellectual Community
The Institute is recognized by scholars all over the world as a centre for interdisciplinary research with its own individual ethos, characterized by scholarly generosity and by the involvement of every member of the small community in the intellectual life of the Institute.
The combination of teaching, publishing, research seminars, lectures and colloquia, and the constant flow of distinguished scholars, visiting Fellows and other visitors, all contribute to the creation of a vital atmosphere of intellectual enquiry and endeavour. It is a context which presents students with exceptional opportunities to develop their own ideas as well as to learn from those of others. Because the Institute exists to foster scholarship, every member of the academic staff is actively engaged in research; in many cases, the subject-matter of the courses is closely related to the teacher's own research, and students benefit from the sense of immediacy and discovery that this brings. Furthermore, teaching is not limited to the formal hours of contact in classes or seminars: the discussion of course-material and research topics continues outside the classroom and does not involve only the teachers or supervisors and their students. The chance to meet visiting Research Fellows from abroad (of whom the Institute has about twenty each year) is also particularly valuable.
The possibility of taking part in seminars and colloquia (often on an international level), which the Institute organizes or hosts on a regular basis, provides students with experience of the wider world of scholars and scholarship. Recent colloquia titles include The Muses and their Afterlife in Post-Classical Europe, The Iconography of Slavery in Europe 1500-1800, Medicine and Classicism in Comparative Perspective, Cosmography of Paradise: The Other World from Ancient Mesopotamia to Medieval Europe.
Term dates 2016/17
3 October to 16 December
16 January to 31 March
2 May to 7 July
Term dates 2017/18
2 October to 15 December
15 January to 28 March
30 April to 7 July