Cognition is the most socially-conditioned activity of man, and knowledge is the paramount social creation [Gebilde]. – Ludwik Fleck1

Knowledge does not simply exist, awaiting discovery and use. Knowledge is produced, adapted, forgotten, rejected, superseded, expanded, reconfigured, and more—always by human beings (at least in this more-or-less pre-AI age), alone or in communities, always in culturally, socially, economically, and institutionally specific contexts.

Knowledge is central to most purposeful human practices, whether at work, in the family, or for worship, whether implicitly or explicitly, whether passed down by hands-on training or through books and other storage and retrieval systems.2 Both product and basis of human interactions, knowledge has a history. Indeed, human history cannot be understood apart from the history of knowledge.

This blog aims to serve as a venue for the exchange of ideas and information on the history of knowledge. It is managed by a small team at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC, but it desires contributions by and engagement with scholars working elsewhere.


We do not have comments turned on for this blog, but that does not mean that we want no discussion. Far from it. We invite responses to posts here via Twitter or Facebook. Alternatively, you could write a blog post, whether for your own blog or for possible inclusion here. If you prefer email to social media, please write Kerstin von der Krone or Mark Stoneman.

  1. Quotation by Fleck: Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, trans. Fred Bradley and Thaddeus J. Trenn (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), Kindle ed., chap. 2, sec. 4. 
  2. The header images on this blog were chosen with this idea in mind. For the full images and their location details, please see “Photographs: Organizing, Teaching, Storing, Learning, Practicing, Selling, and Using Knowledge.”