Anyone wishing to look beyond the paradigm of Western progress needs to understand how it came into being. In the intellectual culture of the 17th and 18th centuries, the competitive comparison of Ancients and Moderns and their respective relations to civilization and barbarism constituted one of the formative discourses. Yet alternative ideas of time and historicity are encountered not only in cultural contexts outside of Europe but also in the largely forgotten professional knowledge of the Old World: Thomism, Peripatetism, moderate forms of criticism, political theory, and legal practice.
This book introduces a broad panorama of such intellectual cultures in Central Europe. It situates theological, historical, and philosophical scholarship in its institutional and epistemological environments: the Church, the Holy Roman Empire, and the emerging Habsburg Monarchy. In doing so, it identifies struggles over competing pasts – Christian, ethnic, legal – as the core of those domains' intellectual development.