I am a historian born, raised and educated in Budapest, but my academic experience has been shaped by a great deal of time spent at universities and research centers across Europe and in North America. I have taught at the universities of Debrecen and Budapest (ELTE), as well as at Rutgers University (New Brunswick), but CEU has been my main institutional home since the first masters' program in history in 1992. After more than twenty years, and having served the university in diverse capacities, I am still thrilled by the sense of the intellectual and socio-cultural adventure it represents for all members of the community.
Though my internationally best known work is probably a full-scale history of Hungary (which I wrote almost by accident), my specific background is in European intellectual history in the early-modern period and the Enlightenment. This was a quite unusual choice for a historian in Hungary in the 1980s, when I took my degrees and my career began (it has become less so in the meantime). My early inspirations were both "Cambridge" (linguistic contextualism) and "Bielefeld" (Begriffsgeschichte); I have done quite a bit of work on the history of political thought (in Western and Central European contexts). From the later 1990s, this became increasingly combined with the study of the history of historical discourses, and of the phenomenon of translation and reception in the history of ideas. My new book, http://us.macmillan.com/translationshistoriesenlightenments/L%C3%A1szl%C3%B3Kontler, is on the reception of the Scottish historian William Robertson in the 1760s to 1790s in Germany, as a case study on the potentials and limitations of intellectual communication across cultural and linguistic frontiers within the enlightened "republic of letters", and as a contribution to discussions about the unity versus diversity of the European Enlightenment. This project, of course, has implied the study of "doing history" as an emerging discipline and as a scholarly and academic practice in the eighteenth century, which has inspired an interest in practices of scholarship more broadly, and the contexts and agendas which shape the production of scientific knowledge. These more recent interests of mine have been very much motivated by communicating and working with an international group of scholars who do history of science "proper" (which, having always had poor grades in science subjects, I shall never be able to claim to be doing). My latest fascination is with the eighteenth-century Viennese imperial astronomer Maximilian Hell, whose figure and career provides an excellent opportunity to study the non-scientific (political, cultural, professional and other) determinants in whose intersection knowledge is cultivated, as well as knowledge strategies whereby scientists may relocate themselves on the complex map defined by such determinants.
My teaching and thesis supervising activity also ranges across the topics emphasized in bold above, including neighboring areas. My recent courses include history and theory of historiography; history of political thought in the sixteenth to the late eighteenth century (in particular the interplay between political discourse and ideas and practices of "governmentality"); and "negotiating knowledge" in spatial and temporal contexts between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
Fellowships and Awards
- Marie Curie Fellowship of the European Commission (Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute, Florence), 2005-2006
- Fellowship of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (Max-Planck-Institut für Geschichte, Göttingen), 2004
- DAAD Fellowship (Max-Planck-Institut für Geschichte, Göttingen and Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel), 2000
- Andrew Mellon Fellowship (Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh), 1999
- OTKA Postdoctoral Fellowship (Eötvös Loránd University), 1996-1999
- Research Fellowship of theHerzog August Bibliothek (Wolfenbüttel, Germany), 1995
- Fulbright Fellowship (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey), 1991-1992
- Soros Foundation Postdoctoral Scholarship (Oxford University, St. Antony’s College), 1989-1990
- British Council Research Scholarship (London School of Economics and Political Science, Oxford University, Cambridge University), 1986-1987
- Editorial committee member: European Review of History / Revue Européene d'Histoire
- Advisory Board member: Europa entdecken series (Fischer europäische Geschichte, ed. Wolfgang Benz); Central Europe; East-Central Europe; Modern Intellectual History; Europaeische Geschichte Online (Institut fuer Europaeische Geschichte, Mainz)
- Member: Hungarian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies; Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society; European Society for the History of Political Thought