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Before the Two Cultures

How the Sciences and the Humanities grew apart

Project by Dr. Fabian Krämer

Few beliefs about the nature of academic knowledge appear to be less problematic and are more deeply ingrained than the assumption that a wide gulf divides the natural sciences and the humanities. The happy phrase “two cultures”, invented and devised by the British physical chemist and novelist C.P. Snow against the backdrop of the Cold War, has over the past decades assumed an a-historical ring. But like many other dichotomies that characterize modernity, this binary opposition is younger than we tend to think. While some of its roots go back to the early modern period, it was largely in the long nineteenth century that academics began to develop a sense of belonging to either the sciences or the humanities. While the emergence of the “great divide” constituted one of the most fundamental transformations in the history of knowledge, its history largely remains to be written.

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