Historical Research at the Imperial Academy of Science in Vienna

Historical Research at the Imperial Academy of Science in Vienna: Programs and Procedures between 1847 and 1902

Christine Ottner-Diesenberger

The project looked into the social, institutional, scientific and political preconditions of historic research from the very foundation of the Imperial Academy in 1847 to the beginning of the twentieth century. This topic was investigated on the basis of various source material originating from within the Academy itself and was be specified more precisely with the help of contemporary theoretical scientific methods. It would seem helpful to use the concept of the “(scientific) field” (Pierre Bourdieu): within this field the actors, carrying on a permanent dialog, grapple with the definition of the rules of the game, under which research is practiced and science is permanently produced.

The academy is not to be considered an isolated institute, yet as a result of this study it should be given sharper contours. Within this “field of research” mentioned above scientific experience was exchanged in a constant dialog, standards were defined, challenges were met, projects were formulated, and strategies for their implementation were developed. In this process of negotiating various methods and skills for the recording, finalization, and publication of historical material were established, methods and skills which accompanied the creation of the historical profession. Within the context of the implementation of personal, academic, and (power) political concerns one should in addition investigate the profile of the Academy as an elitist institution for erudition and scholarliness as well as one creating identity in a phase of consolidation for the historical discipline. In this sense this project can be seen as a contribution to the investigation of the Austrian academic culture of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, which still shapes our contemporary research scene.