A digital letter edition on the sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies is now starting at TCDH.

11.01.2022 | General, Press Releases, Project News

Already in December 2021, the starting signal was given for a newly approved three-year letter editing project at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities Essen (KWI), the Schleswig-Holstein State Library (SHLB) and the Trier Center for Digital Humanities (TCDH): the DFG-funded project “Ferdinand Tönnies Letters: A Digital Edition”.
Tönnies Projektstart

© Brief von Ferdinand Tönnies an Friedrich Paulsen, 14.7.1895 (Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesbibliothek)

Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936) was one of the first German scholars who explicitly saw themselves as sociologists. His main work, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887), was the standard work on social theory in sociology par excellence in the 1920s. His public criticism of the National Socialist rulers led to his dismissal from civil service in 1933. Tönnies was a highly networked international contemporary diagnostician, a political intellectual, publisher, correspondent, and a critic of the ruling system. The planned digital edition will be dedicated to the correspondence of non-familial letters of Ferdinand Tönnies, which, in contrast to other sociological founding figures such as Max Weber and Georg Simmel, are still unpublished.

Preliminary work on the project “Ferdinand Tönnies Letters: A Digital Edition” has identified the locations of 1,750 letters written by Tönnies from 1873 to 1935 to scholars, politicians, social reformers, writers, and publishers in Germany and abroad, including well-known names such as Friedrich Engels, Max Horkheimer, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Max Planck, Bertrand Russell, Gustav Schmoller, Theodor Storm, Werner Sombart, Leo Strauss, Max Weber, etc. Many of these letters (about 950) belong to the Tönnies estate of the Schleswig-Holstein State Library, whose director Dr. Martin Lätzel is leading the project together with Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Soeffner, Dr. Uwe Dörk (both KWI Essen) and Dr. Thomas Burch (TCDH).
The resulting online edition brings together Tönnies' non-familial letters by transcribing, annotating, indexing, and keywording them. Each transcription provides the digital copy in synoptic view. Among other things, the aim is to reveal the connection that existed between the forms of the letter, the forms of the network, and the forms of sociological knowledge. The letter edition thus offers not only a unique insight into the genesis of sociology, but also into the networking of Tönnies in the global sociology scene, which extended far beyond the German-speaking area, as well as into the conjunctures and ruptures of this transnational entanglement.
The project makes use of the “Research Network and Database System” FuD, which is employed in many other projects of the TCDH. For the Tönnies edition, the workflow established in numerous other letter projects carried out at the TCDH will be reused, adapted and further developed.