Daniel Jütte

discipline History
Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows

Research project

Transparency: The Cultural History of an Idea


During my EURIAS fellowship, I will pursue a book project tentatively titled "Transparency: The Cultural History of an Idea." My key interest is to investigate how the experience of transparency became prevalent in Europe, and what the cultural, social, and economic repercussions of this development were. In other words, the book hopes to break new ground by exploring a phenomenon in Western history that was transformative on many levels, but which has received very little scholarly attention so far: the rise of architectural glass.


This historical investigation is inextricably linked to the question of whether the political and philosophical concept of "transparency"—a buzzword today, especially in more recent debates about good governance and the right to privacy—has concrete underpinnings in material culture. As a concept, transparency is now part of a global vocabulary; but on a material level, it first became a large-scale experience in Europe, especially from the seventeenth century onward. If we look at architectural traditions in two other highly advanced societies from the early modern period—namely, the Ottoman Empire and Edo Japan—we find what has been called a "largely glassless situation".


As this comparative perspective makes clear, the emergence of transparent glass in European architecture was by no means an inevitable development, but rather the result of specific cultural preferences that call for historical study. The book’s narrative is historical, but its methodology is transdisciplinary, and it will demonstrate the potential of crossing the boundaries between cultural history, material and urban history, and the history of art and architecture.


The book will begin with Roman times, when glass first was used for fenestration. However, the emphasis of my study will be on the period between 1300 and 1900—a period in which the fundaments were laid for the large-scale introduction of glass into private architecture. The final part of the book will be dedicated to the developments of the past two hundred years, as it was only in the nineteenth century that window glass came to be industrially mass produced—and, by extension, that transparency became a mass experience.




Daniel Jütte is a Historian of Early Modern and Modern Europe. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at New York University. His research interests lie in cultural history, urban history and material culture, history of knowledge and science, and Jewish history. Before joining NYU, Jütte taught as Lecturer in the History Department at Harvard as well as at the University of Heidelberg. He has also held a number of fellowships, including appointments as Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows (2011–15) and as Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2015–16).


Selected publications


The Strait Gate: Thresholds and Power in Western History, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2015.


The Age of Secrecy: Jews, Christians, and the Economy of Secrets, 1400-1800, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2015; 1st published in German, Das Zeitalter des Geheimnisses. Juden, Christen und die Ökonomie des Geheimen (1400–1800), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2011. 


'Entering a City: On a Lost Early Modern Practice', Urban History, vol. 41, no. 2, 2014, pp. 204-227.


'Interfaith Encounters between Jews and Christians in the Early Modern Period and Beyond: Toward a Framework', American Historical Review, vol. 118, no. 2, 2013, pp. 378-400.


Meshullam da Volterra: Von der Toskana in den Orient. Ein Renaissance-Kaufmann auf Reisen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2012.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)
discipline Literature
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)
discipline Anthropology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)
discipline Philosophy
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)
discipline Musicology