Leibniz in His World: The Making of a Savant

A sweeping intellectual biography that restores the Enlightenment polymath to the intellectual, scientific, and courtly worlds that shaped his early life and thought


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Nov 12, 2024
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Described by Voltaire as “perhaps a man of the most universal learning in Europe,” Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) is often portrayed as a rationalist and philosopher who was wholly detached from the worldly concerns of his fellow men. Leibniz in His World provides a groundbreaking reassessment of Leibniz, telling the story of his trials and tribulations as an aspiring scientist and courtier navigating the learned and courtly circles of early modern Europe and the Republic of Letters.

Drawing on extensive correspondence by Leibniz and many leading figures of the age, Audrey Borowski paints a nuanced portrait of Leibniz in the 1670s, during his “Paris sojourn” as a young diplomat and in Germany at the court of Duke Johann Friedrich of Hanover. She challenges the image of Leibniz as an isolated genius, revealing instead a man of multiple identities whose thought was shaped by a deep engagement with the social and intellectual milieus of his time. Borowski shows us Leibniz as he was known to his contemporaries, enabling us to rediscover him as an enigmatic young man who was complex and all too human.

An exhilarating work of scholarship, Leibniz in His World demonstrates how this uncommon intellect, torn between his ideals and the necessity to work for absolutist states, struggled to make a name for himself during his formative years.