Founded by Aby Warburg in Hamburg at the end of the nineteenth century and exiled from Germany in 1933, the Warburg Institute attracted the greatest humanist scholars and philosophers of the time – from Erwin Panofsky and Edgar Wind to Ernst Cassirer. The Warburg Institute quickly became one of the leading centres in Germany for the understanding of the interactions between images and society across time and space. It transformed the histories of art, literature, and music, and in emphasizing fields such as astrology and magic, anticipated many of the developments in the modern understanding of the history of science.
From the outset, the Warburg Institute has been notable for its interdisciplinary research extending across the histories of art, science and religion to anthropology and psychology. Its contributions to the epistemological and methodological underpinnings of the histories and theories of culture have been profound and paradigm-changing.
One of the Warburg’s distinctive features has always been its engagement with what are often considered the superstitious, irrational and emotional elements of cultural phenomena. This has enabled some of its most significant contributions to the understanding of both the dynamics and forms of cultural transmission.
The Warburg Library, famous for its powerful and suggestive system of classification, has unique strengths in all these areas, but particularly in the fields of Byzantine, Medieval and Renaissance art, the history of humanism and the classical tradition, Italian history, Arabic, Medieval and Renaissance philosophy, and the histories of religion, science and magic.