Professor Avi LifschitzBack to People

Subjects: History (and Joint Honours)
Department: History
College appointment: Tutorial Fellow
Academic position: Associate Professor of History


In 2017 I joined Magdalen after a decade of teaching European History at UCL (University College London).  Earlier I earned an MA in European History summa cum laude from Tel Aviv University and completed a DPhil here at Oxford. Research fellowships included the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, the Clark Library at UCLA, the Lichtenberg-Kolleg at the University of Göttingen, and the Enlightenment Research Centre (IZEA) at the University of Halle-Wittenberg.


To Magdalen undergraduates I offer papers on early modern European and British History, as well as further undergraduate modules in historiography and intellectual history. At the History Faculty I teach on the MSt strands in British and European History 1700-1850 and in Intellectual History, and offer research supervision.  I am one of the convenors of the Enlightenment Workshop, Oxford’s interdisciplinary research seminar on eighteenth-century European culture.


The intellectual and cultural history of Europe in the long eighteenth century (c. 1680-1815) is my main area of research; I am particularly interested in the links between Enlightenment anthropology, theology, and political theory. Other significant aspects of my work include translation and cross-cultural transfer as well as the history of royal academies and exiled intellectuals in the eighteenth century. Having edited the first modern English edition of a wide range of writings by Frederick the Great (Princeton University Press, 2020), I am now working on a monograph exploring the Prussian monarch’s activities as philosopher and public author. Another project concerns the ‘science of man and animal’ in the European Enlightenment.

Selected Publications

  • Frederick the Great’s Philosophical Writings, ed. Avi Lifschitz, trans. Angela Scholar (Princeton University Press, 2021)
  • ‘The Book of Job and the Sex Life of Elephants: The Limits of Evidential Credibility in Eighteenth-Century Natural History and Biblical Criticism’, The Journal of Modern History 91.4 (2019), 739-775
  • Rethinking Lessing’s Laocoon: Antiquity, Enlightenment, and the ‘Limits’ of Painting and Poetry, ed. with Michael Squire (Oxford University Press, 2017)
  • Engaging with Rousseau: Reaction and Interpretation from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2016; paperback ed., 2019)
  •  ‘Rousseau’s Imagined Antiquity’, a special issue of the journal History of Political Thought 37 (2016)
  • ‘Between Friedrich Meinecke and Ernst Cassirer: Isaiah Berlin’s Bifurcated Enlightenment’, in Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment, eds. Laurence Brockliss and Ritchie Robertson (Oxford University Press, 2016), 51-66.
  • Language and Enlightenment: The Berlin Debates of the Eighteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2012; paperback ed., 2016)
  • ‘The Arbitrariness of the Linguistic Sign: Variations on an Enlightenment Theme’, Journal of the History of Ideas 73.4 (2012), 537-557
  • Epicurus in the Enlightenment, ed. with Neven Leddy (Voltaire Foundation, 2009)