The first scholarly journal, it is commonly believed, was the Journal des Scavans (in modern French, savants: “those who know” or, more prosaically, persons of learning). It appeared in January 1665 and was followed, a few months later, by the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. As networks of “learned gentlemen” – encompassing both major and minor figures in Europe’s so-called Age of Enlightenment – became formalised on either side of the English Channel, similar publications accommodated a proliferation of scientific theories, political tracts and historiographical miscellania.
Critics such as Zygmunt Bauman have shown, however, that these self-styled hommes des idées et des lettres were not disinterested promoters of reason and the quest for knowledge. For Bauman, as “the Enlightenment reached its full maturity” in the eighteenth century, an age began in which “a managed society, a society consciously designed, planned and supervised by the centralised power [of the state]” was an implementable reality. Who would design the model? Les philosophes, of course – the intellectuals. Who would transfer it to the people? Les professeurs – the educators.