Athena Unbound: Why and How Scholarly Knowledge Should Be Free for All

In collaboration with the International University College (IUC)

Peter Baldwin (University of California) presents his latest book, in conversation with Maurizio Borghi (Università di Torino) and Ugo Mattei (niversità di Torino, International University College)

Campus Leone Ginzburg – Via Cigna 37, Torino

Open access (OA) could one day put the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips. But the goal of allowing everyone to read everything faces fierce resistance. In Athena Unbound, Peter Baldwin offers an up-to-date look at the ideals and history behind OA, and unpacks the controversies that arise when the dream of limitless information slams into entrenched interests in favor of the status quo. In addition to providing a clear analysis of the debates, Baldwin focuses on thorny issues such as copyright and ways to pay for “free” knowledge. He also provides a roadmap that would make OA economically viable and, as a result, advance one of humanity’s age-old ambitions.

Baldwin addresses the arguments in terms of disseminating scientific research, the history of intellectual property and copyright, and the development of the university and research establishment. As he notes, the hard sciences have already created a funding model that increasingly provides open access, but at the cost of crowding out the humanities. Baldwin proposes a new system that would shift costs from consumers to producers and free scholarly knowledge from the paywalls and institutional barriers that keep it from much of the world.


Peter BALDWIN is professor in the history department at the University of California, Los Angeles and Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. He is interested especially in the historical development of the modern state—a broad field that has led him in many directions. Two aspects of his work unify it. First, he has attempted to understand contemporary issues from a long historical perspective. That has included the class coalitions that cemented the modern welfare state, the nineteenth-century public health strategies that provided the template for fighting the AIDS epidemic a century later, and the battles over intellectual property that, stretching back three centuries, determine our current disputes over copyright, downloading, and internet piracy. Second, he has studied the state’s development trans-nationally, using detailed and often archival sources in half a dozen languages to marry a broad comparative approach to rigorous empiricism. He has published books on the comparative history of the welfare state, on public health, and on the global development of copyright. Two books are forthcoming in 2021, one on the Covid-19 pandemic (Fighting the First Wave: Why the Coronavirus Was Tackled So Differently across the Globe) and on crime and the ever-lengthening arm of the law (Command and Persuade: Crime, Law, and the State across History). A book on open access, Athena Unbound: How and Why Scholarly Knowledge Should Be Free for All, is appearing in 2023.