The Holberg Prize is named after Ludvig Holberg, who was born in Bergen in 1684 and held the Chairs of Metaphysics and Logic, Latin Rhetoric and History at the University of Copenhagen. Holberg played an important part in bringing the Enlightenment to the Nordic countries. Through his interdisciplinary and internationally oriented efforts, Holberg endeavoured to modernise academic subjects and teaching methods. He also laid the foundations for international law as an academic subject in Denmark-Norway. Through his humorous and sarcastic pen he introduced his readers to the ideal that people themselves must reflect on who they are and who they are perceived to be.
Extensive travel was an important part of Holberg’s career as an academic and author. He was very familiar with the intellectual life of his day, and he became a pioneer with respect to opening people’s horizons to what was happening in the rest of Europe. Several of his works were translated into a number of languages. In retrospect he is remembered amongst other things for his thesis Introduction til Natur- og Folke-Rettens Kundskab (Introduction to Natural and International Law), the plays Jeppe på Bjerget (Jeppe on the Hill), Den Stundesløse (The Fidget) and Erasmus Montanus, and for the novel Nils Klims reise til den underjordiske verden (Nils Klim’s Subterranean Journey). The Nils Klim Prize is named after the hero of the latter novel.