We review in detail the Batalin–Vilkovisky formalism for Lagrangian field theories and its mathematical foundations with an emphasis on higher algebraic structures and classical field theories. In particular, we show how a field theory gives rise to an L∞‐algebra and how quasi‐isomorphisms between L∞‐algebras correspond to classical equivalences of field theories. A few experts may be familiar with parts of our discussion, however, the material is presented from the perspective of a very general notion of a gauge theory. We also make a number of new observations and present some new results. Most importantly, we discuss in great detail higher (categorified) Chern–Simons theories and give some useful shortcuts in usually rather involved computations.
We summarise some of our recent works on L∞‐algebras and quasi‐groups with regard to higher principal bundles and their applications in twistor theory and gauge theory. In particular, after a lightning review of L∞‐algebras, we discuss their Maurer–Cartan theory and explain that any classical field theory admitting an action can be reformulated in this context with the help of the Batalin–Vilkovisky formalism. As examples, we explore higher Chern–Simons theory and Yang–Mills theory. We also explain how these ideas can be combined with those of twistor theory to formulate maximally superconformal gauge theories in four and six dimensions by means of L∞‐quasi‐isomorphisms, and we propose a twistor space action.