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Departmental Research Profile


 Integrating National Historiographies into a European Perspective

The Department of History and Civilization (HEC) focuses primarily on the history of Europe, from the early modern period to the present, analysing the range of contradictions, specificities, continuities and sharp breaks that characterise both Europe’s past and the study of that past, in order to understand historically its most challenging present questions. At the same time, the Department’s members pursue common objectives, which enable them to move beyond purely national historiographies by integrating them into European perspectives and placing them in broader methodological and thematic contexts. The Department, whose researchers and professors come from all of the various European academic traditions, celebrates Europe’s diversity.


Comparative, Transnational and Global Approaches

Given this commitment to transcending the confines of national history, the Department encourages comparative and transnational approaches. The current crisis of the nation state and failure of supra-national institutions to take over its integrative role oblige historians to revisit constantly both the relationship between national and transnational elements in European history and Europe’s role in the world. HEC members engage in major theoretical debates in the field of comparative, transnational and global history, seeking to explore the different paths of European history by highlighting aspects of its present. At the same time, the study of cultural transfers or transnational institutions is accompanied by reflection on the appropriate analytical tools and techniques required. The preference for comparative and transnational approaches, however, does not mean ignoring the role of the nation as a key factor in European history, as they entail the promotion of linguistic and cultural diversity and mediation between various national perspectives.


Methodological Diversity and Interdisciplinarity

Methodological diversity and dialogue between different historical approaches are particularly encouraged in the Department. Specialists in social history examine social actors, practices, contexts, networks and clusters, paying special attention to cross-border relationships. Cultural and intellectual historians analyse cultural practices, the history of science, the transfer of concepts between social groups and geographical spaces, and the shifts and changes in their languages. Economic historians look at the history of economic structures and developments, with an eye to the interconnections between different economic areas. In political history, the Department contributes to the study of governmental practices and political movements in a European and global perspective. At the same time, the Department encourages cooperation with other human and social sciences, in a dialogue with the arts, cultural studies, political economy and sociology, law or political theory.

Research Themes

The Shaping of Modern Europe

The shaping of Europe as a political and economic structure is studied from a broad and differentiated historical perspective, while avoiding the temptation to see it as a teleological success story of ever closer European integration by taking account of both integrative and disintegrative tendencies.  

Research fields:
  • the long-term development of economic, political and social structures since the 16th century
  • Europe’s economy in the face of globalizing forces; the interplay between politics and global economic change
  • the transformation of financial systems, market and business; economic crises and recoveries and their impact on the shaping of Europe
  • Europe’s changing international position in the 20th century, especially in relation to the USA, Soviet Union/Russia and China
  • the history of European integration
  • the transformation of the European welfare state


Intellectual History and History of Science

Europe is studied as a complex structure of intellectual transformations, paying particular attention to the interrelation between ideas, concepts and scientific practices on the one hand, and broader societal developments on the other. The Department seeks to be at the vanguard of epistemological and methodological innovation, cultivating a rich plurality of perspectives for the study of intellectual and scientific traditions from the early modern period to the present, with emphasis on both European and global perspectives. 

Research fields:

  • history of political thought and political concepts
  • intellectual networks, cultural transfers and translation
  • history of historiography, historical cultures and memory
  • history of science and technology, and the interplay between science and religion
  • history of universities and education systems  


Power, Society, Ideology

The unifying interest of this research cluster is with the different forms of power relationships throughout modern European history. Its main concern is with the way socio-political arrangements, modes of domination and regimes of power developed, were perpetuated and declined. Modern forms of power and political action are studied from social and cultural perspectives, as well as in everyday life. The history of power and domination is explored through socio-cultural categories like class, gender, ethnicity, labour, family, and the interplay between social identities and political ideologies.

Research fields:

  • the rise and transformation of the nation state; nation-building and nationalism
  • modern political movements and ideologies: liberalism, conservatism, socialism, communism, fascism 
  • the emergence of mass politics; cultural representations and legitimization of power
  • perpetuation of power through everyday practices
  • state violence: war, expulsion, persecution and displacement 


Imperial, Colonial and Global History

The new challenges of globalization force us to reconsider the variety and variations of the geopolitical, cultural and social constellations and conflicts that make up Europe, and to take account of developments outside the European continent. We therefore investigate Europe’s involvement in and entanglement with the outside world and explore the effect of these connections on the shaping of European societies, while also highlighting Europe’s internal diversity as a space of different cultures and societies.  

Research fields:

  • the formation and transformation of modern empires
  • colonialism and decolonization 
  • history of migration; intercultural and inter-ethnic dialogue and violence across continents
  • encounters and interactions of European empires with extra-European cultures; cross-cultural exchanges and representations
  • technology and commerce in early globalization
  • international and global economic relations in a long-term perspective


Page last updated on 18 August 2017