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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 late medieval and early modern period to the present. Our work analyzes the contradictions, specificities, continuities and sharp breaks that characterize both Europe’s past and the study of that past, in order to understand its most challenging present questions in historical perspective. The Department’s members seek to move beyond purely national historiographies by approaching historical questions from broader European and global perspectives and by placing them in wide-ranging methodological and thematic contexts. The Department, whose researchers and professors come from several academic traditions,celebrates Europe’s diversity.

Comparative, Transnational and Global Approaches

Given this commitment to transcending the confines of national histories, the Department strongly encourages comparative and transnational approaches. The current crisis of the nation-state and failure of supra-national institutions to takeover its integrative role oblige historians to revisit transnational elements in European history and Europe’s role in the world. HEC members engage in major theoretical debates in the fields of comparative, transnational and global history. Our study of cultural transfers or transnational institutions is accompanied by reflection on the appropriate analytical tools and techniques required. These include developing our linguistic and cultural capacities to help us to mediate critically between diverse national and international perspectives.

Our preference for comparative, transnational, and global approaches does not ignore the role of the nation as a key factor in European history, but views it critically rather than normatively. Globalization challenges us to take account of Europe’s relationships to the rest of the world starting in the late medieval period. We investigate Europe’s involvement in and entanglement with the rest of the 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 that were also often the subject of colonization efforts.

Methodological Diversity and Interdisciplinarity

The Department encourages methodological diversity and dialogue between different historical approaches. Specialists in social history examine social actors, practices, contexts, networks and clusters, paying special attention to cross-border relationships. Cultural and intellectual historians analyze 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, whether at the local or global level. In political history, the Department contributes to the study of governmental practices and political movements in both European and global contexts.

The Department actively encourages dialogue with the human and social sciences practiced in the other three departments of the EUI (Economics, Social and Political Science, Law), as well as with anthropology, the arts, cultural studies, and political theory. At the same time the methodologies of public and digital history may open doors to a wide range of employment possibilities outside of the academy.

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.  

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. 

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.

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.  

Page last updated on 02 August 2018