/ Forschung, Doktorat

Reflections on the Past, Perspectives for the Future: The Role of Historians in Times of Societal Changes


9-10 November 2023, BGSH Annual Conference and Swiss Conference for Early-Career Historians

Financial crashes, pandemics, wars, environmental disasters, and social injustices related to gender, race, and class, among others, have sparked growing public interest in historical research. Historians are frequently asked to provide commentary or guidance, and to share their expertise with the public. They contextualize contemporary situations historically, engage in debates with representatives from politics, economics, and the media, and consistently remind us that many societal dynamics we face today are not unique to the twenty-first century.

As a result, historians often find themselves no longer merely in the role of interpreters of the past, but rather assume a responsible, sometimes even political, position. Balancing the need for scientific rigor in their arguments with the demands of shaping public discourse poses significant challenges especially regarding the complexities of the twenty-first-century world.

The Conference provides a platform for PhD and early-postdoc researchers in the field of (early-modern or modern) history or related disciplines to present their ongoing research projects and contribute to the scholarly discourse on the role of historians in shaping and informing present-day debates. We offer participants the opportunity, first, to present their research projects and, second, to bridge the gap between their research and the broader contemporary world.

We are particularly interested in the following questions: How can one’s own research project (and historical sciences in general) provide illumination and understanding of current societal dynamics? How can historical research be effectively applied to address and inform the multifaceted challenges of the twenty-first century, such as social inequalities, environmental crises, and geopolitical tensions? How are historical narratives subject to reinterpretation, political utilization, or manipulation in times of societal tension? Furthermore, how does history get misused or appropriated for present-day debates, and what implications does this have for historical scholarship and the public understanding of the past?

9-10 November 2023 | Basel Graduate School of History | Organization: Séveric Yersin and Lars Kury | With the support of Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft, Basel