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

9. November 2023 bis 10. November 2023
Call for papers

Conference description:

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?

The conference will consist of a keynote lecture, a concluding roundtable discussion and five panels:

Panel A: Anthropocene, Capitalocene & Environment | Chair: Prof. Dr. Debjani Bhattacharyya (Zurich)

Panel B: Violence & War | Chair: Prof. Dr. F. Benjamin Schenk (Basel)

Panel C: Health & Pandemics| Chair: Prof. Dr. Laurence Monnais (Lausanne)

Panel D: Gender, Class and Social (In-)Equality | Chair: Prof. Dr. Caroline Arni (Basel)

Panel E: Global Economic Regimes | Chair: Prof. Dr. Matthieu Leimgruber (Zurich)


Practical Information:

Please submit a paper title, an abstract (max 300 words) as well as the Panel of preference (A–E) to Marino Ferri ( by June 30, 2023. Please specify your affiliation.

Decisions of acceptance will be announced by the beginning of August 2023. The Conference will take place as an in-person-event and will generally be held in English; however, participants may present in German or French. The attendance is free of charge. For those unable to obtain reimbursement from their home institution up to 40 CHF will be covered as long as the travel fund allows. Accommodation will be provided upon request for participants living further than two hours away from Basel.

After acceptance, panelists will be asked to submit an extended paper (max. 5 pages) two weeks before the conference. Panelists will then give a talk based on the pre-circulated paper (max. 10 minutes), followed by a commentary by the discussants, and an open discussion.



Organisiert von
Basel Graduate School of History


Spitalstrasse 41


Marino Ferri


Zusätzliche Informationen


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