DFG Leibniz Research Group „The contemporary History of Historiography"

An international perspective on the impact of globalization and the social and political changes since the 1970s on the making of professional history

Agenda for an international DFG Leibniz research group at Trier University (2015 to 2020) coordinated by Prof. Lutz Raphael

The world wide expansion of higher and secondary education, the rise of new media and communication systems and the creation of new nation-states have deeply changed the institutional settings of historical scholarship. At the same time the different „turns“ have transformed the epistemic foundations of an international discipline that is still strongly anchored in different national, cultural and ideological/religious contexts. The international history of historiography has been a very dynamic field of research in the recent decade but the contemporary period is still an underdeveloped field of research.

1. New and old links between history teaching at schools and at universities

There is a rather strong international research dealing with history textbooks for schools and there are nationally very different subdisciplines (between pedagogy and history) dealing with the problems of history teaching at schools and the training of history teachers but there is little done in a comparative perspective, e.g. political conflicts about schoolbooks (as in India or Russia), the distant or neighbouring worlds of history teachers, their social/cultural/religious backgrounds and social reality (not to forget their social status and economic income) on one hand and university based historical scholarship on the other. This subject allows to come nearer to the social fabric of nationalist, ethnocentric or universalist contents in history teaching at school level, the problems of political manipulation or mobilisation.

Another topic in this larger field of transfer and translation of historical knowledge is the role of UNESCO and other international agencies to spread international standards or „master narratives“ of what historical knowledge is and what should be taught at schools (both as a problem of selecting a „relevant past“ and of establishing ethic and political rules – like that of responsability, victimhood and universalistic norms).

2. The effects of democratization and nationalization on historical scholarships: Asian, European and African experiences in comparison

One of the central aims of this project is to organize comparative/ international perspectives for this topic. There are many approaches (from Bourdieu like 'cultural field' approach to discourse analysis or classic intellectual history methods) that may be fruitful to explore the historiographical effects the general shift towards participation of larger parts of the population in political affairs and towards the establishment of political regimes based on electoral or plebiscitarian has during the period. As research on nationalism in historiography and historical scholarship had mostly been done on 19th and early 20th century – and there mainly but not exclusively on Europe – the field is still open for new research. The term „democratization“ must be understood critically as a very ambiguous category: it covers participation in the field of politics, but also in society. One crucial aspect is the access to education and culture of new groups (earlier regarded as 'subaltern') and their participation the political sphere. One classic outcome of these dynamics is the change of status of these groups or parts of population oin the field of cultural and historiographical representation: they started often as social problem groups („gens à problèmes“) before gettina a new status as fully recognized agents in history („gens à histoire“). Working people, migrants, ethnic groups, slaves and all people subjected to colonial rule are examples in kind. Research may start from the observation that there is a strong tension between this trend towards pluralism (ending in segregated historical narratives affirming group identities) and the other trend towards unification under a national 'umbrella'.

3. Postcolonialism as a new global paradigm for historical research: different local uses and strategies

This topic seems interesting because it would allow to critically inquire into the cultural and political subtexts of western and other academic groups. Nowadays postcolonialism under its different forms represents a kind of basic self representation of the liberal (plus left) majorities at most of the humanities departments of the academic world and it has absorbed the different intellectual innovations (turns) since the 1970s and after the slow end of basic marxism. At the same time it serves a common language to organize the influx of people from the global south in western universities and to adapt to new forms of internationalism (in recruiting best scholars and students). Such an external perspective has to be combined with an internal one that seeks to identify the different theories, concepts and methods mobilized in this new paradigm.

4.The institutional frameworks of internationalization in historiography: institutions, migrations, exchange programms and conferences seen from the global south

There is a social and institutional side to the internationalization of historical research and its largely unwritten history is very interesting. There are a lot of themes critical for this field of research: the role of (western/international/national) foundations and their research programmes and grants; the exchange programmes (like DAAD, Humboldt in the case of Germany) and their impact on historical scholarship International research programmes and their funding (UNESCO, OECD etc.) international networks (as a 'bottom up' process) and their ways of organizing and communicating their common research.

5. Historical scholarship in the larger context of the humanities and of the sciences: new and old networks of interdisciplinarity

How did intellectual and institutional borders and exchanges between history and literary studies, sociology, political sciences etc. develop in different countries under the impact of growing universities, larger 'scientific communities' and higher levels of specialization. Again, there are many fruitful approaches to such a large topic: biographies of scholars, both collectives or individuals looking at the border crossings and combinations of disciplinary impacts; syllabuses and university organizations integrating/ separating the different disciplines and subdisciplines; philosophies of knowledge circulating among historians etc.

6. Organisation

 Individual researchers (at Post doc level) will choose their own research project among the central topics of this research agenda (up to 4 positions can be financed from end of 2015 to summer 2020) and present the results of their research in form of an individual book.

 The theoretical framework and the general perspectives are discussed in workshops and conferences in cooperation with partner organisations associated to the project  Individual researchers can be associated to the project in different forms (as invited visiting scholars or fellows, as co-organizers of workshops and co-editors of books)  The core funding is procured by the funds coming from the DFG Leibniz programme

 If you are interested in this project joining it as a Post Doc scholar, bringing in your own research project as an associated partner please contact us via email:



Prof. Dr. Lutz Raphael
A 224
+49 (0)651 / 201 - 2191