At least in Western-Europe and the US, radical approaches to history writing have long held a position in the margins of the field. This has been true since the decline in popularity of ‘critical theory’ and ‘history from below’ associated with the new social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. But there are signs of a revival. The global financial crisis that started in 2008 prompted new interest in the long history of capitalism, often intended to examine the ‘historic roots’ of the system’s most obvious flaws. The combined challenges of postcolonial theory and the re-emergence of vigorously nationalist and exclusionist discourse in the former colonial states have forced historians to re-engage with classical ideas on emancipation, race, and global inequality. Growing ecological concerns have spilled over into the writing of a new history of the changing relationship between humans and their natural environment. A new wave of ‘history from below’ has started to stress the transnational connections of the subaltern classes, as well as transcontinental flows of popular movements even before the era of the Industrial Revolution.
This workshop aims to bring together historians identifying with ‘critical’ or ‘radical history’ as a project in order to charge new terrain. Its central question is how radical history can contribute to formulating new agendas for research. The workshop will be organized around four themes:
- The historiographical legacy of critical and radical history: in this theme we aim to explore the continuing relevance of twentieth century contributions to radical history writing, e.g. E.P. Thompson’s The making of the English working class, history from below, Foucault’s rethinking of power, world-system theory, subaltern studies, etc.
- Renewals in critical and radical history: in this theme we aim to discuss how new theoretical / historiographical approaches can contribute to the development of the field of history in the 21st century, e.g. on rethinking class, gender, ecology, global inequality, etc.
- The contribution of critical and radical history to specific research fields: in this theme we invite presentations of current research that contributes to the development of radical history in specific fields.
- The Netherlands and its empire as a case-study for the potential of critical and radical history: in this theme we invite presentations of current research that employs radical / critical approaches in writing the history of the Netherlands and its empire.
For this international workshop, we invite papers that reflect both ‘work in progress’ or finished research in any of these four topics. In doing so, we hope to bring together historians identifying with the project of developing new radical / critical approaches to history writing, stimulate the exchange of ideas, and formulate new agendas for research.
Pepijn Brandon (VU / University of Pittsburgh), Maral Jefroudi (IISH), Marcel van der Linden (IISH), David Mayer (editor International Review of Social History / IISH).
The workshop will take place at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, 12 December 2014. Keynote speech 11 December, Prof. Robin Blackburn, Essex University.