The History of Knowledge: An Indispensable Perspective for Contemporary History

Even if scholars are no strangers to the history of knowledge, it sometimes feels as though some cultural and social historians are not very open to the subject, at least not in the case of contemporary history. Questions put forward by the history of knowledge are seen as sidetracking research from “real” work or “important” … Continue reading The History of Knowledge: An Indispensable Perspective for Contemporary History

Hurricanes, Climate Change, and Adaptation: The Roles of Knowledge and Memory in Past and Present

This year is not the first time in the United States that climate change became a politically charged, hotly debated topic during a very active hurricane season. A comparable situation occurred in the 2005 season, when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast. Similar to current federal policy, the Bush administration prevented the EPA … Continue reading Hurricanes, Climate Change, and Adaptation: The Roles of Knowledge and Memory in Past and Present

Insights into Loss from the History of Knowledge

This post is part confession and part revelation. When Simone Lässig approached me about collaborating on migration and the history of knowledge, I immediately agreed.[1] I began writing about German scientists and the production of knowledge over twenty years ago, and much of my current work involves migrants.[2] Taking part in the GHI effort offered … Continue reading Insights into Loss from the History of Knowledge

Constructing Authority in Early British Aviation

By definition, experts play a vital role in creating, sustaining, and disseminating any particular body of knowledge. But what constitutes an expert? How is authority obtained? Does this change over time? There are no absolute answers, which is to say that the question of who is considered to be an authority is culturally and socially … Continue reading Constructing Authority in Early British Aviation

Migration Statistics and the Making of an International Point of View in the Interwar Period

In the first week of October 1932, an International Conference on Migration Statistics was held in Geneva. Over the course of five days, some thirty statisticians from twenty-six countries discussed how to produce more reliable international migration statistics. This kind of methodological discussion about statistical standardization was not at all unusual in the new world … Continue reading Migration Statistics and the Making of an International Point of View in the Interwar Period

Political Interpretations of Knowledge in Colonial Contexts

Attractive classroom scene

In the 1970s and 1980s, the concept of the “knowledge society” (Wissensgesellschaft ) rapidly gained in popularity among social scientists and politicians in Western countries.[1] The concept referred to a socioeconomic system that was no longer organized around the manufacture of material—especially industrial—goods but instead around the production of knowledge, expertise, and highly specialized skills. Continue reading

Diffusing Knowledge about Poland in Britain in the First Half of the 19th Century

Europe in the 1830s and 1840s was marked by political ferment, with various kinds of nationalism and political ideology challenging the international system established by the Congress of Vienna in 1814–15. One potential tool at the disposal of revolutionaries was public opinion abroad, insofar as the international order depended on enforcement by the great powers—Prussia, … Continue reading Diffusing Knowledge about Poland in Britain in the First Half of the 19th Century

Placing Indigenous and European Knowledge on Equal Footing in the Delgamuukw Land Claim

The s  that is now often added to turn the history of knowledge into the history of knowledges  marks a huge challenge. While scholars working within European academic traditions increasingly recognize in principle that there are many kinds of knowledges and endeavor to respect them, any attempt to bring fundamentally different kinds of knowledge into sustained contact is extremely difficult… Continue reading

Technologies of Trust: Marc Flandreau’s Examination of Financial and Anthropological Knowledge in Victorian Britain

Marc Flandreau. Anthropologists in the Stock Exchange: A Financial History of Victorian Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Victorian London can be seen as multiple cities at once: the imperial metropole par excellence, where different political visions clashed in the course of establishing and governing the British Empire; the thumping heart of global capitalism… Continue reading

Intersectionality and the History of Knowledge

On March 6, 2016, at the height of her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton or someone on her campaign posted a tweet about intersectionality. Commenting on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the accompanying diagram depicted the various issues that had intersected to cause the crisis. This was a curious moment, as a theory with roots … Continue reading Intersectionality and the History of Knowledge