Comparative history as a genre arose in the twentieth century within the interdisciplinary communication of history with the social sciences. It particularly developed in the subfields of economic and demographic history while it also contributed to the evolutions of historical sociology. Important works on given phenomena, including feudalism, slavery, trade, processes of modernization, the history of revolutions, have been produced in comparative historical perspective. Moreover, the historians’ interest in enlarging their field of studies as well as their scope is neither new nor unfamiliar. Studies which cross boundaries, either regional or national or imperial, and detach from particular contexts in order to relate to others, have their own distinct evolution within history, ever since the antiquity. Hence, the paradigm of history which is framed within a particular spatio-temporal setting, traditionally that of one national state, is still dominant. Even now, historical research is widely conducted within specific national boundaries which impose their limits upon its themes and perspectives.
Scholarly interest in forms of historical research which move beyond one specific setting has recently re-emerged within a different intellectual and socio-political context. This interest relates to the wider phenomena that the processes of globalization have endorsed. In this context, skepticism about the nation as a focal point of history is complemented with a critique of static perceptions of comparisons which are exhausted in a study of “similarities” and “differences” of given phenomena. Critical and self-reflexive interrogations of traditional forms of comparison encourage different approaches. Alternatively, cross-national and trans-national history has emerged with a particular interest in topics and questions which are placed through national boundaries and which become transformed in the very process of scrutiny. “Shared histories”, “entangled histories” and “connected histories” have become central in this perspective.
This conference aims at reassessing the evolutions of comparative history and at exploring its redefinitions and reworkings along with the emergence of cross-national and trans-national history and of histoire croisee. The formulation of concepts, topics and themes, the issues of sources, the ways historians craft questions, change scales and meet the challenges of working beyond specific borders, the assessment of older approaches and of new projects are its main themes.
- Henriette (Rika) Benveniste
- Effi Gazi
- Ioanna Laliotou