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Rewriting Histories: The Transnational Challenge



Friday, 30 April – Saturday 1 May 2010


University College London
Gower Street – London WC1E 6BT
(Wilkins Building, Main Campus)

Friday panels and the keynote lecture take place in the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre (South Cloisters, 2nd floor)

Saturday panels take place in the Haldane Room (North Cloisters, ground floor)


Organised by UCL’s Centre for Transnational History, this two-day conference will discuss methodological approaches to transnational history and the challenges transnational history presents to the different sub-disciplines of history.  Its aim is to explore how transnational history works in practice, to discuss the theoretical implications of rethinking and rewriting history from a transnational perspective, and to consider the impact this process will have on representations of the past within the academic discipline as well as on history more generally defined.

Our approach to transnational history is inclusive rather than exclusive. We do not understand transnational history as an attempt to write nations or states out of history, but we look for structures that transcend the boundaries between them. Transnational history, as we understand it, neither replicates nor contradicts the approaches of  International Relations or Diplomatic History, but instead wishes to revisit research in these disciplines by taking into account patterns of transnationality. We believe that transnational history presents a challenge not only to historians of the modern period, when nationality became a dominant feature in the organisation of state structures. Modern historians can learn from historians of earlier periods, who are transnational historians by the very nature of their subject matter; but also we wish to think about the ways in which the principle of nationality has insinuated itself into nineteenth- and twentieth-century treatments of earlier periods of history, “nationalising” medieval or early modern history. Finally, we wish to discuss how transnationality works within the different sub-disciplines of history, how historians of art and of medicine, ancient or medieval historians, economic, diplomatic and intellectual historians understand transnationality. What can historians learn from colleagues working in related disciplines? Is there a particular way to do transnational history? Is transnational history a method, a theory, or is it just a new way of thinking historically?

The event is supported by the Royal Historical Society, UCL Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction, the UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences and the UCL Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.

For further information, please contact Dr Axel Körner (UCL History).


The full programme is available for download here.

Friday, 30 April 2010

11.15 Coffee (Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, upper landing)

11.30 Welcome

11.45-1.15  Panel 1
“By Nature Transnational”? History of Art, Medicine, Politics
The first panel will consider how different subdisciplines of history, and academic subjects related to history, understand and work with the concept of transnationality. Each speaker will raise a number of general points in relation to a specific historical discipline and then illustrate these through examples from their own research.

Andrew HEMINGWAY (UCL, History of Art), “Aesthetics and the Limits of Art-Historical Explanation”

Vivienne LO (UCL, Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine), “Disciplining Medical History: beyond the frontier”

Jason PEACEY (UCL, History), “The frontiers of political history: a transnational agenda for the early modern world”

Chair and Comment: Tom GRETTON (UCL, History of Art)

1.15–2.00 Lunch (Haldane Room, for speakers and invited guests only)

2.00-3.30  Panel 2
Location: regions beyond nations
Historians of the “age of nationalism” sometimes ignore regions comprising different nationalities or locations in which people of different nationality live together and share experiences of historical continuity and change. How do we study such communities and what can transnational historians learn from these examples?

Introduction and chair: Mary HILSON (UCL, Department of Scandinavian Studies), “Historical Meso-Regions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries”

Diana MISHKOVA (Sofia), “Southeast-European Studies between Methodological Nationalism and Transnationalism”

Norbert GÖTZ (Helsinki / Stockholm), “Scandinavianism Revisited: The Transnational Construction of Norden in the Age of Nationalism”

Comment: Georgios VAROUXAKIS (QMUL)

3.30–4.15 Coffee and …

“Transnationality of authorship and material practice in eighteenth-century publishing” – a presentation of:

Bernard Picart, Cermonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde. Amsterdam: J F Bernard, 1739.

(Tom GRETTON, UCL, History of Art)

Strang Print Room, South Cloisters.

UCL has recently been given an incomplete set of Bernard Picart's foundational work on comparative religion. Picart's project was in many senses “transnational” in conception and execution; the presence of the volumes will give conference participants the chance to look at its transnationality in terms not only of discourse, iconography, and State regulation, but also in terms of print-making and book-production.

4.15–5.45  Panel 3
Relations: International or transnational

International relations are based on more than just inter-governmental connections. Internationalism and transnationality are often closely connected, presenting a challenge to the ways in which we study relations between states and international institutions.

Introduction and Chair: Volker BERGHAHN (Columbia University), "Transnational History as an approach to the study of International Relations"

Daniel LAQUA (Northumbria)
, “Evolution is always the outcome of association and organization: Internationalist Perspectives on Non-State Actors before the Great War”

Katharina RIETZLER (UCL, History)
, “Experts without nationality? American foundations and the quest for transnational expertise in the interwar years”

Comment: Peter WILSON (LSE)

6–7.30  Keynote lecture (Gustave Tuck LT, South Wing, 2nd floor)
Axel KÖRNER (UCL, History), “Five Thoughts on Transnational History”

Introduction: Nicola MILLER (UCL, History)
Vote of thanks: Jonathan ISRAEL (Princeton)

7.30  Reception (North Cloisters)

8.00  Dinner (for speakers and invited guests only)
UCL, Terrace Restaurant

Saturday, 1 May 2010

9.30–11.00  Panel 4
Empires – transnational experiences

Imperial experiences have shaped concepts of belonging and identity long before the constitution of modern nation states. Most empires are characterised by the fact that they include different groups defined on the basis of ethnicity, language, nationality, religion or other concepts. Looking at examples from the ancient through to the modern world, the panel will discuss the extent to which the concept of transnationality might help us to understand practices of imperial government, the concepts of rulers and the responses of their subjects.

Chair and comment: John DARWIN (Oxford)

Amélie KUHRT (UCL, History), “The shifting rhetoric of Near Eastern empires in the first millennium BC”

Jeroen DUINDAM (Groningen), “Early modern Eurasian composite states and empires: dynastic, multi-ethnic, transnational?”

Semil DERINGIL (Istanbul), "Re-configuring Ottoman Citizenship. Conversion and Apostasy in the late Ottoman Empire"

11.00–11.30  Coffee (North Cloisters)

11.30 – 1.00  Panel 5
Mental maps and the exchange of culture

Concepts of ‘periphery’ and ‘centre’ are constructed through mental maps, depending on the specific perspective of the observers. The transnational exchange of ideas and culture is used to define the subjective relationship between these concepts.

Introduction: Wendy BRACEWELL (UCL, SSEES)

Lucy RIALL (BBK), “Bronte: cultural exchange and cultural conflict in a Sicilian periphery”

Naoko SHIMAZU (BBK), “Japan’s Europe: Mapping Russians in the Japanese Imagination”

Comment: Bernhard RIEGER (UCL, History)

1.00–1.45  Lunch (North Cloisters, for speakers and invited guests only)

1.45–3.15  Panel 6
Ideas - The challenge of transnational reception

This panel will discuss approaches to the problem of ‘transnational flows’, the movement of ideas across national borders and their translation and assimilation into different political, cultural and social contexts.

Introduction and chair: Nicola MILLER (UCL, History), “Reading Herder in Buenos Aires”

Jonathan ISRAEL (Princeton), “The Dangers of adopting a national approach in Enlightenment Studies”

Maurizio ISABELLA (QMUL), “The Liberal International between the Mediterranean, Europe, and Latin America 1815-1835”

Comment: Avi LIFSCHITZ (UCL, History)

3.15–3.45  Coffee (North Cloisters)

3.45–5.00  Round Table and Discussion

Herman BENNETT (New York), Patricia CLAVIN (Oxford), Wendy DAVIES (UCL), Axel KÖRNER (UCL), Bo STRÅTH (Helsinki)


For further information on this conference please contact a.korner@ucl.ac.uk

Funded by: Royal Historical Society, UCL - Grand Challenges; Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences; Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning

(The Centre for Transnational History at UCL would like to thank Gemma Barber, David Ferguson and Dr Uta Staiger for their organisational support.)


Nearest underground stations are Euston Square, Euston and Russell Square.

University College London, Gower Street – London WC1E 6BT
(Wilkins Building, Main Campus)

Friday panel discussions and the keynote lecture take place in the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, South Cloisters, 2nd floor (C/D 2/3 on the map)

Saturday panel discussions take place in the Haldane Room, ground floor, North Cloisters (see C2 on the map)


Page last modified on 29 jul 10 13:03