“History and the Social Sciences: Still a Dialogue of the Deaf?” 29 May

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LibraryMultidisciplinary Research Workshop on 29 May 2013, 11.00-13.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room

It has often been lamented that history and the social sciences have long parted ways into separate disciplines. So much so that Fernand Braudel once quipped that conversations between historians and social theorists had become akin to a ‘dialogue of the deaf’. Braudel, however, was one among the growing number of scholars and intellectuals who over the past half-century have incessantly sought to bridge the growing gap between historical and social scientific disciplines. This effort has led to the growth and expansion of, among others, fields of inquiry such as historical sociology, social science history and social history. Both research itself and professional associations bringing historians and social theorists together, have proliferated over the recent decades and their growth does not seem to abate.

The workshop asks whether Braudel’s lament still stands today. Is there still a ‘dialogue of the deaf’ between history and social science? If genuine dialogue has increasingly taken place, what has been learned? Has it simply generated further specialized and isolated sub-disciplines, for instance those of ‘historical sociology’ and ‘historical economics’? Or has it been more broad-based, and hence is it time do away with stereotypes that see historians as overwhelmingly concerned with the particular, change and narrative, while the social scientist with generalization, patterns, and theory?

In an effort to address some of these questions, the workshop brings together junior and senior scholars from across disciplines that have an interest in understanding the relationship between history and social sciences. Scholars will reflect upon the challenges and opportunities that they have encountered when drawing together epistemologies and research methodologies which are generally thought of as belonging either to history or to the social sciences.


Peter Mandler (Cambridge University)
Jacques Revel (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)
Donatella Della Porta (EUI, SPS Department)
Philip Balsiger (MWP)
Gregorio Bettiza (MWP)
David Pretel (MWP)

All welcome to attend, for logistical reasons, please register with Susan Garvin.

Organizers: Gregorio Bettiza & David Pretel, MWFs