Project Information

Historiography on Maps

This Digital Atlas of European Historiography since 1800 takes a new approach to the history of historiography in the past two centuries. It provides an original framework of comparative research by offering a set of innovative maps. They show how the institutionalization and professionalization of the history shaped the different national historiographies.

The making of a profession and the shaping of a well-structured discipline in the broader field of the humanities is the central theme of this Atlas. Modern historical scholarship, in all its complexity, needs institutional support. The staffs of teaching or research institutions must be paid, seminar rooms must be constructed and maintained, libraries and archives must be run efficiently so that researchers have access to their contents. The making of the profession cannot be understood without taking a close look at the building of this infrastructure for higher education and research. When mapping the institutional framework of historiography, we focus on these institutions.

The Atlas project started in 2003 as part of the NHIST project on the Writing of National Histories. The research team  undertook the task of dealing with the institutional aspects of national historiographies. We identified the issues, and we drew up a questionnaire to submit to our authors on six main aspects: archives, tenured professionals at universities and other academies or (later) major public research institutions; historical journals, associations; and finally museums, a topic usually entirely ignored by histories of historiography. While work was progressing, a systematic inventory of associations proved rather difficult, and we decided not to plot the results for the entire continent on the maps. notwithstanding the very rich, though quite varied, amount of information that we gathered for almost all countries. The current state of research is too fragmentary for a complete cartography on a European scale to be possible.The reader will therefore only find systematic cartographic representation of archives and museums, and of the places where professional historians – that is, tenured staff with permanent jobs or posts – have been active.

Rather than ‘spotlighting’ the major countries, leaving the rest in shadow, as usually happens, we decided to cast bright light on each country. Quoting the authority of the Oxford English Dictionary we wanted to avoid having them ‘off the map’: that is‚ ‘in oblivion or an insignificant position; of no account’. Instead, we wanted to bring all countries ‘onto the map’, that is, place them ‘in an important or pre-eminent position’.

This Atlas takes into account the development of the basic structures of historiography in all European countries including both those where 20th century socialism had built Soviet-like structures for the promotion and the control of historiography, and in Western countries, which have always devoted resources to the development of cultural institutions. It allows to compare developments in the East and the West, in dictatorships and democracies.

When we started, we found that all the necessary information was lacking, notwithstanding the broad syntheses already existing in the literature. Indeed, with a few exceptions, not even the basic data on the number of historians in a given country were available.

As a first product of our research we edited the „Atlas of European Historiography. The Making of a Profession 1800-2005“ published in 2010 by Palgrave Macmillan. The compilation of the database and the construction of digital maps enabled us to make the next step and construct this Digital Atlas.

The time span considered in our overview is very extensive. It begins with early significant innovations, such as those introduced by the French Revolution and the first university reforms, and it ends in 2005. Because no comprehensive data were available when we started our project, we could not hope to collect data for more than 200 years; rather, we had to proceed in steps of about 25 years each, so that a series of nine European maps visualizes changes and trends over more than two centuries. Thus each map can be likened to a ‘snapshot’, or to a still taken from a much longer film. The years – 1812, 1830, 1850, 1875/78, 1900, 1928, 1955, 1980, 2005 – were chosen so that the effects of crucial political events such as revolutions or wars could be observed when they had had time to crystallize, avoiding years of particular turmoil which would have negatively affected the availability of data.

We decided to plot our data for 1875 on a map showing the political borders of 1878 after the treaty of Berlin had established new independent states in South-Eastern Europe. More specifically, the year 1928 and subsequent ones were chosen as the dates of the ICHS world historical conferences, given that these have marked important stages in international scholarly exchange.

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