Workshop on Culture, History, and Society

This seminar is open to Harvard affiliates and members of the Cambridge and Boston academic community. Members of the public may attend only upon receiving specific permission from the chairs.

The Workshop in History, Culture, and Society provides a forum for the presentation of interdisciplinary scholarship in history across the social sciences. The workshop invites graduate students and faculty in the disciplines of anthropology, economics, history, political science, psychology, and sociology to present work on historical topics. The social sciences differ in the degree of emphasis they place on a piece of scholarship’s archival precision, comparative leverage, theoretical attention, and extent of quantification. The workshop's primary methodological goal is to initiate a discussion on what constitutes acceptable historical evidence in each of the social sciences, while its main substantive goal is to explore how the past influences the present. A paper that meets the standards of evidence in one discipline might not meet the standards of another. It is the workshop’s contention that the closer one attends to the different metrics of credibility each discipline uses to assess its work, the greater the improvement of historical work will be generally. The workshop puts special effort into seeking papers that discuss how the past influences the present. Recent work in economic history has demonstrated, for example, how current levels of development in the nations of sub-Saharan Africa can be predicted by their historical involvement in the slave trades. In this workshop, participants aim not only to uncover correlations such as these, but also to explore precisely how events long past can come to exert influence over the present.

Outside of its scholarly goals, the workshop furnishes a setting for collaboration and connection among social scientists working on historical research. Such collaboration has proved enormously fruitful in professional associations, such as the Social Science History Association. Over the past three years, the workshop has become a microcosm of this type of interdisciplinary network.

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See also: Open Seminars