Changing Histories of the State - March 2018

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Changing Histories of the State:
March 23-25, 2018

This conference brings together historians of the US and Europe, from the 17th to 19th centuries, in a comparative conversation on ‘the state of The State’ in our respective historiographies.

A traditional comparison between US and European histories of the state would have posed the US, largely shunning warfare and built on the anti-statist ideals of the American Revolution, against a European narrative of expanding and centralising state power throughout the early modern period, only intensified by the revolutionary events at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Early American history has benefitted immensely since the turn of the 21st century from a revisionist approach emphasising the state’s relative strength.  Recognising that early American leaders built the federal government to be stronger, and play a larger role in the formation of the US, than traditional narratives of the early republic credited, has opened up new lines of enquiry in histories of US expansion, warfare, international diplomacy, slavery and Native American relations.

The conference seeks to put this turn in US history into conversation with recent developments in European histories of state power.  As US history has increased the power of the state, has European history found new ways that state power was deployed?  Have studies of new avenues of power also illuminated the many ways power failed to achieve its intended ends?  Or has European historiography moved in the opposite direction, downplaying state power just as US history has rediscovered it?

To answer these questions, the conference brings together some of the best historians of the state, empire and political thought in US and European fields, as well as younger scholars producing fresh work in these areas.  Panels will pair historians working on subjects from the opposite side of the Atlantic, discussing shared issues or themes in an environment that will encourage comparative insights.  The end result will be a better transnational understanding of the workings of state power in a vital, formative period for the modern world.

Changing Histories of the State Conference is sponsored by the University of Notre Dame Department of History with the support of the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. Christopher Flanagan, conference coordinator.