CEU-HESP Comparative History Project
In October 2006, the History Department at the Central European University launched a major program called the Comparative History Project (hereafter the CHP or the “project”). The CHP is funded by the Higher Education Support Program of the Open Society Institute, Budapest and is administered with the help of CEU’s Special Projects Office. This three-year project aims at developing a stream/grouping of courses on comparative history within a set of target departments in Central, South-Eastern, and Eastern Europe , with CEU acting as the core and the co-ordinator of the group. The project has a double, intellectual and practical agenda: to formulate a regional focus for history teaching and research in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe and to strengthen the presence of CEU’s History Department in these regions. We wish to stimulate the teaching of, and research in, comparative history in our partner universities, by utilizing our considerable expertise and resources in this field.
CEU-HESP Comparative History Project is directed by Constantin Iordachi (Associate Professor) and Balázs Trencsényi (Associate Professor), History Department, and is coordinated by Péter Apor(Research Fellow, Pasts, Inc., Center for Historical Studies, Central European University
Despite much talk about the need to study history comparatively, historical studies have largely remained a national (and frequently parochial, nationalistic, state-controlled/-fixated) enterprise. While many historical 'schools' or leading historians have been advocating the development of comparative history, this field is still in its incipient phase. Theoretically and methodologically, comparative history lags behind comparative research in other disciplines, such as comparative literature, comparative politics, comparative sociology, etc. In terms of empirical research, the situation is even worse, as the passionate calls for comparative history, launched by leading comparative historians have inspired only few comprehensive and well-documented monographs. For instance, the rather sophisticated theoretical-methodological debate on the units of comparison in comparative history has only started to make its way into routine empirical research.
In Central, South-Eastern, and Eastern Europe, comparative history is an imperious scholarly, civic, and even political need: topics such as historical regions (sub-, inter-, trans- national/linguistic/ethnic/confessional, etc.), empires and their legacies, contested borders and borderlands, and so on, need to be systematically studied. The empirical material is abundant. Besides the (occasionally dangerous) liaisons between historians and their nation-states (or to their regions understood as quasi-states, e.g. Kosovo, or hailed as former super-states, e.g. Greater Romania, Greater Hungary, etc.), other factors make comparative history a very difficult academic endeavor: the need for linguistic and cultural expertise, the sheer amount of data, sources, and secondary literature, the vast diversity of historical vulgates and historiographical canons.
CEU's History Department and Pasts, Inc. Institute of Historical Studies have over the years developed a substantive expertise in comparative history and our systematic emphasis has made us one of the most active comparative history departments in Europe in this field.
Goals of the Project
The main goals of the CHP are:
- To develop a set of courses in Comparative History at each target department that can act (through the process of development and the results) as an model for further course and degree program development. The first set would act as a 'stream' within a degree program of the target department's choice.
- To develop a set of teaching materials for these courses that would then be available, together with the course syllabi, for wider dissemination to other History departments in the target regions and beyond.
- To develop a group of researchers/teachers in comparative history who can add to the teaching material available in the field.
- To develop a group of researchers/teachers who are capable of placing their work into the context of their classroom.
- To promote self-reflection in the researching/teaching process to facilitate onward development of the curriculum in Comparative History.
- To develop researchers/teachers who are capable of good course design and have strong teaching skills necessary for the furtherance of teaching Comparative History now and in the future.
The CHP aims at producing a number of HESP as well as externally funded outcomes:
- A set (grouping or stream) of courses in Comparative History at the BA or MA or PhD level (target departments must select their levels).
- A collection of Readers for the course sets which will contain, alongside pre-published work, new original research from the department group.
- A group of faculty who have the capacity to research within the Comparative History field, who have gained some experience in such research up to publication level, and who have placed that research (together with the most up-to-date research generally in the field) into the course set.
- A group of faculty with the capacity to teach their Comparative History 'set', and the skills set and network to go on independently to create new courses for themselves and their departments.
Externally Funded Outcomes:
- A Textbook in Comparative History utilizing the teacher/researchers in Outcome 3 and some of the readings in Outcome 2.
- Spin-off publications.
- Building of a European Comparative History Network of history departments, institutes, and associations.