Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History

Other research projects

Centre members are currently involved in a wide variety of other research projects.

Political pluralism and religious conflict (2017-ongoing)

Ferizaj church and mosque in Kosovo
Ferizaj church and mosque in Kosovo

CSMCH director Emile Chabal is developing a project around political pluralism and religious conflict in the modern world. The aim is to build a network of specialists from different fields who will come together regularly to explore a number of interconnected themes, including:

  • How religious conflict develops and interacts with other political processes

  • Different models that have been - or could be - used to manage religious conflict

  • The differences in the management and political mobilisation of religious minorities (eg. Jews, Muslims etc.)

  • Existing or emerging tensions between ideas of democratic pluralism and religious values

  • The development or limitation of religious practices in the public sphere

  • The historical legacies of secularism and anti-clericalism

An initial meeting took place in May 2017 at the Insitut Français d'Écosse in Edinburgh, sponsored by the Society for the Study of French History and the Center for the Study of Religion at the University of California-Berkeley. There will be further meetings and publications related to this project in future.

Eric Hobsbawm and the history of global Marxism (2015-2020)

For some years now, CSMCH director Emile Chabal has also been working on an intellectual biography of Eric Hobsbawm in the context of the history of global Marxism. Using an ecletic and interdisciplinary approach - which combines a close reading of Hobsbawm's published work with an examination of personal papers, institutional archives, interviews and ethnographic material - this  research addresses a number of key themes in twentieth-century history. Three of these run throughout the project: the role of the intellectual in British public life; the global imagination of twentieth-century Marxist politics; and the theoretical and stylistic foundations that underpin successful historical writing.

This project has involved archival trips, fieldwork in Europe, Latin America and India, and oral history, and it has drawn on the expertise and collaboration of other Centre members, including deputy director Stephan Malinowski, postdoctoral researcher Anne Perez, and research student Iker Itoiz Ciáurriz. 

This research has been funded by the Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant scheme and the AHRC Leadership Fellows scheme (grant number AH/P008720/1).

Rebellion and Myth-Making in Brazil's Interior (2017-ongoing)

A map of the Prestes Column (1928)
A map of the Prestes Column (1928)

CSMCH member Jake Blanc has been working on a project seeks to reinterpret the Prestes Column rebellion of the 1920s—one of the most mythologised events in Brazilian history. From 1924 to 1927, a group of junior army officers led by Luiz Carlos Prestes marched nearly 25,000 kilometres through Brazil's vast interior; although it failed to overthrow the government, the Prestes Column attained an almost mythic status in Brazilian folklore and political history. While existing scholarship has treated the passage through the interior as a backdrop to the rebellion, Jake focuses on the interior regions themselves, using the Prestes Column as a vector for a new understanding of Brazil’s so-called ‘backlands’. More than just social or subaltern history, and moving past the natural pillars of environmental history, his interior history of the Prestes Column helps reimagine national mythologies from the inside out.

This research has been funded by the AHRC Leadership Fellows scheme, the AHRC Research Networking  Scheme, and the Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant scheme.

Judging Political Violence (2013-2017)

CSMCH member Mathias Thaler recently concluded a major interdisciplinary research project on 'judging political violence'.

The project’s main goal was to work towards a reinvigorated political Theory, one that recognizes the guidance of ethical principles without disregarding real politics. This required a pragmatically grounded account of judgment. A set of case studies from a variety of contexts supplemented the theoretical work. 

The three principal research objectives and questions that underpinned the project were:

  1. Interpretive reconstruction. How have the currently dominant normative accounts of genocide, terrorism and torture been arrived at?
  2. Normative analysis. is there a need to rethink the currently dominant normative accounts of genocide, terrorism and torture?
  3. Reformist critique. In what way can we develop definitions of genocide, terrorism and torture that are less susceptible to abuse and manipulation?

The project was funded through a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant within the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union, and it resulted in a wide variety of dissemination activities and publications. More details are available here.

The world we fought for? Systematic violence in global history since 1945 (2017-2020)

CSMCH member Donald Bloxham is currently working on the first global history of extreme violence from the end of the Second World War to the present. He is examining worldwide connections between wars, revolutions, genocides, famines, large-scale terrorism and state terror. As a ‘new international history’ the project explores the violence-conducive environment created by imperialism’s legacies, decolonisation, self-determination development agendas, the Cold War, and new geopolitical struggles since the Cold War. 

This project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship programme. 

Seeing Illegal Immigrants: State Monitoring and Political Rationality (2016-2018)

Archival document relating to control of immigrant labour in France in the 1970s
Archival document relating to control of immigrant labour in France in the 1970s

CSMCH member Christina Boswell, in collaboration with CSMCH director Emile Chabal, recently coordinated a major collaborative project on illegal immigration and state rationality in Western Europe. The focus was on the ways three states - France, Germany and the United Kingdom - have ‘seen’ unauthorized migrants from the late 1960s to the present day. The aim was to assess whether public authorities maximise surveillance and control of illegal residents, or whether they prefer to cultivate a form of benign neglect or even ‘strategic ignorance’ of these groups; understand which forms of illegality states monitor, and which are left unscrutinised; and investigate the techniques states use to produce knowledge about illegal populations. 

The project was funded by an Economic and Social Research Council Research Grant (grant number ES/N011171/1) and brought together researchers across history, political science and sociology. It resulted in a new data set, exciting theoretical innovations, and findings that had a direct bearing on the fallout from the 'Windrush scandal'. Full details and information about ongoing publications can be found here

Another World? East Africa and the Global 1960s (2018-2021)

CSMCH members Emma Hunter and Ismay Milford are working on a major new project on East Africa after decolonisation. The project seeks to understand and explain how East Africa’s global connections systematically broke down after independence, opening up a set of new and unpredictable paths forward. Using a variety of print media, the project interrogates key assumptions of the linearity of globalisation by exploring how a vision of a connected postcolonial world shattered. The project's main objectives are:

  1. To broaden our understanding of how East Africans imagined the world and their place in it by excavating networks of global affinity between authors and readers spread across the world.
  2. To assess the implications of the implosion of cosmopolitan, internationalized utopian visions of Africa’s place in the world for the period of economic and political crisis that followed.
  3. To emphasise the importance of the African experience for studies of globalization from across the humanities and social sciences.

The project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grants scheme, and is based in the Edinburgh Centre for Global History