Recent Events

Petitions and Political Culture in South Asia
4 - 5 June 2014

A two-day workshop took place in Magdalene College as part of the Exchanges of Economic, Legal and Political Ideas programme. It brought together scholars from different periods of South Asian history (early modern, colonial, and contemporary) who are often not in conversation with one another. It brought into focus the question of changing state structures and relationships with individuals and communities, as well as considering the methodological and theoretical challenges raised by petitions. We hoped that focusing on changing genres of petitioning across time would illuminate some of the critical issues in current South Asian historiography, including (but not limited to) questions of historical memory, the formation of publics, ideas of law and subject hood, and changing understandings of the role of the state.


Defining the Economy in Political Crisis: Revolution, Rupture and the Law
October 4 2013
Harvard University

Historians and social scientists have turned to examine the relationship between economics and its object. Scholars increasingly argue that the 'economy' itself is a recent product of socio-political practice. With the integration of markets and the rise of global economic institutions, there is a tendency to see this as a universal process playing out similarly in different jurisdictions. The aim of this meeting was to examine how contingency, violence and ideologies were involved in redefining the economy. How was the economy constructed after revolutionary change or decolonization? What tools and technologies did new political orders adopt? Given that drastic political change was accompanied by both chaos and violence, we are interested in examining the ways in which the contingencies of the everyday shaped conceptions of property, wealth, exchange and commodities. The workshop also examined the ways in which the the 'economy' is a creature of laws and regulations. In the workshop we hoped to bring into focus not just the processes of law making, but also the everyday life of the law and the role it plays in constructing the economy.
Workshop Program »


Recovering Law in Asia
16 March 2013
A one-day workshop, organised by Rohit De and Fei-Hsien Wang in connection with the project on Exchanges of Economic, Legal and Political Ideas, took place in Trinity Hall, Cambridge, on 16 March 2013. The aim of the workshop was to explore the processes through which seemingly alien legal systems were adapted by Asian societies, and the new institutions and practices that emerged as its result. By focusing on a number of Asian societies, the meeting hoped to bring together disciplines and histories that are rarely in conversation with one another, to identify similar phenomena that happen in different regions and also uncover legal connections between Asian societies.

Schedule »
Participants »


Justice Stephen Breyer in Conversation
9 July & 11 July 2012
Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, visited the Centre in July. Two events were hosted to mark the occasion, the first on 9 July, with history Phd and JD students. The second event, co-hosted by the Centre for European Legal Studies (CELS), took place on 11 July in Trinity College. In conversation with Catherine Barnard and Emma Rothschild, Justice Breyer talked about the function of comparative law, originalism in the Supreme Court, and the role of public opinion in shaping the judges' views.


Southeast Asia: India connections

8 June 2012
An informal rountable meeting took place in Magdalene College, Cambridge as part of the project on the Sites of Asian Interactions. The aim of the meeting was to discuss Indian and British archival materials, including collaboration with West Bengal state archives. Amongst the participants were Tansen Sen and Geoffrey Wade from the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
Agenda »
Participants list »


Federal Credit in Historical Perspective
May 7, 2012
The purpose of this workshop was to explore the extension of federal credit in a historical perspective and consider today's realities within the context of longstanding debates over public sector risk management, including, for example, federal loan insurance and credit.


1848 as a Turning Point in the History of Political Thought
11-12 April 2012
A two-day conference took place in King's College as part of the programme on The Interaction between Political, Economic and Religious Ideas 1750-1950. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the new project strand which examines 1848 as a turning point in the history of political thought. This will be a major investigation reconsidering the significance of 1848 both in Europe and the wider world. The events of the Arab Spring remind us how uncertain patterns, developments and successes of revolutions might be. Not only will we examine the Revolutions of 1848 in a global setting, but we shall also be applying the new approaches to the history of political thought, which have been developed in Cambridge and elsewhere since the 1970s.
Programme »
Participant List »


Penang and the Indian Ocean
17-18 September 2011, Penang
This event was organised with collaborators in connection with the project on the Sites of the Asian Interactions. Among the themes explored were the early history, trade and exchange, the Indian diaspora, and law, authority and modernity. The keynote lecturers were Christopher Bayly and Om Prakash, with Sunil Amrith and Tim Harper as moderators.


Population, economy and welfare, c. 1200-2000

16-18 September 2011
A Centre-supported conference, organised by Chris Briggs, Peter Kitson and Stephen Thompson in honour of Professor Richard Smith, took place on 16-18 September in Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. The principle purpose was to recognise and celebrate the scholarly achievements of Professor Richard M Smith and to bring together an international group of historians, demographers and economists, ranging from current graduate students to senior academics, to discuss long-run interconnections between population change, economic development, and welfare provision in past time.


His Majesty's Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India's Struggle against Empire
31 May 2011, Cambridge
A panel discussion of Sugata Bose's new book on Subhas Chandra Bose. Panelists included Sugata Bose (Harvard), Sunil Amrith (Birkbeck, London) and Sumit Mandal (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) and the discussion was chaired by Tim Harper (Magdalene College, Cambridge).


Utopia and Dystopia: Politics of Commitment

20-21 May 2011
A workshop organised by Nick Stargardt took place at Robinson College, Cambridge. The workshop was organised around the work of Gareth Stedman Jones with a panel of his former Cambridge students. It was an experiment to see whether it is possible to generate new insights about what political idealism and commitment have meant in the period since the French Revolution. The small group of intellectual and cultural historians who werel present would more often be kept apart by the fences separating their periods, places and sub-specialisms.
Programme »


Energy and Environment: A Global History
22 April 2011, Harvard
Harvard University Center for the Environment
The workshop considered energy history in a global perspective. It presented new research by graduate students from Harvard and MIT, and concluded with a roundtable session of faculty from both institutions. The workshop was the first in a series of events hosted by the Energy History Project, an initiative that explores the ways in which the historical study of energy use and its transformations can contribute to the understanding of economic, social, and environmental change. Participants included David Blackbourn, Alison Frank, Richard Hornbeck, Ian Miller, Harriet Ritvo and Emma Rothschild. The workshop website can be found here.


Buy Now, Pay Later: A History of Personal Credit
From December 2010, Harvard
An exhibition at Harvard Business School, curated by Caitlin Anderson, Visiting Fellow at the Center for History and Economics, drawing on materials in Baker Library's Historical Collections to show how previous generations devised creative ways of lending and borrowing long before credit cards.


Session at the Fitzwilliam: Europe's Asian Centuries
26 November 2010, Cambridge
A small workshop took place at the Fitzwilliam Museum. It brought together associates of the Centre and members of the project on 'Europe's Asian Centuries' at Warwick directed by Maxine Berg. There was a porcelain galleries and handling session with the curators Victoria Avery, James Lin and Nik Zolman. The potter Alan Bainbridge also discussed techniques for making blue and white porcelain. The workshop started in the seminar room and was followed by the galleries session. The focus of the workshop was on Asian export-ware porcelain and its impact on early European initiatives in porcelain production. More information about the project, 'Europe's Asian Centuries: Trading Eurasia 1600-1830' is available here.


Income Maintenance Programs in America From 1920s to the Present Day: A Progress Report on New Evidence
10 November 2010, Harvard
Price V. Fishback, Thomas R. Brown Professor of Economics, University of Arizona; Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research; Co-Editor, Journal of Economic History. The event was jointly sponsored by the Project on Justice, Welfare and Economics and the Joint Center for History and Economics.


Penang and the Indian Ocean: Mapping Exchanges and Interaction
1 - 2 July 2010, Cambridge
Organised by the Centre for History and Economics and held in Trinity Hall, Cambridge, this conference sought to explore how ideas travelled across Asia, and how they changed in the process, focusing on networks of people, texts, objects and symbols that circulated throughout Asia in the age of global empires.  Papers included Regions and Boundaries: Exploring the Spatial Reach of Straits Chinese Merchants of Penang in the Bay of Bengal (Loh Wei Leng, Universiti Malaya); The Hajj and the Indian Ocean, 1860-1940 (John Slight, University of Cambridge); Eurasian family histories: Penang and beyond (Kirsty Walker, University of Cambridge); and Picturesque Penang: tropicality, landscape and land appropriation the early 19th century (Christina Skott, University of Cambridge).  Participants included Sunil Amrith (Birkbeck, University of London), Christopher Bayly (University of Cambridge), Mark Ravinder Frost (Hong Kong University), Tim Harper (University of Cambridge), Andrew Jarvis (University of Cambridge), Rachel Leow (University of Cambridge), Su Lin Lewis (University of Cambridge), Loh Wei Leng, Sumit Mandal (Humboldt University), Emma Rothschild, Christina Skott, John Slight and Kirsty Walker.
Programme »


The Internationalization of the History of France and the French Empire
14 June 2010, Cambridge
This workshop, held in King’s College, Cambridge, examined the implications of recent trends in global, imperial and transnational history for the history of early modern France and her empire. Participants included Renaud Morieux, Frédéric Régent, François-Joseph Ruggiu, David Todd, Richard Drayton, Emma Rothschild and Robert Tombs. For further information, please see the event website.


Morality and markets: thinking about Albert Hirschman in the 1970s »
Jeremy Adelman (Princeton University)
19 May 2010, Cambridge

Haiti in History
May 3 2010, Harvard
The workshop, organized by the Center for History and Economics and the Program on Justice, Welfare and Economics, explored recent work on Haiti/Saint-Domingue in the long history of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Speakers included Julia Gaffield (Duke University), Malick Ghachem (University of Maine), Walter Johnson (Harvard University), Martha Jones (University of Michigan), Emma Rothschild (Harvard University), Edward Rugemer (Yale University), Rebecca Scott (University of Michigan), David Todd (University of Cambridge), and Edward Widmer (Brown University).
Event Poster »


Writing World History
26 March 2010
This Centre-supported event took place in St John's College, Cambridge and was a debate between the authors of The Transformation of the World and the Birth of the Modern World, Professor Jürgen Osterhammel and Professor Sir Christopher Bayly respectively, about their approaches to writing world history. The debate was followed by a roundtable discussion with the following participants: Andrew Arsan, Chris Clark, Richard Evans, Leigh Denault, Rosalind O' Hanlon (University of Oxford), and William O' Reilly. The event was organised by Ulinka Rublac.
Podcast »