This research unit analyzes 19th- and 20th- century politics, political institutions, movements, ideas, cultures and attitudes, using the most advanced theoretical and methodological tools. Decades ago, political history was chiefly the history of ruling elites, limited to the lives and deeds of those few individuals who had reached the top of the political hierarchy. This concept is now obsolete, having been challenged first by Marxism and later by the École des Annales. Since the 1980s, a new generation of scholars has changed the way we look at political history, incorporating the main challenges of social and cultural history: political institutions and the game of politics are no longer studied as phenomena revolving around a small number of decision makers, but rather as deeply interwoven into their social, economic, ideological and cultural context. Political actors influence this context as they are, in turn, influenced by it – with no determinism in either direction.
The unit aims to bridge two divides: that between the theoretical approach of social scientists (political scientists and theorists, economists and anthropologists) and the idiographic approach of historians; and that between national and non-national (international, cross-national, transnational, and global) political histories.
The unit focuses on the following research areas:
- Political theory, ideologies and institutional change;
- Intellectuals in politics;
- Institutional transitions;
- European integration;
- Populism and democracy from the 20th to the 21st century.