In times of great uncertainty such as ours, history occupies an important place in public debates. The great debates about the rise of populism, the dangers of automatisation and the consequences of austerity policies all include important assumptions about the past and the forces that shaped it. However, very often these interpretations of the past are not provided by historians but by economists, business experts, IT experts or engineers. One reason for the limited role that historians play in public debates is the image that professional historians have developed of themselves and their academic discipline. Rather than commenting on current affairs and contributing to shaping them, historians often see themselves as representatives of a more detached discipline that is exclusively devoted to the reconstruction and understanding of the past.
The historians at the University of St. Gallen take a different view of the task of the historian and seek to engage with public debates, to provide historical insight that matters for today and to make a significant impact also beyond the academic community. The University of St. Gallen offers a unique environment for this approach to historical research because the institution has a strong international orientation and a focus on the study of economics, politics and law.
Research in the department focuses on the history of knowledge and science, and on economic history. We often connect these fields and always give particular prominence to the political and social implications of the historical developments that we study. Recent examples of this approach include our studies on the history of scientific experts, on the history of public intellectuals and on the history of austerity policies.
Further information about our research interests can be found on the pages of the individual members of the department.