About the Workshop


March 19-21, 2010


Megan Armstrong and Juanita DeBarros, Department of History, McMaster University


On March 19th 2010, a group of scholars will gather in Niagara-on-the-lake to discuss the state of comparative historical research. Historians touted the value of comparative historical approaches long before Marc Bloch wrote his celebrated article, “Pour une histoire comparée des sociétés européenes” (1928). Whereas his predecessors ambitiously believed that comparative study of past societies would result in a scientifically-informed typology of human civilization, Bloch’s interest lay in challenging nation-centric assumptions about medieval culture. Since Bloch’s time, a number of historians from across fields and time periods have employed comparative approaches to great effect, questioning deeply ingrained assumptions about the nature of past societies as well as the very tools of the historical trade. Fernand Braudel’s iconic work La Méditerranée, for example, lay the intellectual foundations for the regional studies programs that emerged in the West over the last four decades. Christopher Bayly, Philippa Levine, and Timothy Brook have used comparative methodologies to illuminate critical gulfs in cultural understanding that significantly informed past and present interactions of European and non-European societies. The comparative scholarship of John Weaver and H.V. Nelles has also played a crucial role in redirecting attention to globalization as a critical factor in shaping North American societies.

The intent of this workshop is to push the boundaries of recent comparative scholarship by identifying innovative methodologies and theoretical models useful to an international community of scholars. The scholars selected for this workshop were chosen with this agenda in mind. Collectively these scholars represent the richness and complexity of recent comparative research. Proposed topics range from comparative environmental practices in North America to Christian-Muslim relations in the Medieval Mediterranean to Human Rights in Africa. The Participants include Raymond Grew, Donald Worster, Philippa Levine, Paul Lovejoy, Timothy Brook, Viv Nelles, John Weaver, Bonny Ibahwoh, Eric Jennings, Sara Beam, Andrew Spicer, Natalie Rothman, Sally Hadden, Taylor Spence, Brian Catlos, Lisa Cox, Nadine Hunt, Gérard Bouchard, and Stuart McCook.

Keynote Address:

Conceptualizing the Problem: What constitutes a comparative project
Philippa Levine, University of Texas-Austin

Selected Topics

  • Comparative History and interdisciplinarity
  • Inter-Institutional, trans-imperial and diasporic comparisons
  • Comparative Environmental Histories
  • Narrating Comparative Projects
  • New Directions in Comparative Scholarship

Participants - Click here for more information