Politics of the past

The researchers within this theme study the ways in which interpretations, memories, and constructions of the past are experienced and mobilised for political purposes from the late medieval period to the present. Regularly, both academic and public history writing as well as memories of the past become arenas of political conflict. We explore why and how multiple actors and stakeholders in society, such as imperial courts, states, local governments, political parties, social movements – as well as historians themselves – draw on the past to construct and legitimise their identities and political agendas.

Memory, historical reparations, transitional justice

Our research focuses on the politics of memory, in particular urban memory, Holocaust memory, postcolonial memory, and memory of the industrial age. We explore how historical memory resonates with and impacts the present, and how it is put in the service of political legitimacy. We gain insight into the mechanisms of memory and heritage activism, and ‘history wars’. In doing so, we draw on historical theory and (meta-)reflections on historiographical debates. Another topic is the changing nature and purpose of historical reparations and transitional justice from the early modern period to the present. In this interdisciplinary field, we collaborate with other scholars across the university and within international networks.

Researchers in this theme