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Research themes

'Inventing the international' comprises four main themes
We bring together a team of researchers to ask innovative questions about how humans imagine the international as a realm of politics and society.

Sites of international memory

French historian Pierra Nora famously argued that memory sites were a critical source of social identity and cohesion for nations. These sites constituted a symbolic typology, and could include not only be symbols, monuments, pedagogic manuals, institutions, personages, commemorative events, honorific dates and exhibitions, but also built and natural heritage sites, schools of thought, texts, and institutions.

This these brings together major practitioners in the new international history and the history of memory to discuss the ways in which sites of the international have been important to national histories, and the historical significance of institutional and ideological internationalisms that have shaped the modern history of global governance since the late 19th century. Our aim is to deepen and enhance our own memory and understanding of the cultural, social and political contexts of global governance.

What is international history now?

International history has been around since the dawn of the discipline, defining history’s earliest aims as the study of the primacy of foreign policy or diplomacy. Yet there are only a few historians who name themselves international and few departments, courses or chairs that announce this subfield in history departments in Australia or the world. So what is international history today?

In the 21st century, in the wake of the transnational turn, international history is being recalibrated, reinvented and re-energised. This project will reflect on the state of international history, from its new focus on international organisations and ideas to its new archives and new methodologies and its connections to discussions on globalising historiography. 

Economics and international history

Decades of preoccupation with culture have left economic history to a specialist cohort who applied economic analyses to the past and under the weight of contemporary developments in the world economy. Historians have now begun to reconsider the significance of economics for the study of society and politics, and develop new approaches to economic history that emphasise the social and intellectual fashioning of economic ideas and economic change.

Climate and capital

In 1972 the Swedish government held a landmark event – the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. The approach of the 50th anniversary of this conference offers a timely opportunity to consider the role of international institutions in tackling the reciprocal impact of humans and the environment, as well as the history of the discourses of economic inequality, debates over rights to natural resources, and more.

As an event that brought together activists and Indigenous peoples as well as policymakers and experts, the Stockholm Conference raised fundamental questions about the global governance of environmental challenges, a matter of particular importance as climate change accelerates.

Our project builds upon the environmental humanities and climate change research missions of the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Stockholm. It will analyse the significance and legacy of the 1972 conference for the subsequent international governance of environmental issues, ranging from the development of global environmental monitoring programs to the contestation of legal orders for natural resource extraction.

We draw researchers from economic, intellectual, cultural, and legal history, in addition to the history of science and technology, archaeology and heritage studies, and the environmental humanities.