Prof. Dr. Madeleine Herren-Oesch
Director of the Institute / Professor for Modern History
Institute for European Global Studies of the University of Basel, Gellertstrasse 27, P.O. Box
CH-4020 Basel
Office 1.5

Tel: +41 (0)61 207 48 67

Trained in European historiography and specialized in the history of international organizations and transnational movements, I am a passionate historian with a strong interest in Global History and in curiosity-driven transdisciplinary and collaborative research and teaching. Although my fields of expertise cover 19th and 20th century history, my historiographical approach emphasizes a strong connection to the contemporary world in its multilayered, global dimensions. In my self-understanding as an academic historian, I am therefore not interested in the reconstruction or reenactment of the past. Rather my research focuses on the reasons why societies declare certain parts of the past to be their historical background and choose them as reference points for identity building. In further developing the famous concept of the invention of tradition introduced by Ranger and Hobsbawm, my preferred historiographical approach addresses this journey of historical topics for two main reasons: First, the question of who owns the past is crucial in the development of analytical tools for a non-Eurocentric global history, written and conceptualized beyond methodological nationalism. And second, the shifting of historical reference points is a phenomenon related in almost all cases to postwar periods, and therefore a crucial marker of change, reorientation and future perspectives.

My most recent research projects are related to two different historiographical scopes of action. On the one hand, they investigate the ways of doing historical research with the new tools and possibilities of digital humanities, as can be seen in the case of the League of Nations related LONSEA database. On the other, they discuss the historical impact of transgressing disciplinary borders with the aim to find an adequate education for empowering young academics to handle the challenges of the 21st century. On a conceptual level, I have spent energy and interest on developing methods and historical tools for testing the intellectual potential of transculturality as a way for gaining access to a global history of Europe beyond Eurocentrism. Within this rationale, the development of European Global Studies has paved the way for understanding historical networking processes and for connecting global, national and regional research foci in new ways.  These methodological and theoretical reflections translate into a global history of Europe which exposes the traditional focus on big powers and overcomes the traditional narrative of European modernization and imperialism, which are both usually attributed to a small group of big powers at the expense of other agencies. Within this research rationale, investigations of multilayered activities include the role of international organizations, but also the lives of those moving across borders as part of networking communities.

Regarding the supervision of Master Theses in European Global Studies, I am happy to consider enquiries from students on topics relating to the global history of Europe. At present, I am particularly interested in theses researching questions within the following domains:

  • global history, transcultural studies, European history in  a global perspective, historiography, digital humanities
  • history of international organisations and global governance, transnational social movements, history of modern diplomacy
  • Switzerland in European and global perspectives, small states in international relations
  • transboundary biographies, migration history, enemy aliens, expat communities, Western migration to Asia, (de)colonisation and imperialism
  • history of nationalism and citizenship, civil rights and multilateralism on a global scale, history of international and transnational law
  • spaces of global exchange and travel, extraterritoriality, connections and networks in historical perspective, history of capitalism 

You are also encouraged to read the information on on-going research on the Global History of Europe.