As part of our mission to support innovation in historical research, The Davis Center organizes its initiatives around a new theme every several years. By bringing together scholars across disciplines around a range of programming and events, we promote new ways of studying history’s most pressing topics.
2020-22: Revolutionary Change
Historians have always considered moments of revolutionary change to be central objects of study. These moments do not necessarily involve politics, and are not limited to the modern world. The word “revolutionary” itself may be a relatively recent coinage (dating from the early modern period), but the sorts of change that it denotes have taken place in every area of human activity, and in every time and place. Revolutionary change is rapid and destabilizing. It is also dynamic, in the sense that it does not simply reflect or extend the forces which originally generated it, but builds on itself in original and often wholly-unpredictable ways. It can be both destructive and creative. It can entail a frightful human cost, but it can also open up new human possibilities and freedoms. It can take place on many different spatial and temporal scales—and at the same time, it can radically transform human understandings of the scales themselves.
In 2020-22, the Davis Center seeks applications from historians working on revolutionary change in any period of human history, and in any area, including (but not limited to) the histories of politics, culture, ideas, social structure, gender relations, sexuality, race relations, religion and the environment. We also welcome applications from historians working on the concept of revolutionary change itself, on how moments of such change are retrospectively identified, and on failed, incomplete or ineffective examples. We are particularly interested in developing conversations among historians working on revolutionary change in different areas and periods.