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The price of history : historical research and changing European funding regimes, 1970-today

(2024)
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Abstract
Over the past fifty years, funding agencies have come to occupy a central place in academic knowledge production. As distributors of money, power and prestige, funding agencies can change fields, careers and institutions. In The Price of History: Historical research and changing European funding regimes, 1970-today, I take a closer look at how funding institutions regulated and influenced the pursuit of academic history in Europe. Which kinds of history, historians and historical institutions have been supported by pan-European funding bodies? Who were the so-called winners and losers in this history? And which ideas about “good” and “bad” historical knowledge were implicit in European funding decisions? By tracing how more than 800 million euros of funding was awarded to historians, my research shows how historians have been funded, and to what effect, in four different “funding regimes”. These are: (1) a community-building regime, (2) a collaborative regime, (3) a policy-oriented regime, and (4) a competitive funding regime. Each of these regimes was characterized by different expectations of historians on the part European institutions. In each of the contexts examined in this dissertation, however, one feature remained stable. Powerful elites in power, and mechanisms of power, always regulated and influenced the production of academic historical knowledge. In their pursuit of supposedly “good” or “useful” history, those historians and policymakers who took the lead in European funding agencies such as the European Commission, the European Science Foundation and the European Research Council all promoted new types of academic history, specific research topics, and particular formulas for historical research. They were able to produce dominant discourses of excellence and install new hierarchies of value in the discipline of history in Europe. So, how did these various funding regimes affect the pursuit of academic history in Europe? (1) In the European Commission’s community-building funding regime, historians were expected to contribute to the construction of a unified “People’s Europe”. In the 1980s and 1990s, this led to the production of teleological histories of European integration. (2) In the same decades, albeit under a collaborative funding regime, the European Science Foundation distributed funds to promote intra-European cooperation. While the ideals of the European Science Foundation’s Standing Committee on the Humanities were always noble – they wanted to fund areas “in need” of support – in practice panelists often funded their own projects or those of close colleagues. In the 1990s, those informal funding practices disappeared. (3) Since the mid-1990s, historians have been funded by the European Union to support evidence-based policies. Over time, the EU’s funding programmes for societal challenges gave rise to a very specific kind of “regulatory history”, characterized by knowledge synthesis activities and a limited timeframe. The existence of such a fixed, new, type of historical practice shows that funding institutions not only determine who is able to write history about what, but that they also script how history should be written. (4) After 2007, as a competitive funding regime took shape, historians were also increasingly drawn into an open, pan-European research competition funded by the European Research Council. In this funding scheme, priority was given to large, transnational, problem-oriented historical research projects spanning different periods and borders. The “formula” of the ERC’s history thus still implicitly guarantees the promotion of a transnational, European perspective. Yet competition did not only lead to epistemic sameness; on a social and institutional level, too, the selection outcomes reveal a concentration of grants at similar, Northern and Western European, wealthy institutions. For the future of Europe-an funding policies, that gives food for thought. Is this the funding regime the historical discipline wants and needs?
Keywords
history of historiography, history of knowledge, peer review, funding, sociology of knowledge, higher education, sociology of science, history of science, European Union

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MLA
Verbergt, Marie-Gabrielle. The Price of History : Historical Research and Changing European Funding Regimes, 1970-Today. Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, 2024.
APA
Verbergt, M.-G. (2024). The price of history : historical research and changing European funding regimes, 1970-today. Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent, Belgium.
Chicago author-date
Verbergt, Marie-Gabrielle. 2024. “The Price of History : Historical Research and Changing European Funding Regimes, 1970-Today.” Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Verbergt, Marie-Gabrielle. 2024. “The Price of History : Historical Research and Changing European Funding Regimes, 1970-Today.” Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.
Vancouver
1.
Verbergt M-G. The price of history : historical research and changing European funding regimes, 1970-today. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy; 2024.
IEEE
[1]
M.-G. Verbergt, “The price of history : historical research and changing European funding regimes, 1970-today,” Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent, Belgium, 2024.
@phdthesis{01HZEEDPYPB0J2404Z9ZBZGATS,
  abstract     = {{Over the past fifty years, funding agencies have come to occupy a central place in academic knowledge production. As distributors of money, power and prestige, funding agencies can change fields, careers and institutions. In The Price of History: Historical research and changing European funding regimes, 1970-today, I take a closer look at how funding institutions regulated and influenced the pursuit of academic history in Europe. Which kinds of history, historians and historical institutions have been supported by pan-European funding bodies? Who were the so-called winners and losers in this history? And which ideas about “good” and “bad” historical knowledge were implicit in European funding decisions?

By tracing how more than 800 million euros of funding was awarded to historians, my research shows how historians have been funded, and to what effect, in four different “funding regimes”. These are: (1) a community-building regime, (2) a collaborative regime, (3) a policy-oriented regime, and (4) a competitive funding regime. Each of these regimes was characterized by different expectations of historians on the part European institutions. In each of the contexts examined in this dissertation, however, one feature remained stable. Powerful elites in power, and mechanisms of power, always regulated and influenced the production of academic historical knowledge. In their pursuit of supposedly “good” or “useful” history, those historians and policymakers who took the lead in European funding agencies such as the European Commission, the European Science Foundation and the European Research Council all promoted new types of academic history, specific research topics, and particular formulas for historical research. They were able to produce dominant discourses of excellence and install new hierarchies of value in the discipline of history in Europe.

So, how did these various funding regimes affect the pursuit of academic history in Europe? (1) In the European Commission’s community-building funding regime, historians were expected to contribute to the construction of a unified “People’s Europe”. In the 1980s and 1990s, this led to the production of teleological histories of European integration. (2) In the same decades, albeit under a collaborative funding regime, the European Science Foundation distributed funds to promote intra-European cooperation. While the ideals of the European Science Foundation’s Standing Committee on the Humanities were always noble – they wanted to fund areas “in need” of support – in practice panelists often funded their own projects or those of close colleagues. 
In the 1990s, those informal funding practices disappeared. (3) Since the mid-1990s, historians have been funded by the European Union to support evidence-based policies. Over time, the EU’s funding programmes for societal challenges gave rise to a very specific kind of “regulatory history”, characterized by knowledge synthesis activities and a limited timeframe. The existence of such a fixed, new, type of historical practice shows that funding institutions not only determine who is able to write history about what, but that they also script how history should be written. (4) After 2007, as a competitive funding regime took shape, historians were also increasingly drawn into an open, pan-European research competition funded by the European Research Council. In this funding scheme, priority was given to large, transnational, problem-oriented historical research projects spanning different periods and borders. The “formula” of the ERC’s history thus still implicitly guarantees the promotion of a transnational, European perspective. Yet competition did not only lead to epistemic sameness; on a social and institutional level, too, the selection outcomes reveal a concentration of grants at similar, Northern and Western European, wealthy institutions. For the future of Europe-an funding policies, that gives food for thought. Is this the funding regime the historical discipline wants and needs?}},
  author       = {{Verbergt, Marie-Gabrielle}},
  keywords     = {{history of historiography,history of knowledge,peer review,funding,sociology of knowledge,higher education,sociology of science,history of science,European Union}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  pages        = {{XX, 397}},
  publisher    = {{Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy}},
  school       = {{Ghent University}},
  title        = {{The price of history : historical research and changing European funding regimes, 1970-today}},
  url          = {{https://www.mariegabrielleverbergt.com/the-price-of-history}},
  year         = {{2024}},
}