POLHIST - Political History


The POLHIST research unit aims at confronting the historical study of 19th and 20th Century politics, political institutions, political movements, political ideas, cultures and mentalities with the most advanced and up-to-date theoretical and methodological instruments. Decades ago, political history was chiefly the history of ruling elites, attentive only to the life and deeds of the few individuals who had reached the top of the political hierarchy. This conception is long gone, having been challenged by Marxism first and, afterwards, by the Ecole des Annales. Since the 1980s, a new generation of scholars has elaborated a new vision of political history, incorporating the main challenges of social and cultural history: political institutions and the political game are no longer studied as phenomena concerning just a small number of decision takers, but in their deep connections with their social, economic, ideological and cultural context, which they influence and from which they are, in their turn, influenced – with no determinism either way. The unit aims in particular at bridging two divides: that between the theoretical approach of social scientists (political scientists and theorists, economists and anthropologists) and the idiographic approach of historians; and that between national and non-national (international, cross-national, transnational, global) political histories. The unit is particularly focused on the following research areas:

  1. Political theory, ideologies and institutional change;
  2. Intellectuals in politics;
  3. Institutional transitions;
  4. European integration;
  5. Populism and democracy, from the 20th to the 21st Century.

POLHIST has close institutional ties with Luiss-Guido Carli University, Rome. It collaborates in Italy with historians of the Universities of Bologna and Padua and of the Italian-German Historical Institute in Trento; in Europe with historians of Sciences-Po, Paris, the London School of Economics, the CIHDE Centro de Investigacion Historicas de la Democracia Espanola in Madrid.

Our research group is closely related to the :


Visiting Professors and Collaborators from other institutions:

Research Topics

  1. Political theory, ideologies and institutional change: Providing different descriptions of social reality and detailing different possible forms of social organisations. Political theories and ideologies affect beliefs and values of people. They influence all political processes and contribute to give shape to institutions, combining elements of social evolution and political design. We work on the role of theories and ideologies in cultural, social and political changes. Our goal is explaining how political changes happen and evaluating the consequences of these changes, looking at the same time to historical events and theoretical interpretation.
  2. Intellectuals in politics: Taking as background the problem of defining the 'intellectuals' and the recent developments in historical sociology of intellectuals, we study how intellectuals interpreted politics in 20th century European societies. Our focus is their contribution to the comprehension and interpretation of political societies and the international environment. From our perspective, intellectuals are not merely a product of their times, but one of the main contributors to the public discourse.
  3. Institutional transitions: Our goal is to study the transition to democracy starting from those processes that were took place in Western Europe in the mid-forties after the end of the second World War, in the mid-seventies after the breakdown of the authoritarian regimes in Southern Europe and those that occurred at the beginning of the nineties after the fall of the Berlin Wall in Eastern and Central Europe. By taking into account some specific case studies, our research will analyze the role played by political elites, constituent processes, political parties and the models implemented for institutional and political change.
  4. European integration: The aim of this field of research is to follow the key passages of the process of European integration, inserting them in the field of the Euro-Atlantic relationships starting from the outbreak of the Cold War. Our main goal is to create a link between actions and reactions showed by the founding member-states of EEC and the changing role of the international scenario from the first step of the process up to the several enlargements that have taken place. The “constant exercise” to combine internal and external dimensions will allow us to understand the most recent evolution of the European integration process from a specific focus on political history.
  5. Populism and democracy, from the 20th to the 21st Century: We deal with populism (populist parties within European societies, mainly in Italy) by analyzing the populist discourse and its relationship with the history of how political élites conceived their role towards society. In fact, the populist discourse dismisses a pedagogical vision of society and at the same time asks the people to trust a leader.

Seminars and Conferences

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Job Positions

There is currently no open faculty position but we are continuosly scouting for smart people to be involved in our research projects or in our Ph.D. Program. Do not hesitate to contact us to express your interest.
More info is available from the Faculty Job Opportunities section of IMT website.