Bo Stråth


Bo Stråth (Curriculum Vitae) was 2007-2014 Finnish Academy Distinguished Professor in Nordic, European and World History and Director of Research at the Department of World Cultures / Centre of Nordic Studies (CENS), University of Helsinki. 1997-2007 he was Professor of Contemporary History at the European University Institute in Florence, and 1991-1996 Professor in History at the University of Gothenburg. He is a member of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

History and Media

by | May 28, 2001 | Conferences, Curriculum vitae

Inter-Media and the Practice of History

Organised by James Kaye and Bo Stråth

28 May 2001

Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia, via Boccaccio 121, Florence

This workshop sets forth a line of thought pursued at the Institute over the last three years. It was initiated within the framework of the project The Cultural Construction of Community in the Process of Modernisation in Comparison, directed by Prof. Bo Stråth with the exhibition The Image of the Other, bringing a truly interdisciplinary approach to the project by employing and presenting the results of an artistic confrontation with problems that were otherwise academically confronted within the framework. This was particularly evident in the installation Ahnnengalerie, at the nave of the exhibition, as it both presented and deconstructed the Renaissance invention of the ancestral portrait gallery, and, with it, ideas such as the individual, identity, continuity and community. Questions of representation were further explored from an academic standpoint in the workshops Art and Fact: The Possibilities of Representation, Pasts Proposed: (Contra-)Factual History and Futures Past, and the seminar Rewriting History. This research reached a plateau with the workshop Beyond the Printed Word: New Media and the Practice of History and the exhibition Mellifluence.

The extraordinary seminar Inter-Media and the Practice of History should continue from the basis provided by Beyond the Printed Word and furnish the framework for a discussion of digital and visual technologies a means to present or do history. This will take place with a reassessment of the fundaments of Beyond the Printed Word by Hagen Schutz-Forberg and presentations of a CD production on Swiss History by a team under the direction of the historian Hans-Ulrich Jost as well as television productions on the economic history of Gothenburg created in a collaborative effort of Gothenburg historians and Swedish Television by Lars-Åke Engblom, who was central to the project.


9.00 James Kaye and Bo Stråth, Introductory Remarks

9.30 Hans-Ulrich Jost (Lausanne), One Hundred and Fifty Years of Swiss History on CD

11.00 Coffee
11.15 Lars-Åke Engblom (Gothenburg) History Through Television, Experiences of Producing Historical Television in the University and Public Service System

13.00 Lunch
14.30 Giuseppe Lauricella (IUE) From the Historic to Stories

15.30 Hagen Schulz-Forberg (IUE), Intermediality and History Reconsidered

16.30 Concluding Discussion

Beyond the Printed Word: New Media and the Practice of History

Workshop Professor Bo Stråth
Florence, 28-29 March 2000
Organisers: James Kaye, Katiana Orluc and Hagen Schulz-Forberg

 History has been almost exclusively accessed and presented literally. From Herodotus to Hobsbawm, historians expressed themselves with letters forming words, sentences and arguments on two-dimensional plains. Historians have always operated within specific parameters set both by technical limitations and their own inhibition to exploit the possibilities at their disposal. New sources and subjects have gained acceptance through the pioneering work of social and cultural historians over the last decades. Nevertheless, the modes of representation have been confined to the realm of linear and argumentative prose texts. Historians today are confronted with unprecedented possibilities to represent, communicate and translate their research. New non-literate resources, such as possibilities of representation through sounds and images, remain ignored. Contemporary computer technology challenges historians to re-evaluate their traditional modes of representation. The capacity of these contemporary computer technologies appears to be almost infinite on multiple levels. Historiographically, one of the pitfalls of this sheer abundance of resources made available by new media is the danger of collecting and presenting more than one can analyse, creating more confusion than sense. Furthermore, one is challenged to transcend the mere projection of a book onto a CD-ROM or DVD, which fails to exploit and understand the possibilities of these new technologies. Beyond the Printed Word – New Media and the Practice of History proposes intermediality instead of multimediality, reflecting not only a kaleidoscope of material but also attempting to give the same valence to each individual source. What has been studied as intertextuality, as a network of references between written sources, shall be brought to a level of understanding the networks of communication and mutual reference not only of written texts, but also of visual and audio sources. This implies that employing these new resources – if it aspires to acceptance within academia – is only possible in a perpetually critical and self-reflective manner.


Tuesday, 28 March

19.30 Villa Schifanoia, Sala Bandiere
Mellifluence – Yielding Architecture or What They Saw
An Exhibition of K N Chaudhuri’s Graphic Work
On Mellifluence, James Kaye (Curation)

Wednesday, 29 March
Badia Fiesolana: Theatro

9.30 Bo Stråth, General Introduction
Hagen Schulz-Forberg, Intermediality and History

10.00 Kirti Chaudhuri, Vision and History, The Primacy of the First of Five Senses

11.00 Coffee

11.15 Vision and History Discussion opened by Hans Erich Bödecker

12.00 Armin Owzar, Stephan Hense, Basic Knowledge for Historians on CD Rom, Possibilities and Limits of a New Medium

13.00 Lunch sala Rossa

14.00 Serge Noiret, Contemporary History and the Internet

15.00 Francesca Chiocci, Writing History in Hypertext

16.00 Coffee

16.15 James Kaye, Katiana Orluc, Hagen Schulz-Forberg, CD Presentation: Work in Progress, Berlin 17 June 1953

17.00 Concluding Discussion

20.00 Dinner

Between Fascism and the Euro: Mass Media and the Invention of European Historical Identity

Professor Bo Stråth
Tuesday 18 May 1999 in Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia 9.00-13.00

Workshop organised by Claudio Fogu and Bo Stråth
Discussant: Hayden White

Several 20th-century thinkers have posited an explicit link between the impact of traumatic events such as the Great War, the Holocaust, and the fall of the Berlin Wall and a new ‚experience‘ of history irreconcilable with Nineteenth-century (narrative) conceptions of historical agency, representation, and consciousness. However, few of them have sought to test their theories on the privileged Twentieth-century field of mass culture and reception. While drawing polarised boundaries between post- (modernist, structuralist, historicist) theorists and self-appointed defenders of the Enlightenment tradition, recent debates on the relation between history, myth and memory have rarely pondered upon the new forms of historical consciousness that may have emerged in this century quite aside the epistemological status of historiography. In particular, there has been little reflection on the intuitive distinction, different impact, and theoretical tension between the narrative historicisation of „historical facts“ in epochal constructs such as the Cold War and the epochal imaginary fed by the mediatic representation of „historical events“ such as the Great War, the Holocaust, ’68, and, lastly, the Fall of the Berlin Wall. One important question is why the Holocaust became a theme only in the 1960s while events like ’68 and the fall of the Berlin Wall provoked more immediate mediatisation.

What role have epochal events and their mass-mediatic representations played in the formation of historical consciousness in our century? What can we learn from the study of visual representations of history that bear upon current debates on the formation of post-ethnic (-national and -colonial) forms of collective identity and on the relationship between processes of globalisation and democratisation?

Focusing on the cases of Germany and Italy, and, specifically, on the inter-related issues of fascist representations of the past and the representation of Nazi-Fascism in the post-war era, this workshop seeks to explore these question in connection to post-historicist theories of historical agency, representation, and consciousness. In other words, we want to simultaneously investigate the relationship between the „experience of a different history“, its mass mediatic visualisation, and the intellectual questioning of Nineteenth-century historical semantics.

Our main goal, however, is not theoretical per se. On the contrary, we want to open a channel of communication with scholars interested in discussing the intersection between ‚coming to terms with the past, building a more democratic present, and imagining the different shapes that the European polity might acquire in the near future.

The workshop will be a half-day discussion based on two papers:

Wulf Kansteiner: Nazis into Europeans: Public Television and the Reconstruction of German Historical Identity after the Holocaust

The programmes about the Holocaust never assume or problematize the perspective of the bystanders of the Holocaust. Thus, ironically, the programmes re-enact the bystanders’ perspective by focusing on the victims (especially survivors) and — considerably less frequently — on the perpetrators. While the ‚real‘ bystanders watched the catastrophe unfold in their neighbourhoods, the bystanders, after the fact, watched it on TV. Both, however, remain passive observers in their living rooms. One of the surprising results of this large-scale re-enactment of the bystanders‘ point of view is the alignment of German audiences with the attitudes and behaviour of the rest of the world, especially the Western world. While post-war German audiences confronted the Holocaust on TV in the 70s and 80s, they undertook important repair work. They use the slippery slope of passivity to re-imagine themselves as more remote and impotent bystanders, just like observers in Britain or the US during World War II. There is a surprising popularity of the Holocaust programmes, which hardly can be seen as just a case of masochism. German audiences have something important to gain from watching the Holocaust programming. One of these gains is the opportunity to distance and reinvent themselves as good Westerners and Europeans. They are reading the programmes against the didactic intentions of the TV makers and move right to the core of their political intentions. Instead of working through the Holocaust and then becoming good Europeans, they go straight to ‚home.‘

An outline is available: Download.

Claudio Fogu: Historical Consciousness / Historic Imaginary: Historical Identity Between Mass Media and Modernist Rhetoric

In this paper, Fogu will develop some theoretical points from his current research on fascist representations of the Italian past in museums, exhibitions, commemorations, and films. He argues that there existed a distinctively „fascist“ conception of history that could only express itself in image and ritual politics rather than writing. This conception he has called „historic“based on a semantic distinction between the adjective „historic“ (important, forming an important part in history) and „historical“ (belonging to the past) introduced by British historians in the Eighteenth century, but discursively codified in all Indo-European languages in the related expressions „historic event“, „historic speech“, „historic site“. His argument, in essence, is that side by side with the historical semantics (Koselleck, 1985) developed by Nineteenth-century German philosophy and historicism, the epic and didactic tradition of historia magistra vitae was re-coded in a popular historical semantics, which are connected genealogically to the invention of the term „historic“ by early modern grammarians who used it to define the „infinitive mood or present tense when used instead of the past in vivid narration“, and were brought to the forefront of Western culture by the fascist image of politics. Fogu explores the disturbing continuities between fascist historic imaginary and the structuring functions that „historical events“ (Holocaust, Hiroshima, fall of the Berlin Wall) seem to have assumed in constructing post-war historical consciousness.

An outline is available: Download.

9.00 Historical Identity between Fascism and Euro
Bo Stråth

9.30 Wulf Kansteiner: Nazis into Europeans: Public Television and the Reconstruction of German Historical Identity after the Holocaust
Discussant: Hayden White

11.00 Coffee

11.30 Claudio Fogu: Historical Consciousness / Historic Imaginary: Historical Identity Between Mass Media and Modernist Rhetoric
Discussant: Hayden White


  • Monographs
  • Anthologies
Creating Community and Ordering the World
A European Memory
A European Memory?
European Solidarities
European Solidarities
Reflections on Europe
Reflections on Europe
The Economy as a Polity
The Economy As a Polity
A European Social Citizenship
A European Social Citizenship?
Representations of Europe and the Nation in Current and Prospective Member States
States and Citizens History Theory Prospects
States and Citizens
The Meaning of Europe
The Meaning of Europe
From the Werner Plan to the EMU
From the Werner Plan to the EMU
Europe and the Other and Europe as the Other
Europe and the Other and Europe as the Other
Myth and Memory in the Construction of Community
Myth and Memory in the Construction of Community
AFTER FULL EMPLOYMENT European Discources on Work and Flexibility
After Full Employment
Enlightenment and Genocide Contradictions of Modernity
Enlightenment and Genocide, Contradictions of Modernity
Department of History and Civilization Nationalism and Modernity EUI Working Papers
Nationalism and Modernity
The Postmodern Challenge Perspectives East and West
The Postmodern Challenge
The Cultural Construction of Norden
The Cultural Construction of Norden
Comparativ Wohnungsbau im Internationalen Vergleich Heft 3-1996
Wohnungsbau im internationalen Vergleich
Language and the Construction of Class Identities
Language and the Construction of Class Identities
Idylle oder Aufbruch
Idylle oder Aufbruch?
Democratisation in Scandinavia in Comparison