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Part 2: After the Big Bang

The Fusing of New Approaches

Jan Ifversen

Abstract

In part one, I followed the debates and the scholars involved in the big bang of international Begriffsgeschichte. Part 2 takes us from the first encounters between the German and the Anglophone tradition within intellectual history to the more formalized efforts of establishing conceptual history on the international, academic scene. With more scholars joining the debate, the understanding of concepts in language and in context were both broadened and deepened. Case studies from a wider range of European languages added a stronger comparative and transnational perspectives to conceptual history, which would prepare the ground for a conceptual history beyond Europe.

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Review

Conceptual Plasticity in Times of Urgency

Adrián Velázquez Ramírez

J. M. Bernstein, Adi Ophir, and Ann Laura Stoler, eds., Political Concepts: A Critical Lexicon (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018), 269 pp.

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Scandal of the Church, Prison of the Soul

The Problem of Bad Custom in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Canon Law and Practice

Anthony Perron

Abstract

This article explores “bad custom” (prava consuetudo) in Latin-Christian church law of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Drawing chiefly on papal decretal letters and the statutes of local and regional synods, it discusses the theoretical debates over bad custom, how customs came to be regarded as evil, and what prava consuetudo meant in practice. While many usages were labeled “bad,” especially troubling were those that threatened clerical status by implying lay claims to authority in the church, blurring the distinction between laity and clergy, or humiliating the professed religious. The article also asks whether legal concerns over such collective behavior that brought scandal upon the church may have been provoked by a moral discourse over prava consuetudo as sinful conduct endangering the individual soul.

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Something Happened to the Future

Reconstructing Temporalities in Dutch Parliamentary Debate, 1814–2018

Joris van Eijnatten and Pim Huijnen

Abstract

This article stands in Reinhart Koselleck's tradition of investigating the historical experience of time. It focuses on the manner in which the experience and conceptualization of the future changed in Dutch parliamentary speech between 1814 and 2018. Based on a quantitative analysis of a corpus of political texts of more than 800 million tokens spanning more than two centuries, we argue that the future transformed from something unknown but principally predictable into a synonym for change itself during the final quarter of the twentieth century. We contend that this resulted in unpredictability becoming the future's defining trait and the future, consequently, losing its character as a knowledgeable singular in a process of what can be called “de-singularization.”

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Jan Ifversen

Abstract

In March 2020, Melvin Richter, one of the founders of international, conceptual history passed away. This sad occasion makes it timely in our journal to reflect on the process that turned national projects within conceptual and intellectual history into an international and transnational enterprise. The text that follows—published in two parts, here and in the next issue—takes a closer look at the intellectual processes that led up to the founding meeting of the association behind our journal, the History of Concepts Group. It follows in the footsteps of Melvin Richter to examine the different encounters, debates and protagonists in the story of international, conceptual history. The text traces the different approaches that were brought to the fore and particularly looks at Melvin Richter's efforts to bridge between an Anglophone tradition of intellectual history and a German tradition of Begriffsgeschichte.

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Porscha Fermanis

Abstract

Viewing Brexit as part of a longer history of Anglo-Saxon racial and cultural exceptionalism, this article reflects on what Samuel Butler's satirical novel Erewhon, or Over the Range (1872) can tell us about the utopian impulses informing Brexit's neoimperialist ideology and hence about British identity politics today. Set in an inward-looking, socially homogeneous, and postindustrial society somewhere in the colonial southern hemisphere, Erewhon provides an anachronistic simulacrum of both an isolationist “Little England” and an imperial “Global Britain,” critiquing the idea of the self-sufficient, ethnonationalist “island nation” by demonstrating the extent to which it relies on the racial logic of White utopianism, as well as on a disavowal of the non-British labor that supports and sustains it.

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Coda — Pandemic Brexit

Cancelling the Political Future

Bill Schwarz

Abstract

Taking off from a 1940 speech by Winston Churchill, I explore the shifting sensibilities underwriting the twin impact of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that a component of the current period turns on a disabling incapacity to think about a determinate political future.

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The Concept of Religion in Meiji Popular Discourse

An Analysis of the Newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun

Makoto Harris Takao

Abstract

This article challenges claims that the Japanese neologism shūkyō (as a translation for “religionȍ) lacked an established nature prior to the twentieth century and had little to do with experiences of the urban masses. It accordingly problematizes the term as a largely legal concept, highlighting historical newspapers as underutilized sources that offer insight into Meiji popular discourse and attendant conceptualizations of “religion.” This article endorses a shift in both our chronological understanding of shūkyō's conceptual history as well as its sociocultural mobility. By expanding the milieu understood as being familiar with debates on a range of “religious” issues, this article thereby offers a counter-narrative in which regular use of shūkyō begins to clearly emerge from the mid-1880s, exponentially increasing with the following decades.

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Conceptual Explorations around “Politics”

Thematizing the Activity of Politics in the Plenary Debates of the German Bundestag

Kari Palonen

Abstract

This article discusses the ways of conceptualizing politics in parliamentary debates. When the politics-vocabulary is ubiquitous in them, which kind of speech act lies in emphasizing the political aspect? Focusing on thematized uses allows us to identify conceptual revisions in the politics-vocabulary in digitalized plenary debates of the German Bundestag from 1949 to 2017. My fourfold scheme for conceptualizing politics (polity, policy, politicization, politicking) provides the analytical apparatus. The units of analysis in this study are compound words around politics written as single words, a German language specialty. Their frequency has remarkably risen in the Bundestag debates, and the search engine can easily find them. This research interest allows me to speculate with changes in the understanding and appreciation of politics in postwar (West)Germany

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Dane Kennedy

Abstract

This article examines the enduring influence of Charles Dilke's Greater Britain (1868), which persists today in the ambitions of Brexit's proponents. Dilke characterized Britain as the center of a world system bound together by a common identity. Yet his explanation of that identity was riddled with inconsistencies. While he cast it mainly in racial terms, he also proposed cultural and linguistic criteria. These inconsistencies would complicate the efforts to define and delineate the reach of Greater Britain by those who followed in Dilke's footsteps. This includes the leading Brexiteers who have advanced Greater Britain's modern iteration, the Anglosphere, as an alternative to EU membership.