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Pasi Ihalainen

This paper suggests that the study of the modernisation of European political cultures in the eighteenth century would greatly benefit from a comparative conceptual historical approach. is approach would effect the reconstruction of a variety of meanings attached to chosen political concepts in different national contexts through the side-by-side analysis of primary sources originating from each case according to the methodology of both historical semantics and pragmatics. A promising research topic is the continuity and change in the conceptualisation of national community, national identity, popular sovereignty and democracy in various European political cultures. e conceptual analyses of late eighteenth-century political sermons from five northwestern European countries, conducted by the author, for example, reveal that conceptual changes related to the rise of nationalism took place even within public religion, allowing it to adapt itself to the age of nationalism. Further analysis of the secular debates taking place in representative bodies and public discourse in late eighteenth-century Britain, the Dutch Republic and Sweden elucidates the gradual development of the notion that all political power is ultimately derived from the people and that such a system constituted a "democracy" in a positive sense within different parliamentary traditions and perhaps even before the French Revolution.

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Towards a Comparative History of Concepts

Civilisation and beschaving

Pim den Boer

Building upon an introductory discussion on linguistic exchange - the problem of missing words - and the emergence of transnational concepts, this article consists of a comparative study of the history of the concept of civilisation in some major European languages and the concept of beschaving in Dutch, the closest translation to civilisation in that language. According to the author, the particular and independent conceptual evolution of beschaving should be in part explained by the early development of a modern socio-economic structure in Holland.

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Liberalism's Historical Diversity

A Comparative Conceptual Exploration

José María Rosales

Rooted in late seventeenth-century theories of rights, liberal ideas have brought forth since the nineteenth century a full-edged complex of traditions in moral, political, economic, social, and legal thought. Yet in historiographical debates such complexity is often blurred by presenting it under the uniform terms of a canon. Along with other methods, conceptual history is contributing to the rediscovery of liberalism's diversity. This group of articles compiles three conceptual studies on scarcely explored aspects of the history of liberalism in Denmark, Finland, and Hungary—countries whose political past has only occasionally figured in mainstream accounts of European liberalism. This introductory article is a methodological discussion of the rationale and forms in which liberalism's historical diversity is rendered through comparative conceptual research. After reflecting on the limits of the Anglophone history of political thought to grasp the plurality of liberal traditions, the article examines how transnational conceptual histories recast the understanding of liberalism as a concept, theory, ideology, and political movement.