Prosopographical methods in international and economic history

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Prosopographical methods in international and economic history

Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol (European University Institute/University of Glasgow) and Youssef Cassis (European University Institute)
17.05.2018 bis 18.05.2018, Florence

The aim of this workshop is to explore the contribution, purposes, and limits of the use of prosopographical methods in international and economic history. Prosopography – the collective biography of a previously defined group of actors – has regained prominence in recent years (Delpu 2015, Descimon 2015, Fellman 2014, Kansikas 2015, Lemercier and Picard, 2011). While it has always been central in ancient history, prosopography in modern history went through various phases of prominence and decline, giving way to biography before coming back over the last decade. To some extent, international and economic history have followed the same pattern. However, as international history has longer been focussed on ‘great men,’ the use of prosopography has been less salient, while in economic history, studies of entrepreneurs, business elites and business communities have a long-established tradition. Still, despite these differences, prosopography has until now been comparatively less used in international topics.

There has been much debate over the merits and pitfalls of this methodology. Its objectives, definition, and ways of proceeding have long been discussed and never been definitely settled. From the ‘elitist’ focus on small groups of important actors to the statistical analysis of large social groups, prosopographical approaches have been very diverse. How to define the group under study, and what characteristics to look at, prompt different answers from different scholars.

Yet, recent developments in international and economic history, paying more attention to networks, to the entanglement of state and non-state actors, or to the role of ideas, call for a fresh look at prosopographical methods. In particular, prosopography can help international and economic historians better understand the relationship between individuals and institutions, and the interpersonal links or intellectual influences across these institutions. Prosopography can also shed light on previously little known actors, clarify the workings of specific international networks and professions, and contribute to explain the international circulation of ideas. How can prosopography be used in international and economic history, despite the challenges and idiosyncrasies of each discipline and method? The workshop is thus designed as an opportunity to discuss historiographical and methodological approaches to the use of prosopography in international and economic history.

The workshop will take place on 17 and 18 May 2018 at the European University Institute in Florence.

Eligibility and how to apply:

PhD students, early career researchers, and confirmed researchers are invited to submit proposals. We encourage submissions on any aspects of late nineteenth/twentieth century international history, and (international) economic history.

Applicants should submit an abstract of no more than 500 words clearly explaining why and how they use prosopographical methods in their research, and a short CV by 19 March 2018 to EURECON Project Administrator Katie Wright,, mentioning ‘Prosopography Workshop’ in the headline. Selected applicants will be informed by the end of March 2018.

Please note that should your institution be unable to do so, there are limited funds available to support your accommodation and travel expenses.

For further information please contact Katie Wright

Final date for submissions19.03.2018

Scientific committee:

Dr Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol (European University Institute and University of Glasgow)

Professor Youssef Cassis (European University Institute)

Dr Alexis Drach (University of Glasgow)

Professor Neil Rollings (University of Glasgow)


Pierre-Marie Delpu (2015), ‘La prosopographie, une ressource pour l’histoire sociale,’ Hypothèses, 18:1, 263-74

Robert Descimon (2015), ‘Prosopographie, dites-vous?’, Hypothèses, 18:1, 335-42

Juha Kansika (2015), ‘The business elite in Finland: a prosopographical study of family firm executives 1762-2010,’ Business History, 57:7, 1112-32

Susanna Fellman (2014), ‘Prosopographic studies business leaders for understanding industrial and corporate change’, Business History, 56:1, 5-21

Claire Lemercier and Emmanuelle Picard (2012), ‘Quelle approche prosopographique?’, in            Laurent Rollet and Philippe Nabonnaud (eds), Les uns et les autres. Biographies et prosopographies en histoire des sciences, Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 605-630


The workshop is initiated by the ERC funded research project EURECON: The Making of a Lopsided Union: Economic Integration in the European Economic Community, 1957-1992 led by Dr Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol (grant agreement No 716849). It is hosted by the European University Institute’s Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies.


Katie Wright

University of Glasgow