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Debt, Democracy, Citizenship

Dette, démocratie et citoyenneté

A Political History of Public Debts (Europe and the United States, since the Late Eighteenth Century)

Une histoire politique des dettes publiques (Europe, États-Unis, de la fin du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours)

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Published on Monday, October 15, 2012 by Loïc Le Pape


This is call for papers for a symposium to be held in Paris in June 2013. Its main theme is a political history of public debts since the end of the eighteenth century. Organized as a workshop, this symposium aims to explore the public debt as the locus for political debates and conflicts. Our goal is to bring together various case studies, using different approaches, but all analyzing aspects of the link between politics (especially in its social or participative dimensions) and the indebtedness of states. This should help shed new light on such central concepts for our understanding of the modern political world as sovereignty, citizenship, democracy, and solidarity.



Proposed by Nicolas Barreyre (EHESS) and Nicolas Delalande (Sciences Po)

Often studied for their economic and financial dimensions, public debts are also, however, a political object, as current events remind us. Recent scholarship has started to show how they have been consubstantial to state-building, and how they have shaped contemporary societies. Their historical role raises the questions of sovereignty and its transformations; of the relationship between states, creditors and taxpayers; and the complex links between national independence and an increasingly globalized economy. Since the late eighteenth century, debt capacity, growth, reduction or repudiation have periodically become hot issues, both in international relations and domestic politics, especially at times of war. They are key to understand the development of parliamentarism (especially with issues of budgetary control and transparency); the building of new nation-states in the 19th century (for instance in the Americas); the social conflicts on the political role of bondholders (as in Britain at the turn of the 19th century, for example); the emergence of the loan-subscribing citizen as a patriotic figure in times of war; the rise of European and U.S. financial imperialism; the external control imposed on defaulting countries (Greece, Egypt or the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, developing countries in the 1970s-1980s, southern European nations today, etc.).

In this symposium, we propose to examine the importance of the public debt issue in the political history of modern states from a variety of geographical perspectives, chronological frames, and methodological approaches (intellectual history, political economy, social history of politics, comparative and/or transnational history, etc.). We invite papers analyzing how the topic of debt was debated in the public sphere, studying the forms and limits of its politicization, outlining how it shaped both discourse and practice on such issues as citizenship, social mobilization, and the proper relationship between democracy and economic international relations. If institutions and financial paradigms will not be set aside, we propose to focus on the public debt as the locus for political debate and conflict, between a diverse array of groups (taxpayers, bondholders, financiers, experts, etc.) who shaped an identity and found a political voice from and around this issue. We particularly welcome papers reflecting on the links between the public debt and such central concepts as citizenship, sovereignty, democracy and solidarity (be it financial or political).

Submission guidelines

Scholars interested in presenting a paper are invited to send a proposal (c. 500 words) to the organizers

by November 30, 2012.

This symposium is to be held in Paris in June 2013.

Papers will be circulated in advance among the participants, so as to give time to discussions during the symposium.

There will be no fee to attend.

Scientific committee

  • Nicolas Barreyre, EHESS (CENA-MASCIPO)
  • Nicolas Delalande, Sciences Po (CHSP)


  • Paris, France (75)


  • Friday, November 30, 2012


  • dette publique, citoyenneté, souveraineté, démocratie, rentier, emprunt, emprunt de guerre


  • Nicolas Delalande
    courriel : nicolas [dot] delalande [at] sciencespo [dot] fr
  • Nicolas Barreyre
    courriel : nicolas [dot] barreyre [at] ehess [dot] fr

Information source

  • Nicolas Barreyre
    courriel : nicolas [dot] barreyre [at] ehess [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Debt, Democracy, Citizenship », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, October 15, 2012, https://calenda.org/223506

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