AccueilAccidents and the role of the State in the 20th century

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Publié le mercredi 24 février 2016 par João Fernandes


Les journées d'étude « Les accidents et l'État au XXe siècle » ont pour objet d'engager une réflexion, dans une perspective historique, sur l'histoire de l'évolution des relations entre le risque accident et l'État moderne au XXe siècle Les journées d'étude sont organisées dans le cadre d'un projet de recherche joint USIAS (Strasbourg)-FRIAS (Freiburg) qui porte sur une histoire croisée franco-allemande des accidents dans le cadre militaire au XXe siècle. Les terrains explorés pourront porter de manière privilégiée sur le domaine militaire, mais ils pourront aussi inclure des terrains et des études de cas relevant de l'histoire du travail, des techniques, de l'environnement, de la santé et de l'histoire politique de l'État.



Accidents are challenges to the structures of modern societies in the twentieth century. They expose structural weaknesses and often give rise to new developments and legal and social innovations that aim at preventing accidents or diminishing their impact. The consequences of accidents are enormous: they often lead to a huge death toll and vast economic costs and they disturb economic and social processes. In the workshop on ‘Accidents and the role of the state’ we want to discuss, from a historical perspective, the changing relationship between accidents and the modern state during the 20th century.

Main themes

We are, for instance, interested in the following questions:

  1. Accidents, legitimacy and the various expectations towards the state: How are accidents debated in a political context? Do accidents affect the legitimacy of the modern state? How are different responses by different states to accidents linked to particular expectations towards the role and the task of state?
  2. Risks, citizenship and notions of social justice: How do social structures and notions of social justice relate to the response of the state to accidents? How are, on the other hand, notions of social justice influenced by accidents and emergencies? What is the role of varying concepts of citizenship for the perception of accidents  and the development of responses to them?
  3. The build-up of a regulative framework in response to accidents: What kind of legal, organisational and regulative solutions did the modern state develop as a response to accidents? How effective were the attempts by the state to regulate individual behaviour that was deemed to be dangerous and risky?
  4. The state and the emergence of a modern error culture: How does the reception of errors that can lead to accidents evolve over the 20th century? How is the relationship between acceptance and disciplining of citizens? Which role does the state and its institutions play for learning processes? Does the public perception of individual and structural errors change during the 20th century?
  5. Accidents, medicine and technical innovation: Which role do accidents play for the development of medical and technical innovations?  How do different states promote or discourage the development of different cultures of medicine and technology?

One of the working assumptions of the workshop is that the analysis of the impact of and reactions to accidents and emergencies enables conclusions about both the resilience of modern societies and about different strategies to achieve resilience. The debates about how to achieve resilience are linked to conceptions of statehood and citizenship.

The workshop takes place in the context of a USIAS (University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Studies)-FRIAS (Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies) joint research project on military accidents in France and Germany in the twentieth century. We are therefore especially interested in proposals that deal with the role of the military. However, relevant topics for the workshop could, of course, also come from the realm of the histories of technology, of environment, of medicine, or of the rise of the modern state. We are interested both in presentations of case studies as well as in more conceptual approaches on the topic. Contributions that deal with accidents in German and French history are highly welcome. However, the call is by no means limited to historians of France or Germany.

Submission guidelines

Please send your proposals including a short abstract of approximately 200 words for the workshop and brief biographical details (affiliation, main areas of research and relevant publications)

until 1. March 2016

to the following addresses:

Proposals will be reviewed by the project’s organising committee, and selected contributors will be notified in March 2016.

Workshop, 10-11 June 2016, FRIAS (Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies), Freiburg

Organising Committee

  • Peter Itzen, Lecturer at the Department of History, Fellow FRIAS-USIAS, Freiburg University
  • Anne Rasmussen, Professor in history of sciences, Fellow FRIAS-USIAS, Strasbourg University
  • Birgit Metzger, doctor in history, Post-doc Joint Fellowship Programme FRIAS-USIAS

The workshop is an event of the Joint Fellowship Programme FRIAS-USIAS « Soldiers out of control: An entangled history of accidents in the French and German military, 1920-1970 » (Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies – University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study)


  • Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies - Albert Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    Fribourg-en-Brisgau, Allemagne


  • mardi 01 mars 2016


  • accident, State, risk, health, military, war, 20th century, France, Germany


  • Anne Rasmussen
    courriel : anne [dot] rasmussen [at] unistra [dot] fr
  • Peter Itzen
    courriel : peter [dot] itzen [at] geschichte [dot] uni-freiburg [dot] de

URLS de référence

Source de l'information

  • Anne Rasmussen
    courriel : anne [dot] rasmussen [at] unistra [dot] fr

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« Accidents and the role of the State in the 20th century », Appel à contribution, Calenda, Publié le mercredi 24 février 2016,

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