Crisis, Uncertainty, and History: Trajectories and Experiences of Accelerated Change

Thousands of protesters gather at Fifth Avenue and Washington Street in downtown Seattle, Tuesday. Despite repeated warnings about the danger of crowds spreading coronavirus, public health officials say they largely support the protests springing from the... (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

The Ohio State University Center for Historical Research
2021-2023 Series


Historians study trajectories of change through time. We are concerned with the pace and causes of change and we are concerned with its experiential impact and societal outcomes. And sometimes change accelerates, in a swirl of dynamic interactions that take us by surprise, leading us out of routines into unfamiliar spaces.

The CHR is planning a series on the problem of crisis in history. This proposal was spurred by the sudden challenges and uncertainties in our recent and ongoing experience with the Covid-19 pandemic: our opening conversations revolved around the sudden impact of epidemic disease but soon broadened out into a proposal on the more general nature of crisis. Since our first conversations the explosive sequence of events unfolding since the death of George Floyd have made our inquiry into the dynamics of crisis all the more pressing. By the time the series begins in 2021 the public and academy will be in a position to assess the events of the spring of 2020, and to situate them into a longer sequence of conditions, impacts, and consequences: what we might call the “before, during, and after” of CoVid19 – and the Black Lives Matter movement. We are already starting to reevaluate the past as well as the future in light of our moment of crisis. The program will start in September 2021.

We are happy to report that these six distinguished scholars will launch our program in 2021-2022:

Roberto Barrios, Professor of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University, author of Governing Affect: Neoliberalism and Disaster Reconstruction (Nebraska, 2017);

Robin Wagner-Pacifici, University Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research; author of What Is an Event? (Chicago, 2017);

Geoffrey Parker, Andreas Dorpalen Professor of European History and Associate of the Mershon Center, Ohio State University, author of Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (Yale, 2013), and Emperor: A new life of Charles V (Yale, 2019).

Ling Zhang, Associate Professor of History at Boston College   author The River, the Plain, and the State: An Environmental Drama in Northern Song China, 1048-1128 (Cambridge, 2016).

Joseph Manning, William K. and Marilyn Milton Simpson Professor of Classics and Professor of History and Senior Research Scholar in Law, Yale University, author of The Open Sea: The Economic Life of the Ancient Mediterranean World from the Iron Age to the Rise of Rome (Princeton, 2018).

Jacob Soll, University of Southern California, Professor and Professor of Philosophy, History and Accounting at the University of Southern California and author of The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations (New York, 2014).

Painting - Julius Caesar Assassin Ides of March
CHR-Crisis Steering Committee:
John Brooke, History, Series Chair and CHR Director
Joan Cashin, History
Jeffrey Cohen, Anthropology
Amy Fairchild, Dean of Public Health
Anthony Kaldellis, Classics
Peter Mansoor, History
Dorothy Noyes, English and Comparative Studies
Chris Otter, History
Paul Reitter, Germanic Languages and Literatures
Tina Sessa, History
Jennifer Siegel, History
Sarah Van Beurden, History
Ying Zhang, History

Please send any inquiries regarding this program to John Brooke,