Tensions of Europe is the international scholarly network and hub for international research, education and outreach initiatives on Technology in European history. Founded in 1999, ToE explicitly includes social tensions in the making of technology and Europe, and Europe's transatlantic and (post)colonial connections.

ToE is an open, interdisciplinary, and bottom-up (building on participant initiative) academic network. It welcomes all scholars who can meaningfully contribute to its activities. There are no membership fee boundaries. Join Tensions of Europe here.

ToE organizes workshops, summer schools, and biennial conferences. It hosts a newsletter and website, and the digital museum Inventing Europe. ToE also develops agenda-setting 'flagship' programs that make participant projects speak to each-other and to larger societal and scholarly issues. The first ToE flagship program scrutinized Technology and European Integration, ca. 1850-2000. Today, in times of global crises and 'grand challenges', ToE builds a new flagship program tentatively called Technology and Societal Challenges, ca. 1815-2015. ToE has an active early career scholar network.

In order to develop its activities and to further support the organization of pre-conferences for early career researchers, intermediate networking events or to cover modest but real operating costs, since 2023, we have introduced institutional partnerships that will allow us to continue our development. Read more about how to become an institutional ToE partner here

Network history

Tensions of Europe combines two scholarly developments of the 1990s:

  • The field of History of Technology -- which combines the study of history and technology so crucial to our technological age -- was dominated by national associations and programs, but started to explore how to establish a European history of technology;
  • The field of European History was challenged by the political European Integration process. European history should study 'Europe' as something more than juxtaposed national histories. Yet it should avoid what historian Norman Davies called 'Eurohistory': a politically motivated and biased, teleological history in which historical events seemed to inevitably lead to European Union.

In 1999 scholars from eight European countries and the United States established Tensions of Europe. Technology and the Making of Europe at a founding meeting in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The network would:

  • study contemporary European history through the lens of technology;
  • study 'technology' broadly in terms of sociotechnical systems including infrastructure and artifacts; people and values; knowledge, ideas and skills; networks, institutions and governance; citizen initiatives and user practices; and so on.
  • study how such technological processes connected and divided Europe, thereby  developing a European History of Technology as well as a novel European History.
  • study 'Europe' including its transatlantic and (post)colonial relations -- in a global age, European history, too, must be global. This point is even more compelling from a technology perspective;
  • study social tensions in the making of technology and Europe. ToE avoids Eurohistory and technological determinism by studying 'technology' and 'Europe' as human-made, i.e. imagined, situated, contested, and open-ended historical processes;

ToE became a European Science Foundation Network of Excellence in 2000. The Foundation for the History of Technology SHT provided (and still provides) the secretariat. Johan Schot and Ruth Oldenziel became the network's first and long-time chair and vice-chair (currently, ToE has a rotating chairmanship). By 2004 the network associated over 200 scholars from 21 countries, and organized its first international conference in Budapest, Hungary. Thanks to the pioneering work of Karen Freeze, ToE instituted collaboration of historians across the former Iron Curtain. From then on, the network engaged in many research, education, and outreach activities, including the virtual exhibit Inventing Europe  and the synthesis book series Making Europe.

In 2013 ToE initator Johan Schot stepped down as network Chair. By then, ToE associated over 300 scholars from Europe and beyond. After a short transition phase, the network introduced rotating Chairmanship, a second research flagship program, an early career scholar network, and more.

More on network history



8th Tensions of Europe Plenary Conference (Athens, 2017)