2nd Tensions of Europe flagship program

Technology & Societal Challenges, ca. 1800-2050


Charlie Chaplin in the comedy film Modern Times (1936), which critically comments on scientific management and the conveyor belt during the Great Depression

In ToE's second 'flagship program', historians engage with current debates on the roles of technology in crises and 'grand challenges' haunting our present-day world -- such as climate change and other environmental crises; global inequality; the threatened breakdown of unsustainable cities and energy, mobility, financial, and health systems; migration and security challenges; and so on. The new program was first announced at the 7th ToE Conference in Stockholm, 2015.  

Overview publication

Forum ‘History and Technology in an Age of "Grand Challenges".’ Technology and Culture Volume 61, Number 1, January 2020, pp.260-332


  • Overall program initiation & coordination: Erik van der Vleuten (Eindhoven University of Technology/ Foundation for the History of Technology SHT)
  • Working group coordination: Andreas Fickers (University of Luxembourg), Andreas Marklund (Enigma Museum Copenhagen), Anna Aberg (Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg), Aristotle Tympas (Athens University), Dagmara Jajeśniak-Quast (European University Viadrina, Frankfurt O.), Elena Kochetkova (St. Petersburg Higher School of Economics), Frank Schipper (independent scholar), Heike Weber (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), Jan-Henrik Meyer (University of Copenhagen), Karena Kalmbach (Eindhoven University of Technology), Leonard Laborie (Sorbonne University), Martin Emanuel (independent scholar), Matthias Heymann (Aarhus University), Pascal Griset (Sorbonne University), Ruth Oldenziel (Eindhoven University of Technology), Ute Hasenöhrl (University of Innsbruck)


Current working groups




Scholars and institutions are invited to get involved and join existing theme groups or propose new ones.

The argument in short

  • Current public and scholarly debates center on social and environmental crises and 'grand challenges' that haunt our present-day world, and call for a transition to a more just and sustainable society;
  • Technology plays a pivotal, yet ambiguous role in these debates--as cause as well solution to past and present crises;
  • Technology has played this role for centuries (and centainly throughout the modern era);
  • Thus emerges the compelling historical question: how was (and is) technology involved in the (un)making of past and present crises, challenges, and societal transitions?

Program structure

At a kick-off workshop in the Netherlands in 2016, representatives from 13 partner institutions launched an explorative program. Working groups formed around relevant themes and set out to build networks of engaged scholars and research agendas. By January 2019 their efforts involved over two dozen workshops and conferences, five successful network grant applications, and two Horizon2020 research programs. Several special journal issues and edited volumes will be published in 2019 and 2020. This explorative, agenda-setting program is currently morphing into an in-depth research program.


More information