The ‘Societal Turn’. Historicising Future Society


  • Esther Beeckaert Ghent University
  • Sander Berghmans Ghent University
  • Dieter Bruneel Ghent University
  • Hanne Cottyn Ghent University
  • Pieter De Reu Ghent University
  • Marjolein Schepers Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Tobit Vandamme Ghent University
  • Sven Van Melkebeke Ghent University



social history, economic history, societal turn


As a group of young historians we are strongly convinced that the future of social and economic history will be a collective endeavour that crosses institutional and disciplinary boundaries. Only by means of continuous and intensive interaction junior researchers will be able to bring the societal turn to a decisive phase in the next ten years. This turn represents an upsurge of social and economic history that is deeply embedded in and engaged with public challenges and debates by means of conscious participation and dissemination of historical analyses. Particularly, the societal turn will involve research that brings to the forefront three interrelated research perspectives: inequality, ecology and connectivity. For these are the three lenses through which socio-economic historians of the coming decades will produce new scientific knowledge that is centred around ongoing societal processes. In the following essay, we collectively take up our responsibility in historicising future society.


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Author Biography

Esther Beeckaert, Ghent University

The authors are early-stage researchers affiliated with the Economies, Comparisons, Connections (ECC) Research Unit at Ghent University. ECC brings together historians and social scientists who study the interaction of historical processes at varying geographical, social, political, environmental and economic scales. The focus on Economies, Comparisons and Connections is applied to a variety of research topics: case- and regional studies of both rural and urban history; broader societal shifts with trans-regional ramifications; and various models of explanation for economic and social change on a global scale and in the long-term. The notion of ‘economy’ is understood in a broad sense, to include economies of status, or affection, social power relations, and political economy. ECC questions the boundaries and scales of space and place, focusing on the co-construction of the local, the regional and the global, with special attention to (local) agency in regional, cross-regional and global processes. Read more on:




How to Cite

Beeckaert, E., Berghmans, S., Bruneel, D., Cottyn, H., De Reu, P., Schepers, M., Vandamme, T., & Van Melkebeke, S. (2018). The ‘Societal Turn’. Historicising Future Society. TSEG - The Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History, 15(2-3), 113–128.



Debate Article