What sort of past does the future need?

Historia magistra vitae est...

Histories we tell never emerge in a vacuum, and history as an academic discipline that studies the (human?) past is highly sensitive to the concerns of the present and the heated debates that tear apart entire societies. But does the study of the past also have something to teach us about the future? Can history help us in coping – on different levels: philosophical, psychological, scientific, socio-economic, socio-technological... – with the planetary crisis we are now facing? Does history in the Anthropocene have a new task? Does it need to change? Can it help us in facing the current pandemic and finding ways out of the post-covid crisis that is looming on the horizon?

Our project seeks to address these questions by bringing together a team of scholars in the humanities and the social sciences, based in Poland, Germany and Austria. They all provide critical views on the potential roles of history and social sciences, particularily sociology, as cultural activities and as academic disciplines in the new age of the Anthropocene and planetary crisis.

The Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology, together with the Center for Historical Research in Berlin and the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, invite you to watch five video lectures that provide historical examples and rise crucial theoretical and methodological questions, bringing us closer to the answer(s) to the title question.

Series Introduction


Geoengineering and the Middle Ages
Lecture by Dr. Martin Bauch, Leibniz-Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe more
The Anthropocene Contract
Lecture by Dr. Jakub Muchowski, Jagiellonian University, Kraków more
What stories should historians tell at the dawn of the Anthropocene?
Lecutre by Dr. hab. Adam Izdebski, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History more
Futurology of the past?
Lecture by Lukas Becht, University of Vienna more
Social forecasting in the time of the Anthropocene
Lecture by Marcin Fronia, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academie of Sciences more
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