Risks in the 20th century. Hazards as a topic for historical research

Risks in the 20th century. Hazards as a topic for historical research

FRIAS, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg; Lehrstuhl für Wirtschafts-, Sozial- und Umweltgeschichte, Historisches Seminar, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
FRIAS, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Alberstr. 19, 79104 Freiburg i.Br.
Vom - Bis
18.07.2014 - 19.07.2014
Peter Itzen

Risks, accidents and disasters are nearly always present in our daily life, and they can change and influence our life abruptly and often more intensely than political or economic crises or even wars.

In the 20th century, these threats have repeatedly caused attempts to mitigate and reduce them or – alternatively – to make their presence acceptable. The ensuing regulations have significantly influenced modern societies. At the same time the assessment of risks has changed, and what was seen at the beginning of the 20th century as an ultimately acceptable practice could already – only a few decades later – be regarded as irresponsible behaviour. What was considered a risk was thus transformed in the 20th century time and again and has been the subject of intense scientific, political and cultural debates. At the same time, the different perceptions of risks as well as the actual presence of hazards and dangers and their implications influenced social conduct, economic processes and legal systems.

These are the phenomena the workshop on ‘Risks in the 20th century’ is mainly interested in. It will look at historical discussions and receptions of industrial hazards as well as at environmental catastrophes, car accidents and modern plagues like HIV. The workshop will discuss how these risks in different social, political and cultural spheres challenged established practices and brought about discussions about how much security a modern society needs. It will also reflect upon the importance of the history of risks and catastrophes for the understanding of the 20th century in general.

Additional participants are very welcome. Prior registration is, however, necessary.


Friday, 18th July

9 Coffee

9.15 Welcome and Introduction

9.30-11 Section I: Risks and public health
Chair: Meike Haunschild (Freiburg)

Jörg Arnold (Nottingham)
‘Engaged in a daily wager with death’. Occupational health hazards in the British coal mining industry as a political resource, ca. 1970-1990

Sebastian Haus (Marburg)
Risk Conceptions, Security Strategies and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the 1980s


11.30 – 13 Section II: Risks and traffic in the automobile age
Chair: Martin Bemmann (Freiburg)

Kai Nowak (Gießen)
Teaching Self-Control. Road Safety and Traffic Education in Post-War Germany

Peter Itzen (Freiburg)
The Hazards of Nature. The Fight against Winter on the Streets


15 - 16.30 Section III: Consumer culture, modern risks and technical solutions
Chair: Birgit Metzger (Saarbrücken)

James Remfrey (Frankfurt)
Driver Assistance Systems: Quo Vadis?

Stefan Kaufmann (Freiburg)
Friends? Climbers and Protection Equipment: an Ambivalent Relation


17 – 18.30 Keynote Lecture
Chair: Franz-Josef Brüggemeier (Freiburg)

Arwen Mohun (Newark)
The History of Risk and the Nature of Modernity


Saturday, 19th July

9.15 Coffee

9.30-11.30 Section IV: Risks and environmental history
Chair: Dorothee Birke (Freiburg/Gießen)

Nicolai Hannig (München)
Prevention in Modernity. Disaster Control and the Anticipation of the Future

Roderich von Detten (Freiburg)
Climate Change as the Normal State of Emergency – Long-term Management in Forestry and the Problem of Uncertainty

Simone Müller-Pohl (Freiburg)
Ecological Crisis or the Risk of Industrial hazards. Conceptualizations of Hazardous Waste in U.S. environmental policy and hazardous waste management


12-13 Comment and Discussion
Franz-Josef Brüggemeier (Freiburg)


Peter Itzen

FRIAS, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Alberstr. 19, 79104 Freiburg i.Br.

0761 20397424


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