Statistics and policy-making during the 19th and 20th century

Statistics and policy-making during the 19th and 20th century

Milena Guthörl, Basel Graduate School of History (Basel University) Daniela Hettstedt, Basel Graduate School of History (Basel University) Cornelia Knab, Europainstitut Basel (Basel University) Anna Mohr, ETH Zürich Yitang Lin, Université de Lausanne
Departement Geschichte, Universität Basel
Vom - Bis
05.12.2014 - 06.12.2014
Milena Guthörl

Recently, an increasing number of historical research has been dedicated to answering the question of how statistical expertise and numerical knowledge impacted policy making, ranging from economic regulation to social measures. However, interrelation between statistics, science and “evidence-based” policy-making is still understudied when it comes to social welfare systems and public health.

In order to develop a deeper understanding of how development and application of statistics influenced fields such as social security, hygiene, demographics, and public health, the focus of this workshop will be on the following questions:

1) Did development and use of statistical methodology shape social security policies? The Organizers explicitly wish to extend the perspective on the welfare state to evidence-based presentations from the field of private business (corporate welfare policy) or international organizations.

2) Have statistical practices been influenced by the requirements set by their application as political instruments?

3) Did statistics evolve into an instrument to steer political processes and economic developments? If so, which role did experts (demographers, actuaries, mathematicians, doctors etc.) play?

4) To what extend did experts collaborate with experts in their own and other scientific fields? We would like to challenge the notion of “epistemic communities”. Can their influence on politics and knowledge transfer tell us something about the balance of power within and between national and international bureaucracies (eg. Governments, IOs)?

We, the organizers of this workshop, encourage PhD students and Postdocs to submit papers that respond to the questions and topics above, particularly we would appreciate papers concerned with historical development of statistics, the use and influence of statistics in private insurance, social politics (welfare state), public health, international organizations and epistemic communities and other related topics.

The workshop is organized by PhD students from Basel Graduate School (BGSH), in cooperation with PhD students from ETH Zurich, Lausanne University and early postdocs from Basel University. It will be held at Basel University, Switzerland.

Please upload you abstract in English, French or German (approximately 500 words) to flexiform:



Milena Guthörl

Departement Geschichte, Universität Basel

+41 (0)61 295 9669