Roundtable: History and Public Opinion Research, Part 1: Roundtable: History and Public Opinion Research

AHA Session 234
Sunday, January 5, 2014: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Delaware Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Arjan Van Dixhoorn, Ghent University
Scholastic Disputation and the Medieval Public Sphere
Alex J. Novikoff, Fordham University
Early Modern Transnational Public Spheres
Helmer Helmers, University of Amsterdam

Session Abstract

The contention of the two panels is that a fundamental re-evaluation of the historiographical debates on the history of public opinion is called for. One way to shift the debate drastically is by organizing a more sustained exchange between historians and political scientists in the fields of the theory and history of the public and of public opinion. Here, historians and political scientists will present and discuss their visions of a possible or impossible future of a closer collaboration among between historians and social and political scientists. Today the divide seems enormous, due to the hegemony of the Habermasian paradigm in historiography and the predominance of the notion of the public as an aggregate in social and political science. These two panels aim to explore possible bridges by discussing the theoretical problems of definition, periodization, geographical orientation and methodology through the prism of historical conditions and origins. An exchange between historians and political scientists could bring about a more nuanced history of the public sphere and public opinion and their historical conditions and origins; and of the historicity of the link between public opinion and public opinion polling. The focus will be on discussion. The audience for the session includes historians of medieval, early modern, modern Europe and North America and all those interested in the methodological problems of the study of the history of public opinion and its science.