Inequality and History Network

The Inequality and History Network brings together historians and social scientists interested in discussing new ways to approach the question of inequality over time, and sharing work on inequality in historical perspective across disciplinary boundaries, but beyond academia, contributing historical depth to contemporary debates.

The network was created in 2012 as the Inequality, Social Science and History Research Network and supported for its first two years with a grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council. During this period, the network organized and hosted talks, seminars and workshops. Between 2014 and 2018 it was supported by the Centre for History & Economics and by the Philomathia Foundation's Social Sciences Research Programme at Cambridge, focusing on a project on the history of inequality measurement.

The Network plans to host further activities and projects over time, and continues to be active in its blog. To receive updates on activities, please follow us on twitter @ineqhist or subscribe to our email list here.


Thinking historically about inequality

Over the course of the last few years, governments, policy makers and social scientists have rekindled an interest in the study of inequality. Inequality has come into focus again at the same time as the gap between rich and poor in many western nations has begun increasing after a long period of convergence. In addition, the pressures faced by welfare systems also threaten non-income mechanisms of equalization, in education, access to childcare, or health provision.

Yet even as social scientists have developed tools to diagnose inequalities and their multiple consequences, there is less attention how inequalities are created, reconstructed and reinforced over time, and how societies come to accept some inequalities as 'natural' and others as unjustifiable and immoral.

Bringing that way of 'thinking historically' to the issue of inequality, the Inequality network sets number of interdisciplinary questions as a guide to its activities:

  • What is the relationship between the state and inequality in historical perspective?
  • How are attitudes towards acceptable and unacceptable inequality created, reproduced and transformed?
  • In what ways can we engage with the production of inequality beyond the boundaries of the nation-state, both internationally, between states, and transnationally, as inequalities between individuals and groups across nations?
  • How can new understandings of the history of fundamental categories (the social, the economic, the political) help us analyse the processes that are implicated in the production and reproduction of inequalities?
  • How is inequality expressed in both the natural and the built environment and how, in turn, do these shape unequal relations?
  • Can the concept of inequality help explore established analytical categories such as race, class and gender, in new ways?