Gepubliceerd op 10-05-2016

Call for Papers: International Conference Information and Power in History

“Nowadays we all know that information is the key to power, and that the masters of information rule the world”, Anthony Grafton wrote in his commendation of Jacob Soll’s book on Jean-Baptiste Colbert, The Information Master (2009). Yet this notion is much older; it has even been attributed to the Chinese general Sun Tzu (544-c. 496 BCE). As far as the relationship between power and information is concerned, present-day scholars point out that we find ourselves in a special phase. The ‘information revolution’ of today has caused information to become a separate object of study during the last two decades. Historians distinguish different ages of information, from the invention of the printing press to the age of the scientific revolution to that of the digital revolution. Notwithstanding past and present fears, the information revolution has not brought an Orwellian control of society by the central government.  On the contrary, some experts would say that modern communication techniques have ensured a fragmenting and decentralizing effect on the provision of information.

It is clear that the relationship between the control over information and the exercise of power is a relevant subject for all times. Since research into its historical evolution has been recent, this two-day conference aims to put this topic explicitly on the research agenda. We are particularly interested in the connection between different types of information and the exercise of power, including the role of confidentiality; knowledge regarding politics and international relations, opposition movements, (weapon) technology, geography or economic issues; among others. We want to focus on actors who provided (or tried to withhold) information, whether and how its quality and reliability can be established; and how crucial knowledge became exclusively available to those who exercise power.

Submissions Guidelines
We welcome proposals for 20-minute, English-language papers related to one or more of the conference’s themes. Submissions about all periods and geographical areas are welcome, because the relation between information and power is of all times. Proposals should include:

  • a preliminary title for your paper
  • an abstract of 250-300 words
  • a CV of no more than 1 page
  • contact information, including any institutional affiliation

Submit your proposals to congress@huygens.knaw.nl by 30 June 2016. Successful applicants will be notified by email before 15 September 2016.

Click for more information here and here.


Het KNHG is de grootste organisatie van professionele historici in Nederland. Het biedt een platform aan de ruim 1100 leden en aan de historische gemeenschap als geheel. Word lid van het KNHG.
Het Huygens Instituut beoogt de Nederlandse geschiedenis en cultuur inclusiever maken. Het ontsluit historische bronnen en literaire teksten en ontwikkelt innovatieve methoden, tools en duurzame digitale infrastructuur.