Leibniz Research Alliance
Crises in a Globalised World

© Neil Cummings (flickr)

Conceptual History of Crisis in the 20th Century

The concept of crisis was ubiquitous throughout the 20th century and yet its usage in German and English followed different discernable trajectories. Above all in the interwar period and the 1970s, the frequency of the term was high while it changed its contents. In the first half of the 20thcentury the concept was situated within a generally progressive temporalization of history signifying the transitional period towards a better future, albeit also depicting a threat of decline. By contrast, the term largely lost this meaning as diagnoses of crises increasingly globalized in the late 20th century. Now, the concept signified rather dissolution, disarray and decay. The project will examine this hypothesis using both the hermeneutical means of historical semantics and methods of “distant reading” of larger text corpora, trying to combine them in mutually illuminating ways.


Participating Institutes

ZZF: Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam



Graf, Rüdiger (2018): Oil and Sovereignty. Petro-Knowledge and Energy Policy in the United States and Western Europe in the 1970s. New York: Berghahn Books.

Graf, Rüdiger; Jarausch, Kontad H (2017): "Crisis" in Contemporary History and Historiography, Version 1.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte

Graf, Rüdiger (2016): Die Krise als epochemachender Begriff im 20. Jahrhundert, in: Sabrow, Martin; Weiß, Peter Ulrich (eds.): Das 20. Jahrhundert vermessen. Signaturen eines vergangenen Zeitalters, Göttingen, 149-166. [also printed in: Bösch, Frank; Sabrow, Martin (eds.): ZeitRäume. Potsdamer Almanach des Zentrums, Göttingen 2016, 20-37.]

    Contact for the Project Group "Conceptual History of Crisis"


    2017 - 2020