University history – the new ‘black’: Experiments, gains and losses

CHEF Lunch Talk by Ning de Coninck-Smith, Professor, Danish School of Education, Aarhus University.

26.10.2018 | Kristoffer Ingemand Petersen

Dato tor 15 nov
Tid 12:00 13:30
Sted Danish School of Education, Campus Emdrup, Room D120. Video-linked to CUDiM, Aarhus University, Building 1483, Room 656.


Histories of the universities have a long tradition of being tied to jubilees and being part of university branding. Another strand is the history of the sciences, which sometimes – but not always – overlap with university history. Finally, there are the many interpretations of Humboldt’s ideas, which gave rise to what has been called  ‘the modern university’.

During the past couple of years, I have been inspired by the current Danish debate about the changes of the universities from institutions for the elite to institutions for the masses - and its implications to student life - to move the focus from the professors and big scientists to the students. At the same time, I have tried to develop new methodological approaches, focusing on the archive between the private and the public on agency and organization and finally on qualifying the historical context in a social and cultural manner. 

This has resulted in three different papers, one on how gender meet AU during its first 25 years of existence 1928-1953 (to be published in Women’s History Review), one on the creation/invention of AU between 1919 and 1928 (paper in progress) – and one about the four different waves, which together have created the so-called mass university (project proposal for the FKK).

I will touch on all three papers and discuss what has been gained (or lost) by locating the history of the universities in ‘a historical laboratory’ where experiments challenge (some) conventional wisdom about how to write university history.