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The Global Public: Its Power and its Limits

22-24 October 2015

Conveners: Valeska Huber (GHIL) and Jürgen Osterhammel (Leibnizpreis-Forschungsstelle Globale Prozesse, Universität Konstanz)

Venue: German Historical Institute London

The conference will explore theories and practices of a global public in the long twentieth century. Recent forms of mass protest and debates around open, censored or intercepted flows of information have triggered debates about the power and limits of the global public. Yet many preconditions for such a global public had their origin in the last decades of the nineteenth century, when global travel became more standardised and new media such as telegraphy, mass print and later film entered the scene. During the two world wars, the global public was mobilized and manipulated in an unprecedented manner. Communication theorists and internationalists of the inter-war period, such as John Dewey, Harold Lasswell and H.G. Wells, saw it as a rising political force that would change future decision-making. In war or crisis, peace activists and humanitarians evoked it as a moral tribunal and normative entity. The organisers of cultural and sporting events hoped for new worldwide audiences, which businessmen and advertisers associated with opportunities for profit-making on a new scale. Politicians recognised the global public as a force for prestige and image cultivation, for instance during the Cold War, turning it into an arena of intense competition. At the same time the related technologies, especially print media and film, and their penetration of different world regions and layers of society provided a field of experimentation, and the limits of the global public, on a geographical and social but also on a normative scale, remained visible.

Conference report (PDF file), published in: GHIL Bulletin 38 (2016), Vol 1

Call for papers (PDF file)
Conference programme (PDF file)

Conference report (PDF file), published in: GHIL Bulletin 38 (2016), Vol 1