Social Policy across Borders: Commonalities, Convergence and Paradoxes in Connectivity, 1850-1975

12 September 2008 - 13 September 2008


Deadline for Registration: 5 September 2008

Programme and Registration
Please click on the appropriate links on the right hand side of the page. The standard fee is £25 and £15 for students.

Martin Daunton (Trinity Hall, Cambridge)
Julia Moses (St John's College, Cambridge)

Foreign models play a critical role in contemporary debates about social policy. Politicians, journalists and experts frequently cite foreign models when seeking viable alternatives or when merely framing political arguments. The origins and functions of these policy models, however, remain little understood. In the current climate of increasing global connectedness, it is now the time to understand better how and why policy models travel across borders.


This conference will explore the widespread domestic, transnational and international communication about social policy since 1850. During this period, international communication about policy has become increasingly possible due to media innovations and new modes of travel. It has also been during this period that states, international organisations and networks of experts have begun to adopt or advocate expansive social policies. This conference aspires to bring together a variety of new findings on how foreign and international ideas about social policy have been assimilated, transformed or rejected in this process of communication. It thereby seeks to serve as an illustrative platform for further research into this important area.


An international group of established scholars and advanced post-graduate students from a variety of disciplines have committed to explore global connections about social policy, including those between extra-European and European states, transnational networks of experts and colonies and metropoles, amongst others. In addition, participants will explore the role of transnational and international fora, including the League of Nations, the World Health Organisation and similar bodies, in this exchange.



This conference is being organised with support from the British Academy, the Trevelyan Fund with the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge, the Royal Historical Society, the McArthur Fund, and CRASSH.




For administrative enquiries please contact

Social Policy across Borders: Commonalities, Convergence and Paradoxes in Connectivity, 1850-1975 



Location : CRASSH Date : 12-13 September 2008

Friday 12 September





Welcome and Introduction

Keynote Lecture
Daniel Rodgers (Princeton University)
Bearing Tales: Networks and Narratives in Social Policy Transfer 


Tea/coffee break 


Transfers of Ideas about Society and Social Issues
Commentator:  Susan Pedersen (Columbia University)

Timothy Smith (Queen's University, Canada)
Best Practices and Worst Stereotypes: How Nationals Learn from Other Nations

James Thompson (University of Bristol)
Framing the Labour Question: Political Economy, Idea Transfer and Social Policy in Britain, 1870-1945 

Lawrence Goldman (University of Oxford)
The International Statistical Congress and the Politics of Nineteenth-Century Statistics

13.00- 14.00 


14.00- 16.00

International Organisations and Universal Social Issues
Commentator: Pierre-Yves Saunier (CNRS, Lyon)

Sanjoy Bhattacharya (Wellcome Centre, UCL)
Troubled Transmissions, Unexpected Outcomes: World Health Organization networks, Disease Control and Eradication Policies, and their Impact on South Asia

Madeleine Herren (Heidelberg University)
Transcultural Bargaining with Trojan Horses: alternatives to the institutional history of international labour organisations?

Inderjeet Parmar (University of Manchester)
American Philanthropic Foundations and the Politics of International Knowledge Network-Construction in the Cold War

16.00 - 16.30 

Tea/coffee break

16.30 - 18.30

Exchanges on the Economics of Social Welfare
Commentator: Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck College, University of London) 

Martin Daunton (University of Cambridge)
Distributive Justice, Trade and Employment: Recreating the Global Economy after the Second World War 

David Todd (University of Cambridge)
Exchanges of Ideas about British Free Trade between France, Germany, and the United States, 1830-1870

Tamotsu Nishizawa (Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University)
Economics of Social Reform across the Borders: Germany, UK and Japan around 1900

19.00 for 19.30

Conference Dinner at Trinity Hall


Saturday 13 September



Exchanges within Federal States and across Empires
Commentator: Christopher Clark (University of Cambridge)

Eddy Rogers (University of Cambridge)
A ‘Most Imperial Contribution’: New Zealand and old-age pensions in Britain, 1898-1908 

Erik Grimmer-Solem (Wesleyan University)
Reform Redux: the Second Life of the German Social Question in the Colonies, 1900-1918


Tea/coffee break


Transfers of Social Policy Ideas
Commentator: Paul-André Rosental (Le'cole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)

Maria-Sophia Quine (University of East Anglia)
Social Modernity Italian-Style: Welfare Policy from Liberalism to Fascism in Trans-national Perspective 

Julia Moses (University of Cambridge)
Workplace Accidents, Transfer of Ideas and Convergence in European  Welfare Policy, 1870-1930 

Stein Kuhnle (Hertie School of Governance, Berlin)
The early formative years of Scandinavian welfare states and the impact of ideas from outside            




Concluding Panel Discussion