The Center for Historical Enquiry & the Social Sciences (CHESS) concerns itself with the interplay between history and the present, in the belief that its work will lead to fresh solutions to seemingly intractable contemporary problems. Because the historical dimension of social life is seldom fully understood—and therefore not adequately addressed—significant theoretical developments have too often been foreclosed. We aim to change that. By forging analytical tools to systematically examine the historical constraints and possibilities confronting social actors, the Center expects to contribute to a fuller understanding of the range of possibilities for action inscribed in past and present.
This new cross-disciplinary Center, headquartered at the MacMillan Center, also seeks to transcend the Humanities and Social Sciences divide, bringing together a diverse complement of scholars to answer large questions that help us better understand the world we inhabit and seek to influence. The Center’s scholars aim to create an environment in which we can learn from one another’s methodological expertise and substantive knowledge, and in which intellectual risks and experimentation are actively encouraged.
The centerpiece of CHESS is the weekly Friday workshop in which we will collectively discuss pre-circulated papers from disciplines. In addition the Center supports two annual conferences: a Spring gathering focused on a general topic of interest and an annual Winter graduate student conference. The Center will also support ephemeral study groups designated by its constituent members. Finally, the Center plans to launch courses organized around both significant scholarship in the historical social sciences and the variety of methods available to those pursuing scholarship in social science history.