CfP: Actors, Lives and Networks - Biographies in the Global Circulation of Knowledge (Workshop)

Call for Papers

November 10, 2022

Scholarship that retraces the lives of transnational historical actors has flourished in recent years. It usually finds that when actors moved internationally, their ideas moved too. Shaped by new experiences, individuals often pushed intellectual, political, and legal debates in new directions. Those who did not travel spread knowledge overseas via letter writing, building activist networks, and so on. Individuals’ life stories thus offer a way of understanding how, when, and why new ideas developed around the world, as well as their impact on others.

This workshop will contribute to the growing interest in studying highly mobile and influential global actors by bringing together a diverse array of papers and case studies in order to generate a collective discussion about theoretical and methodological questions which arise in related research such as:

  • Who, or which actors, can be classified as suitable subjects in the mobile history of ideas, political history, and legal history?
  • What mechanisms were used by individuals to disseminate new ideas internationally?
  • What are the challenges faced by recounting the life of an individual moving between contexts, such as the local and the transnational, the metropolitan and the imperial?
  • How can scholars recount a biography that weaves together (potentially very different) national histories, contexts, and social or political processes?


A wide variety of topics are welcome; they include, but are not limited to:

  • the lives of individuals who influenced intellectual, political, and legal debates without necessarily being professional philosophers, statesmen, or lawyers;
  • actors travelling within and across nations and empires;
  • the circulation of knowledge produced by transnational life experiences;
  • ‘unexceptional’ lives and their historical relevance;
  • family networks, social lives, and socialisation;
  • lives of members of collective bodies such as commissions, lobbies, and associations;
  • biographies of women that engaged with philosophy, politics, and the law;
  • non-European actors including representatives of conquered, colonized, and enslaved peoples who influenced and/or resisted political and legal processes.


Please submit a 250 word abstract along with a 1-page CV to by 15 December 2022.

Researchers at all stages of their career are welcome, especially those who have not engaged with biography or life writing and those at the early points of their career.

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