Comparative, cross-national and transnational approaches are powerful historiographical tools, which, carefully used, can help overcome the limitations of local and national perspectives in history of science, technology and medicine.
The comparative method, methodologically embodying the logic of hypothesis testing, provides historical analysis with unmatched explanatory and heuristic powers. Cross-national comparison allows to discriminate, to connect, and to challenge historical facts, hypothesis and interpretations, endowing thus historical explanation with a greater strength and validity. When framed by the comparison of nationally-defined entities (cross-national comparison), it could allow history to be articulated by the establishment of explanatory relationships between phenomena. Indeed, it could be applied to institutions and activities transcending national borders. But cross-national comparison has potential limitations, such as, for instance, its potential inability to comprehend objects, actors and phenomena which cannot be characterized by the boundaries of the nation. In this respect, the emerging transnational history approaches offer a powerful critical tool that might be able to complement or to reshape the current map of studies in history of science.
The aim of this research group is to produce case studies which analyse more than one national context (within and beyond Europe) in comparative fashion, case studies dealing with transnational objects, actors and phenomena, as well as historiographical and methodological reflections arising from this practical experience. Case studies do not need to cover a whole country and can instead focus on comparison of regions or more local unities of analysis. Intra-national comparisons are also welcome if justified, although the group favours studies in cross- and trans-national perspective.
Our purpose is neither to break national boundaries, nor to reaffirm them, but to discuss about them and through them and to show how cross-national comparison and transnational approaches offer more rigorous methods and accurate results than traditional approaches –explicitly or implicitly– restricted to the nation.
2011: From Centre and Periphery to Global Connections in Science and Technology Studies. (organized by Stefan Pohl) (Bogota, 1 Sept. 2011).
2010: 7th STEP meeting: Session on Comparative and Cross-National History of Science, Technology and Medicine. (organized by Josep Simon and Néstor Herran and including papers by Mónica Blanco, Sean Johnston, Yoshiyuki Kikuchi, Néstor Herran and Josep Simon)
2010: 4th International Conference of the ESHS: Session on Cross-National and Comparative History of Science Education (organized by Josep Simon and including papers by Mina Ishizu, Anjana Singh, Josep Simon and Ting Xu)
2008: J. Simon & N. Herran (eds.), Beyond Borders: Fresh Perspectives in History of Science. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (including papers by Mónica Blanco, Néstor Herran and Josep Simon)
2009: N. Herran & J. Simon, Comunicar y comparar: la historia de la ciencia ante el localismo, la fragmentación y la hegemonía cultural. Memoria y Sociedad 13(27): 143-162. [“Communication and Comparison: History of Science and the challenges against localism, fragmentation and cultural hegemony”]
2012: Special issue Cross-National Education and the Making of Science, Technology and Medicine. History of Science 50 Part 3, 168: 251-256 (ed. by J. Simon; papers by S. Curtis, Y. Kikuchi, A.J. Angulo and J. Simon).
2012: Special issue Have we ever been ‘transnational’? Towards a history of science across and beyond borders. British Journal for the History of Science 45 (3): 319-442. (ed. by Simone Turchetti, Néstor Herran and Soraya Boudia).
2013: Special issue Cross-National and Comparative History of Science Education. Science & Education 22 (4): 1-104. (ed. by J. Simon; papers by M. Hoffmann, S. Onghena, C. Radtka, M- Blanco and K. Tampakis)