Accidents and Emergencies: Risk, Welfare and Safety in Europe and North America, c. 1750–2000

This event has now finished. Please see our events website for details of upcoming events at Brookes.

Who this event is for

  • Academic community


BG05/10/11, Buckley, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site


We live in a society obsessed with risk and safety. Via a medley of state-related and commercial agencies, we insure ourselves against the possibility of death, ill-health, accident, theft and unemployment, subjecting every facet of our lives to the calculus of risk. Meanwhile, a battery of signs, leaflets, manuals and adverts spread the message of ‘health and safety’, reminding us of the dangers lurking in our everyday actions.

Equally, notions of risk and safety go to the heart of our sense of collective welfare, and the complex relations of self, society and the State, and public and private agency. Indeed, for some sociologists, we live in a ‘risk society’, premised on the ‘reflexive’ processing of information, the prevention of the accidental and the unexpected, and the anxious desire to predict – even control – the future.

The aim of this conference is to take stock of the present by focussing on modern Europe and North America from roughly 1750 onwards. It welcomes:

  • historians from all sub-fields (social, medical, cultural, etc.)
  • scholars from other disciplines such as sociology and cultural studies.

Risk, welfare and safety have long been sites of historical inquiry. This conference takes this literature as its point of departure, and encourages both general and trans-national appraisals of the history and nature of modern ‘risk societies’, as well as accounts which focus on particular technologies, practices and discourses.

In sum, the aim of ‘Accidents and Emergencies’ is to:

  • rethink the history of risk, welfare and safety;
  • encourage a more integrated approach to their empirical study and conceptualisation;
  • open up new historical and sociological perspectives through which we might better grasp the present.

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