Research School for Economic and Social History

Research Network ‘Globalisation, Inequality and Sustainability in Long-Term Perspective’

The network aims to enhance inter-university research cooperation between economic, social, technology and business historians working on globalisation, (economic) inequality and sustainable development in the Flemish-Dutch research community.

Research directors

Dr ir Frank Veraart (Eindhoven University of Technology)
Dr Robrecht Declercq (Ghent University)
Dr Pim de Zwart (Wageningen University & Research)


This research network is a continuation of the former Research Network ‘Drivers and Carriers of Globalisation’, and is organised around three interrelated key themes central to current debates in the social sciences: globalisation, inequality, and sustainable development. These themes arguably represent some of the greatest societal challenges facing the world today. Our network aims to contribute to a better understanding of these challenges by rooting these themes in a historical perspective. The network hosts a variety of approaches, e.g. comparative and transnational, and stimulates the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods. Research within this network is not confined to a particular period of time. The network welcomes research initiatives, projects and thinking that tackle issues of globalisation, inequality, and sustainability in a long-term perspective.

Focus points

The network distinguishes three subthemes:

  1. Questions related to the subtheme of global connections and integration, or globalisation, of which various historians have shown that many characteristics of of its present-day’s processes can be traced back much further in time. Global history means both a way of looking at history, unravelling the interconnectedness of particular developments and phenomena, as well as a study object on its own:
    • What were the prime determinants of (de-) globalisation and regionalisation in different periods of time?
    • How, and by whom, did these processes take shape?
    • How did the nation-state-change respond to these processes and assumed different roles?
    • What can be said about tensions, conflicts, and welfare effects generated by these processes, and the consequences of globalisation on the long run?
  2. Questions related to the subtheme inequality – both between and within countries,  the wide(ning) gap between rich and poor that remains one of the key problems of the world today. A lot of work in economic and social history has been concerned with the origins of the rise of global inequality – or Great Divergence – between Europe and the rest of the world:
    • Since when did the West become wealthier than other areas of the world and what fundamentals explain this rise?
    • Under what conditions did a country (or a region) become less egalitarian and when did it become more egalitarian in the past?
    • How are these trends influenced by institutions and policies as they change over time?
    • How does this relate to globalisation?
  3. Questions related to the subtheme of sustainable development in the past, both within and between countries. Sustainability histories study the developments the trade-offs (gains and losses) between material, social, economic and natural resources, caused by industrialisation, agricultural developments, globalisation and (international) trade, trade-offs now at the core of the contemporary debates about sustainability and coined with terms such as ´eco-friendly´, ´climate-neutral´ and ´Fair Trade’, while globalisation entangles sustainability aspects of various places in the world:
    • What does literature show on global entanglement history, and in particular on the role of global trade and resource chains herein?
    • Which processes and actors are/were involved in which way regarding global resource chains connecting the Global North and Global South within or across (post)colonial structures?
    • Which perceptions of gains, losses, costs, and risks played a role amongst various countries various social groups, as well for (formerly) colonial as for non-colonial powers, including subaltern groups?

Examples of related projects