Since the beginning of January 2024, the four technical universities are pooling their knowledge and expertise in the field of the history of technology in the 4TU centre History of Technology. The aim of the Centre is to provide students, engineers, policy makers, and the wider audience with historical awareness of, and reflection on, the role that technology and engineers played in societal transitions. The centre fosters collaboration on research, education, as well as engagement. It strives to make historical knowledge and insights actionable today.
4TU.History of Technology facilitates and stimulates collaborative research in the history of technology and socio-environmental change. We focus on the so-called twin green and digital transition(s), which currently sparks heated political, public and academic debate. We believe that this policy notion is in urgent need of historical qualification, scrutiny, and, above all, inspiration. We are pooling research activities and initiatives of the four technical universities. We also believe that the twin transitions should be studied in a global perspective; to do so, we are actively developing partnerships with relevant research groups across the globe.
To this purpose, the Centre is currently developing an umbrella research agenda and network able to inspire research applications and host a plethora of collaborative research projects and other initiatives. The Centre organizes regular workshops, conferences, exchange visits and summer schools, and more. We are actively collaborating with international associations in the field.
4TU.History of Technology also pools resources and collaborates on education. It is our ambition to provide students at all four TUs with access to interesting and relevant courses on the history of their field and their epistemic community, the community of engineers, with particular interest in relevant lessons for present-day and future challenges.
To this purpose, the Centre works on making each-others courses mutually available to student, but also to develop new courses, packages, and possibly a joint master program.
Together with a variety of social partners, the centre seeks to co-create relevant knowledges on the history of technology, society and environment. At the same time, we explore together with these partners how such knowledges help for example imagine more sustainable and inclusive futures, and relevant options for action and intervention.
The centre asks questions such as: How can we narrate stories of 'where we came from' and 'where we want to go from here' in the context of current and future societal and environmental challenges? And how do narratives of ‘where we came from’ (the ‘past’) inform and shape imaginings of ‘where we want to go’ or not want to go? Can different histories make visible hitherto marginalized visions of possible futures and options for action and intervention? How can we collaborate on answering such questions?
Centre activities include building a network with diverse social partners and a range of engagement initiatives Through the use of (online) media and other forms of transmission such as post-graduate courses or teaching packages for secondary schools, research results will be shared. We explore transdisciplinary working methods in which, together with societal partners, the relationship between past-present and future and the relevance for future-oriented work will be reflected. We believe that such a paradigm simultaneously yields a better (because more inclusive and relevant) historical retrospective, as well as more historical awareness in future-oriented work.
We also want to explicitly involve the academic heritage of the technical universities in this. This heritage can not only be used to depict the story of (historical) transitions and the role of technology/technology development, but also to deepen and enable that story (material turn). 4TU.History of Technology aims to coordinate activities in the field of academic heritage, for example in the form of travelling exhibitions.
4TU.History of Technology brings together researchers active in related disciplines as history of technology, history of architecture and urban planning, water history, agricultural and landscape history, history of science, etc.