Name: Dr Paul Stock
Role in admissions: Masters Admissions Advisor.
What is your field of history?
I specialise in intellectual history, meaning that I am interested in the history of peoples’ ideas, thoughts and beliefs. I work mainly on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly on the history of the idea of Europe. Alongside this I also have broader interests in the history of spatial and geographical thought; the Enlightenment; Romanticism; travel writing; nationalism; cosmopolitanism; the history of 'racial' thought; cultural encounters; and the history of cartography.
Why are you interested in this subject and why is it important?
I became a historian fundamentally because I enjoy learning about the past. But for me the greatest interest – and the biggest challenge – lies in finding out how past individuals, societies and cultures think about themselves and the world around them. What ideas, belief systems, and assumptions guide their understanding of the world and motivate their practices and activities? As an intellectual historian I investigate how particular ideas originate and evolve in specific historical contexts, and how those ideas both shape, and are shaped by, broader societies and cultures. By doing this, I believe we can discover more about our own contemporary world – not only because we can trace the development of current and familiar ideas, but also because in studying seemingly strange and alien mind-sets we can become more self-conscious about our own ways of interpreting the world.
Why is it crucial to take an international perspective in studying history?
Local, regional and national history can all offer important and valuable insights, but they can also be partial and constrained. The reality is that people, politics and ideas exist and move beyond individual states or regions, and we can only appreciate this fully if we study the international context of events. As the French historian Marc Bloch argued, the national can only be fully understood in a comparative international context. This is true for all kinds of history - whether you focus on diplomacy, economic issues or cultural exchanges.
What should a prospective student in International History at the LSE be reading?
For an introduction to what historians do and why it is important you might read Ludmilla Jordanova, History in Practice (2000), John Arnold, History: A Very Short Introduction (2000), or Richard J. Evans, In Defence of History (2001).
For general introductions to international history, look at Patrick Finney, International History (2004), and Antony Best, Jussi Hanhimäki, Joseph Maiolo and Kirsten Schulze, International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond (2008). Two thought-provoking overviews of Europe's twentieth century are Mark Mazower, Dark Continent. Europe's Twentieth Century (1998) and Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes 1914-1994 (1994).
If you are interested in global and imperial history, read Christopher Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World (2004) or John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire (2007).
To find out more about intellectual history, Richard Whatmore and Brian Young’s Intellectual History (2006) is very useful. For an example of what the history of ideas can achieve, look at Anthony Pagden, The Idea of Europe: From Antiquity to the European Union (2002)
Would you be happy for prospective students to be in touch with you?