Focus 1: Europe as a product of material civilization: flows, crises, transitions

Europe at night.
Europe at night. Extract from “Earth at night”, Black Marble project, 2012.
Source: NASA

The European Union defines itself as a space of “free flows” of people, goods, services, and capital. These flows are based on energy, communications, and mobility infrastructure whose transnational interlinking dates back to the early modern period. Research Area 1 is interested in this interlinking and its associated uses in order to illuminate the history of Europe as a product of material civilization. This consequently involves studying what has materially tied together but also freed Europeans from one another over the course of time, presenting Europe as a succession of configurations in which new actors appear alongside diplomats, political authorities, and men of ideas: entrepreneurs, engineers, experts, along with merchants and everyone whose practice connected Europe within a network.


The Research Area concentrates on three important sectors, and the interaction between them. Energy is analyzed as a determining factor in the successive spaces of material civilization and forms of social life (thought, work, travel, communication). A second focus will explore the mobility of people and merchandise as a base for markets. The production of mobilities will be examined in light of concerns involving logistics, infrastructure construction, polarization, and urbanization of territories. The final area of focus, communication, studies the flows of all kinds that interconnect the European space by defining its outlines as well as how it fits into the world.


Research Area Director: 

Postdoctoral fellow in charge of research: 

  • Laurence Roche Nye,Research Area Coordinator. Research subjects: histoire de la coopération spatiale franco-soviétique, circulations des savoirs en technosciences de l’espace, vols habités et diplomatie scientifique. Intervenante à l’International Space University.

  • Cécile WELKER, Research Area Coordinator. Research subjects: history of the production and appropriation of computer graphics; career paths of contributors and circulation of research; policies of innovation.

Steering Committee: 

  • Alain BELTRAN, Director of Research at the CNRS and President of the Comité d’histoire de l’électricité et de l’énergie. His research explores questions of energy from the 19th century to the present.
  • Yves BOUVIER, Associate Professor at l’université Paris-Sorbonne, his research focuses on the history of energy, and electricity in particular, as well as the industrial history of telecommunications.
  • Mathieu FLONNEAU, Associate Professor at l’université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, is a specialist in urban history, mobility, and automobilism.
  • Léonard LABORIE, Research Fellow at the CNRS. His work includes the history of the technological construction of Europe, especially in the field of communications.

Contact: labexehne1[at]

Research notebook: