Economic inequality has become one of the most contentious political topics of our time, and statistics on income and wealth disparities have come to play an increasingly important role in modern political culture, influencing debates about distributional questions, societal self-descriptions and perceptions of other societies. Global knowledge on economic inequality and poverty evolved incrementally, with important spurts occurring in the 1960s/1970s and then again during the 1990s/2000s. The first initiatives towards an standardisation of income and wealth statistics were launched by the UN and the OECD during the 1960s/70s, but made only slow progress. This contributed to delaying the debate about global inequality, which had long been confined to measures like GDP per capita, while comparisons in terms of personal income have only recently been possible since more data has become available. Both these debates and the underlying statistics have a history that is not yet fully understood.

Historians have recently begun to historicise the measurement of economic inequality as well as the changing public and interest in the subject since the post-war era. The German Historical Institute will host an international conference to contribute to this growing field of by bringing together historians and scholars from other disciplines working on the history of inequality knowledge. The conference will take a transnational perspective, but we also welcome comparative papers and case studies on individual countries that will help us to understand how global developments and entanglements are negotiated domestically. In particular, we invite contributions that address one of the following four broad themes:

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