School book knowledge…

School books can be gems… here’s a timeline of important events, apparently. Quite a particular perspective on the world, and a particular perspective on science and inventions, where the typical case is one person (usually a man) single-handedly achieved something.

Young World 4, Activity Book, © 2015 Klett und Balmer Verlag

Like “James Watt invented the steam engine.” James Watt shares the honour with Matthew Boulton on the £50 note. For inventing the steam engine? Nope, for making “revolutionary changes to the efficiency of the steam engine”, and Boulton to “market steam engines”.

Wikipedia knows of historical precedents from the first century AD, and Thomas Savery as the first to use a steam engine commercially.


I recognize that school books need to simplify and leave out details, but we can also simplify in a way that doesn’t pretend that history is the act of “great men”. A language book is maybe not the place to nitpick about stuff like whether a railway line in 1845 that ended in Switzerland should be counted, rather than the first internal line in 1847 which is mentioned, or discuss that there are other ways to count the length of World War II.

But why is there Ferdinand Magellan all on his own, who didn’t actually complete the circumnavigation, and none of the 200+ staff (some of whom actually did sail around the world)?

Hopefully, I need not say much about “1492 Christopher Columbus discovered America.” But it struck me how Columbus is greatly under-credited in history: Not only did he “discover” America (never mind indigenous peoples, never mind Norse colonization), but he can obviously see into the future (I’ve never seen him credited for that…!): when he discovered those lands, he already knew that 15 years later two German cartographers would name those lands after Amerigo Vespucci and the name will stick. ⸮⸮⸮

OK, we’ll probably want to leave irony out of school books in primary school, but can we try harder? I’m all for simplification, but perhaps a less Eurocentric one where we don’t celebrate individuals and ignore everyone else who contributed…?!

Hiring now: 3 PhD researchers — migration

We have currently three positions open for a project on how narratives of crisis influence discourses and policies of migration and mobility. The project is built around crisis narratives, how they evolve, and how they affect social behaviour (attitudes, discrimination), policies, as well as migration intentions, bridging disciplines as experimental sociology, history and political theory.

Deadline: 8 May 2022

Full call:

If this is not your thing, there are other positions by the NCCR on the move open at the moment, with deadlines in April, May, and June:

Sociology of Migration in Switzerland: There is (of course) more…!

When we provided an account of the sociology of migration in Switzerland for the special issue in the Swiss Journal of Sociology, we were aware that we could not provide an exhaustive account. Space limitations do not allow this. Although we mentioned that “Given the profusion of research, our account will not be exhaustive and will invariably omit many important contributions.”, such a disclaimer never does justice to these who inadvertently are left out.

Heinz Bonfadelli was very kind to point out an excellent summary from the perspective of communication sciences, discussing amongst others the important role of Kurt Imhof at the University of Zurich. The focus of the chapter is on media representations, an important topic in sociology and communication sciences. With a more specific focus, the chapter can trace different thinking much more carefully.

Bonfadelli, Heinz, and Annelies Debrunner. 2019. ‘Migration und Medien – Ausländer und Minderheiten als Fremde’. Pp. 245–62 in Wandel der Öffentlichkeit und der Gesellschaft, edited by M. Eisenegger, L. Udris, and P. Ettinger. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden.

Chimienti, Milena, Claudio Bolzman, and Didier Ruedin. 2021. ‘The Sociology of Migration in Switzerland: Past, Present and Future’. Swiss Journal of Sociology 47(1):7–26. doi:

Join us at the NCCR on the move and the SFM in Neuchâtel! — Postdoctoral Researcher (70%)

Postdoctoral Researcher (70%) at the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) on the move and Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies at the University of Neuchâtel

Deadline: 15 December 2019.

Work as part of its project entitled ‘Migration, Mobility and the Democratic Welfare State’ to examine, in a historical and comparative perspective, how European welfare states have adapted to the twin challenges of international migration and mobility, from the redistributive ‘Golden Age’ in the 1970s to the present.

You will produce high quality original research and collaborate with other senior and PhD researchers already involved in the project. You may be given the opportunity to teach.

Suitable candidates should hold a PhD in History. Applications from persons with a PhD in Sociology, Political Science, or Political Theory and with an interest in historical analysis will also be considered.

Priority will be given to applicants with a proven track record of research experience in one or several of the following sub-fields: Migration; Social Policy; Comparative Politics; Welfare.

Starting date: 1 February 2020

Duration: Until May 2022 (26 months)

Full details here: