On Monday 26 February 2024, Assistant Professor Sarah Nelson (Leiden University) will lead the sixth session of the Seminar Series on Modern North American History, organized in cooperation with the Sciences Po Center for History (CHSP) in Paris.

This is a hybrid event. You can attend her lecture, titled Networking Empire: Communications, Decolonization, and American Power in the 20th Century, in person at Leiden University from 17:00 to 18:30 CET. Alternatively, you can attend online.

Information Freedom

In her presentation, Nelson will explore the complex history of “information freedom,” its ties to imperial ambitions and anti-colonial struggles, and its impact on global governance and power dynamics.

“Information freedom” is a powerful and tricky discourse in the 21st century. It often trades in the sense that information “wants to be free”: that the unrestrained flow of information across borders inherently facilitates freedom of speech, liberal marketplaces of goods and ideas, and democratic self-expression. But this idea has a long and fraught history. Since as early as the interwar period, campaigns for “information freedom” have been freighted with imperial ambition and anti-colonial protest, inspiring fierce debate between state actors, engineers, press professionals, and social scientists about what information freedom means and what kinds of international regulatory orders should be made in its name.

From the telegraph to the early internet

This talk will trace this history as it unfolded as technologies evolved from the telegraph to the early internet—and as the world order simultaneously transformed from one of empires to one of nation states—showing how these contestations became referenda on the legacies of empire in international governance, the power of the United States abroad, and the possibilities for economic and cultural sovereignty amid decolonization.

Sarah Nelson

Sarah Nelson is an Assistant Professor of History and International Studies at Leiden University. She completed her Ph.D. in history, and a Joint-Ph.D. in Comparative Media, from Vanderbilt University in 2021. Before joining the faculty at Leiden, she held postdoctoral fellowships on the ERC-funded research project “Invisible Histories of the United Nations and the Global South” and at Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History. From 2020-2021, Sarah was the Ambrose Monell Fellow for Technology and Democracy at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation at the University of Virginia. Her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for Humanities, the Botsiber Institute, the Society for the History of Technology, and others.

Registering for the event

For more information on Sarah Nelson and the event, click on the invitation. If you are interested in attending this lecture, please register here before Friday 23 February.

We look forward to seeing you there.