Historical Context

Statue of President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C

In this websection, MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences draws on the expertise of our faculty and colleagues across the Institute to provide research-based insights and resources for strengthening democracy at home and around the world.

Democracy Homepage

                                         Gallery of Publications

(from left) Steve Koonin, Kerry Emanuel, and moderator Brad Skow sit at a table in front of an audience discussing climate change challenges. There are bottles of water on the table at which they are seated. The screen behind them features an image of a slide being projected with a web address visible that reads civildiscourse.mit.edu.

A civil discourse on climate change

The forum is the first in a series planned at MIT this year, part of an initiative meant to encourage the open exchange of ideas.

The 2023 cohort with Prof. Helen Elaine Lee (left) and guide Pedro Moreira (center) at the Rio Museum of Art

MIT SHASS undergraduates study race, place, and modernity in Brazil

MIT undergraduates visit São Paulo for the Independent Activities Period (IAP) subject “Race, Place, and Modernity in the Americas.

Lerna Ekmekcioglu at a lectern behind a MacBook wearing a black jacket and white shirt delivering a talk at an event

Centering feminism: Investigating marginalized women and potential empowerment

Lerna Ekmekcioglu, MIT’s McMillan-Stewart Associate Professor of History and the director of MIT’s Women’s and Gender Studies program, researches a more inclusive feminism. 

detail,We the People


A Sampler of MIT Research on U.S. Democracy

A distilled selection of key research, news, and media commentaries from the past year on the state of U.S. democracy, from scholars in MIT's humanities and social science fields. What can leaders and We, the People do to sustain our democracy? Prepared for 6 January 2022. 

portrait of Daron Acemoglu


The permanent struggle for liberty

Daron Acemoglu’s new book examines the battle between state and society, which occasionally produces liberal-democratic freedom.

Door to MIT Building 10


Making A Just Society

Resources from the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. The Making A Just Society websection includes these categories: Research; Books; the MIT & Slavery Project; Indigenous Peoples; Undergraduate Courses; Free Online MIT Courses; Other MIT Resources; and Elective Affinities, relevant resources beyond MIT.  

Elizabeth Wood


3Q with historian and Russia expert Elizabeth Wood

How do we understand Russia’s multi-layered interference in the 2016 Elections? MIT historian and Russia expert Elizabeth Wood analyzes Russia’s motives.


Christine Walley on Work, Stories, and American Identity

"Building bridges requires going to the experiential core of our own stories, developing interpretations to make sense of them — and also listening carefully to the stories of others."


The Task of History

MIT historians discuss the power of historical knowledge to help make a better world.


3 Questions with historian Malick Ghachen
On finding root causes: how history helps us solve today's issues

"One of the principal ways historians contribute to problem-solving work at MIT and elsewhere is by helping to identify what the real problem is in the first place. When we understand and articulate the roots and sources of a problem, we have a much better chance of actually solving it." 


Election Insights 2016: Elizabeth Wood on the Putinization of Politics

"The casualty of the 'Putinization' of American elections is the creation of a Reality TV style of campaigning based on machismo, a loss of authenticity, and a failure to acknowledge the importance of institutions, laws, and solid economic policies designed to increase the general welfare of the nation."


Economists Daron Acemoglu of MIT and James Robinson publish new thesis on the wealth of nations

A collection of the significant reviews, interviews, videos, broadcasts about the thesis on the origins of power, prosperity, and poverty

US Constitution


Maier's Ratification delivers new knowledge about the adoption of the US Constitution, the most consequential debate in American history

"A stunning examination of... 'the beginning of American national politics' — the debate that explains the way we Americans govern ourselves, resolve disputes, conduct diplomacy, choose leaders and protect our freedoms."