• Marijn Molema, Fryske Akademy, Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, the Netherlands
  • Arno van der Zwet, University of the West of Scotland, UK
  • Martin Åberg, Centre for Regional Studies, University of Karlstad
  • Sara Svensson, Center for Policy Studies, Central European University

The past plays a crucial role in understanding, developing and implementing regional economic development policies. History reveals path dependencies in regions’ economies and informs about the successes and failures of policy instruments. Nevertheless, most politicians, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and indeed, academics are forward looking in their approaches. Whilst taking into account past lessons, they usually ignore historical approaches and methodologies in their analysis of regional economic development issues.

The main objective of the network was to explore, what a historic perspective may contribute to regional studies as well as current regional policy making and how approaches and methodologies used by historians can be better integrated in the regional studies. As such the network reflects on the methodologies and historiographies of both the historical sciences and regional studies. The network examined processes of continuity and turning points in regional development and policy making

The network organised five ‘stand-alone’ international workshops at different locations in Europe. The workshops encouraged discussion and learning between academics, and interaction with policy makers. Each of the workshops were locally organised:

  1. Start-up meeting, London (25/26 April 2017)
  2. Cross border cooperation in the past, present & future, Budapest (29/30 June 2017)
  3. Historical constructions of regions and regionalism, Karlstad (30/31 October 2017)
  4. An historical account of regional resilience, Leeuwarden (14-16 January 2018)
  5. A historical perspective on Multi-Level urban Economic development Policy, Paisley (29-30 November 2018

Next to the five network workshops, two special sessions were organised during the annual RSA European Conference in 2018 and 2019. In Lugano (2018) we organised an open and general session entitled ‘Historical origins and long-term effects of regional development concepts’ with three papers. In Santiago de Compostela (2019) we organized a Round Table session about the edited book that resulted out of the network. The book will be published at the end of 2019 in the Routldge ‘Regions & Cities Series’ and is titled Regional Economic Development and History. Six renown colleagues from within Regional Studies gave their positive as well as critical feed-back. The book itself draws mainly from contributions presented in the London-workshop.

Next to the edited volume, a special issue on Resilience in regional economic systems in under construction. Two out of five articles are under peer review for the Business History journal (July 2019). The special issue project is a spin-off from the Leeuwarden-workshop held in Leeuwarden. We also tried to combine contributions from the Budapest-workshop and the Karlstad-workshop into a special issue, but the proposal was rejected by three journals, because the interdisciplinary approach did not fit well enough. The same reason was the main ground of rejection of a Horizon-2020 proposal that was submitted in February 2019 . The organisational and intellectual core of the proposal was prepared within the ReHi network and was aimed at researching the long term resilience of medium sized cities in Europe. These disappointment were the most concrete difficulty we encountered when it comes to a multidisciplinary endeavour such as the ReHi-network.

Nevertheless, within a short time span of 2,5 years the ReHi-networks explored the methodological, theoretical and societal corner stones of a multidisciplinary field. It turned out that scholars from both Regional Studies and historical sciences appreciated and can use each other perspectives. In a more focused way, we hope to continue the discussion. Not in the form of a new application within the RSA Research Network funding scheme, but during the RSA and other conferences such as the European Social Science History Conference.