Conspiracy and Democracy: History, Political Theory and Internet Research
The Leverhulme-funded project based at Cambridge University at CRASSH
Directors: Professor Sir Richard J Evans (History), Professor John Naughton (CRASSH), Professor David Runciman (Politics and International Studies)
Theories and beliefs about conspiracies are an enduring feature of modern societies. This is partly a reflection of the fact that real conspiracies do exist, and have existed in the past. But the pervasiveness of conspiracy theories in the twenty-first century suggests that many other factors are also at work, And studying them provides opportunities for understanding how people make sense of the world and how societies function. What does the prevalence of conspiracy theories tell us about trust in democratic societies, and about the differences between cultures and societies? How have conspiracies and conspiracy theorising changed over the centuries and what, if any, is the relationship between them? Have conspiracy theories appeared at particular moments in history, and why?
This ambitious, five-year, interdisciplinary research project aims to explore these and related questions. It sets out not to debunk particular theories but to provide a “natural history” of conspiracy theorising. To do that, the project combines the perspectives, investigative methods and insights of historians, political theorists, network engineers and other disciplines to produce what we hope will be a deeper and richer understanding of a fascinating and puzzling phenomenon.