Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Social and Economic History

Dr. Laetitia Lenel

Dr. Laetitia Lenel
laetitia.lenel (at)

Humboldt-Universität → Präsidium → Philosophische Fakultät → Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften → Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte
Visiting address
Friedrichstraße 191-193 , Room 5049
Phone number
(030) 2093-70615



Laetitia Lenel studied history and philosophy at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, University of Geneva, and Charles University Prague. Ph.D. at the Chair of Social and Economic History, Humboldt-Universität (2021, summa cum laude); 2017/18 visiting scholar at the Department of History, Princeton University. She is currently a Post-doctoral fellow (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) at the Chair of Social and Economic History, Humboldt-Universität, and coordinator of the DFG priority program "Experience and Expectation. Historical Foundations of Economic Action.“
Laetitia’s research has been supported by the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes), the German Research Foundation (DFG), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Stiftung Bildung und Wissenschaft. Chairperson of the Arbeitskreis Geschichte+Theorie (together with Tobias Becker). In 2018, she has been awarded the Essay Prize WerkstattGeschichte. Her dissertation has been awarded the Humboldt Prize (2021), the Johann Gustav Droysen Prize (2022), the Friedrich Lütge Prize (2023), and the Otto Hintze Prize (2023). In 2023, the Tagesspiegel named her as one of Berlin's hundred most important scholars.


Her research interests include the history of economic practices and ideas, the history of capitalism, and the theory and history of historiography.



"Leviathan’s Sword. Arms Exports to South America, 1860-1914"

My latest research project examines the export of European and American arms to Argentina and Chile in the period from around 1860 to the eve of World War I. Inspired by current approaches in global history, new imperial history, and corporate history, I explore the interactions between entrepreneurs, commercial agents, investors, and bankers that underpinned the arms trade, as well as the relevant contacts between South American, North American, and European government and military officials. At issue are, inter alia, how the self-image(s) and sense of alterity of the actors and institutions involved informed these interactions, and the extent to which moral calculations—indeed constructions of "morality" tout court—served to shape them. The study renders the history of global weapons sales as a transcultural process—a shifting web of transfer and transformation, narrated in this case at both the individual and collective level, and in a way that makes the mutual influence of the several nodes clear. Throughout, I look particularly at the construction and circulation of (non-)knowledge about the alleged armament of various states, about the supposed actions of exporting entities, and about the creditworthiness of importing states: a set of interlocking informational—and not least of all epistemological—concerns, which, I claim, decisively shaped the dynamics of the arms trade.


"The Hopeful Science. A Transatlantic History of Business Forecasting, 1920-1960" (Dissertation)

How is it possible that most people agree that economists generally fail to foresee recessions and that forecasting has nevertheless not lost its appeal and importance? This paradox has formed the starting point of The Hopeful Science. By tracing the transatlantic history of business forecasting between 1920 and 1960 and its implications for economic and political decision-making until the late 1980s, my dissertation looks for an answer. In five chapters that focus on the origins and the transnational and, in some cases, global circulation of five different forecasting tools and techniques, I investigate how the role of business forecasting has changed over the course of the twentieth century, and how this was both a factor and an indicator of a changed conception of economic change and economics’ place in it that, in turn, shaped economic and political decision-making. As The Hopeful Science argues, business forecasting has produced several, often unforeseen and unintended effects, and in the process turned into an indispensable tool to reduce economic uncertainty and stabilize the capitalist order.




The Hopeful Science. A Transatlantic History of Business Forecasting, 1920–1960, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin [Manuscript, 2021, to be published with Cambridge University Press].

Humboldt Prize 2021, Johann Gustav Droysen Prize 2022, Friedrich-Lütge-Prize 2023, and Otto Hintze Prize 2023.


Edited Volumes

The Routledge Handbook of Economic Expectations in Historical Perspective (together with Alexander Nützenadel, Ingo Köhler, and Jochen Streb), London: Routledge (forthcoming, 2024).

"Forum Section on Economic Narratives" (together with Alexander Nützenadel), in: Journal of Modern European History 21.4 (Autumn 2023).

"Entangled Temporalities" (together with Hansun Hsiung and Anna-Maria Meister). Special Issue Journal for the History of Knowledge (Autumn 2023).

Futures Past. Economic Forecasting in the 20th and 21st Century (together with Ulrich Fritsche and Roman Köster), Berlin: Peter Lang 2018. The book can be found here.

Reviewed in the European Journal of the History of Economic Thought und in Politique étrangère.


Journal Articles

"Erwartung und Enttäuschung. Die transatlantische Geschichte der Konjunkturprognostik in drei Akten," Journal of History and Computing, Special Issue on the History of Forecasting (forthcoming, 2024).

"The Introduction of the Electronic Computer and the End of Business Forecasting at the NBER," in: Œconomia – History / Methodology / Philosophy 13-3 (December 2023), pp. 657-680.

"Economic Narratives and Economic Crises,” in: Journal of Modern European History 21.4 (Autumn 2023), pp. 9–12.

"Economic Narratives. Introduction" (together with Alexander Nützenadel), in: Journal of Modern European History 21.4 (Autumn 2023), pp. 2–3.

"Survivor Testimonies and the Problem of Time," in: Entangled Temporalities. Special Issue Journal for the History of Knowledge (Summer 2023), pp. 193-214. The article can be found here.

"Introduction: Entangled Temporalities" (together with Hansun Hsiung and Anna-Maria Meister), in: Entangled Temporalities. Special Issue Journal for the History of Knowledge 4 (Autumn 2023), pp. 9-32.

"Economists as Storytellers: Scenario Drafting at the International Monetary Fund," in: History of Political Economy 55.3 (2023), pp. 577-608. The article can be found here.

"Krise als Dauerzustand. Die Corona-Pandemie in der Geschichte der Gegenwart," in: Neue Politische Literatur (December 2022). The article can be found here.

"Konkurrenz oder Koproduktion? Zur Erinnerung an Holocaust und Kolonialverbrechen" (together with Catherine Davies), in: Merkur (September 2022), pp. 83-93.

"Searching for a Tide Table for Business: Interwar Conceptions of Statistical Inference in Business Forecasting," in: History of Political Economy 53.6 (2021), pp. 139–174. The article can be found here.

Reviewed in Smith and Marx Walk into a Bar: A History of Economics Podcast.

"Mapping the Future. Business Forecasting and the Dynamics of Capitalism in the Interwar Period," in: Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte/Economic History Yearbook 59.2 (2018), pp. 377–413. The working paper version can be downloaded here.

"As He Lay Dying. Vom Problem der Wahrheit in der Geschichte," in: WerkstattGeschichte 78 (2018), pp. 73–80. The article can be found here.

Essay Prize WerkstattGeschichte 2018.


Book Chapters

"Economic Forecasting" (together with Werner Reichmann), in: Ingo Köhler, Laetitia Lenel, Alexander Nützenadel and Jochen Streb (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Economic Expectations in Historical Perspective, London: Routledge (forthcoming, 2024).

"Mapping Economic Interdependence: Creating the Periphery in the Inter-War Period" (together with Jeremy Adelman and Pablo Pryluka), in: Jeremy Adelman/Andreas Eckert (eds.), Nations, Empires and Other World Products: Making Narratives Across Borders (forthcoming, 2024).

"Introduction" (together with Ulrich Fritsche and Roman Köster), in: Ulrich Fritsche, Roman Köster and Laetitia Lenel (eds.), Futures Past. Economic Forecasting in the 20th and 21st Century, Berlin: Peter Lang 2018, pp. 11–29.



Review of Lisa Eiling, Primat der Praxis. Bernhard Harms und das Institut für Weltwirtschaft 1913–1933, in: H-Soz-Kult (2024).

Review of Francesco Boldizzoni, Foretelling the End of Capitalism. Intellectual Misadventures since Karl Marx, in: H-Soz-Kult (2022).

Review of Jamie Pietruska, Looking Forward. Prediction and Uncertainty in Modern America, in: H-Soz-Kult (2018).

Review of Tim Schanetzky, Regierungsunternehmer. Henry J. Kaiser, Friedrich Flick und die Staatskonjunkturen in den USA und Deutschland, in: German History 34.4 (2016), pp. 710–712.


Newspapers, Blogs, etc.

"Konjunkturprognosen." Interview with Philipp Anft, WDR 5 Politikum. Der Meinungspodcast, 09.01.2024,

"Systemfragen. Warum Hochstapelei uns fasziniert." Interview with Stephanie Gebert, Deutschlandfunk, January 04, 2024,

"Kenne doch die Kundschaft. Warum finden Prognosen trotz Falsifizierung Abnehmer? Ökonomische Voraussagen dienen dem informellen Erwartungsaustausch", in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 27, 2023, p. N 3.

"Wieviel Gegenwart verträgt die Geschichtsforschung?", in: Vergangenheitsformen, H-Soz-Kult Podcast. Together with Kevin Lenk, Helge Jonas Pösche and Janosch Steuwer.

"Konjunkturprognosen." Interview with Philipp Janssen, Anno PunktPunktPunkt 091 (2023),

"The Formation of the NBER: Insights from the Rockefeller Archive Center", Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports, September 2021,

"Geschichte ohne Libretto", in: H-Soz-Kult, Forum: Zeiterfahrung, December 05, 2020,

"Gezeiten der Wirtschaft. Konjunkturprognosen und ihre Inszenierung", in: Geschichte der Gegenwart, November 22, 2020,

"Alles schon mal dagewesen?", in: Program for "Einer gegen alle," Residenztheater Munich, October 2020, pp. 14-18,

"Public and Scientific Uncertainty in the Time of COVID-19“, History of Knowledge, May 13, 2020,

"Alles neu macht das Coronavirus?“, SciLogs, April 12, 2020,, also published as „Alles neu macht das Coronavirus?“, Demokratiegeschichten, May 18, 2020,

Translation of Ford Madox Ford, “Arbeiten mit Conrad“, in: SINN UND FORM 5 (2018), pp. 674–677.

„Am Ende eines schrecklichen Jahres”, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 20, 2017, p. N 4.



Twitter @LaetitiaLenel