In 2020, we started EuropeDebate with an essay on “Present Challenges and Future Avenues for Doing European History”. In particular, we asked about the place of European history as a field of research between the persistence of national historiographies and the challenges of global history. We proposed to discuss variants of mental mapping within European history, the persisting fragmentation of the field along national boundaries, methodological challenges and the heuristic potential of transfer and comparison, the impact of institutional contexts as well as the implications of language barriers, of publishing cultures and of the respective national historiographic traditions for doing European history in different places in Europe.
In two rounds of essays, contributors discussed these issues from very broad and diverse European and global perspectives. The contributions testified to the fact that the place from which we write history matters. They provided insights into the multiplicity of “centrisms” within European history, into the continuing impact of models, of perceived hierarchies between centres and peripheries – albeit with contesting ideas about where centres and peripheries lie. It became clear that questions of self-location vis-à-vis Europe on the one hand and the neighbouring regions on the other depend to a large extent on geographical location, but also on established ways of seeing, on national self-images rooted in history. “Europe” in various meanings is undoubtedly an important point of reference for the different European historiographies, however, it is neither the only, nor necessarily, the most important one. Doing European history, furthermore, takes different meanings and forms, which often are shaped by national contexts. Interlinking historiographies in Europe is still a challenge.
With the coming round of contributions, we intend to broaden the perspective. We have invited historians who write from a non-European perspective – in one way or another. Some contributing scholars are based in institutions in different parts of the world outside Europe, as we are interested in how institutional contexts, public debates, and research structures in different historiographies shape the way European history is written. We have also invited scholars – independently of their institutional setting – who focus their work on Europe’s relations and interconnections with various other world regions. Many of them have areas of expertise that lie in other world regions and are interested in the historic and historiographic relationship of these regions to Europe/European history. We are at the same time aware of the pitfall of reproducing ideas of “inside” and “outside” Europe; the problems of such binaries form an integral part of the coming round of debate.
“Europe” and “European history” do have different meanings within Europe, as many contributors have shown, and the multiplicity of meanings increases when perspectives from “beyond” Europe are included.
Sonja Levsen and Jörg Requate