The Quest for (a Utopian?) European History

Efi Avdela

It is certainly not fortuitous that we are again invited to discuss the present and future of contemporary European history as a field of research at this moment. 1 The last ten years have been marked by successive global crises – first financial, then refugee and most recently medical – that have made the notion of ‘Europe’ as a common ground for social policies, unified politics and economic exchange fragile. This is a thorny issue because any discussion about imagined geographies has political, institutional, and epistemological implications depending on the position from which any answer is formed. From a Greek perspective, one cannot disassociate the question of ‘Which Europe?’ from ‘Which Greece in which Europe?’

A debate with a history of its own

In fact, the discussion to which the editors invite us about European history versus national history on the one hand and global history on the other itself has a long history. After World War I, the quest for a comparative history of Europe was put forward as a precondition for overcoming a positivist national and often nationalist history2. More recently, since the 1990s, scholarly journals and edited volumes debated whether it is possible to write a European history. At first this was prompted by the optimistic belief in a unified greater Europe that accompanied the fall of the Berlin wall, and then at the level of the European Union through repeated attempts to construct a history of the ‘Europeans’.3 The debate was reinvigorated with the critique of Eurocentric approaches to history by imperial and postcolonial scholars, and the challenges posed by transnational and global historians.

The most recent contributions have repeatedly highlighted the problems and limits of European history as it has been traditionally practiced.  It has been critiqued as essentialist, Eurocentric, limited to a Western ‘small Europe’4, as a simple compiling of closed national narratives that are based on ‘historical fictions of autonomy’5 and as ‘methodological nationalism’6. In this context, according to the editors, European history currently faces two overriding obstacles: to incorporate the various European historiographies and to face the competitive institutional and public challenge of global history.7 Their voice echoes recent scholarship, advocating that the reinvention of European history depends on it being critical, plural, inclusive, open to the world, integrating all parts of Europe as well as other parts of the world, and preoccupied ‘with transnational exchanges and historical spaces’8, while acknowledging internal asymmetries and dependencies. This discussion has been comprehensive in its visualisation of what form a new European history should take, although it has said little in relation to how this can be achieved in present day Europe, however this is conceived. I argue that the issue is primarily political, not technical or epistemological, and that therefore there are very few ‘practical ways’ to overcome this challenge.

Up to now the above discussion was largely based on the consensus that there is as much need to go beyond national history as there is to go beyond Eurocentrism. The repudiation of national history has its own long history. In most recent times, it was a way out of the fierce debates and the bitter splits of the international historical community in the 1980s and 1990s related to the linguistic turn. At the same time, it was energized by the growth of imperial and postcolonial history that put forward critiques of Eurocentrism and the need to study metropoles and their colonies together. Dramatic titles in books and articles emphasized the urgent need to go beyond national history and the difficulties in achieving this goal.9 The spread of transnational and global histories, focusing on interconnections beyond national borders, made this need seem self-evident. This ‘swelling interest in overcoming national history’, according to Q. Edward Wang, has benefited the advance of global history and was accompanied by the realisation that European historiographies were persistently Eurocentric and a desire to leave this behind.10 Yet, while all participants admit that ‘Europe’ and ‘European history’ are constructs, ‘national history’ is seldom problematized. It is presented as both homogeneous and introverted, its meaning and form are taken for granted, and historians are pictured as longing to free themselves from its shackles.

Reconsidering ‘Eurocentrism’ from a Greek perspective

In what follows, I make three inter-related points from a Greek perspective:

1. The desire to go beyond national history is not equally relevant to all European historiographies. On the one hand, ‘small’ language-speaking European historians are obliged to open their national history to the wider world whenever they want to address an English-speaking audience. On the other hand, as I shall try to show below, ‘small’ or ‘peripheral’ European cases can demonstrate that there can be a European, transnational and/or global national history. We also need, however, to explain further what ‘Europanising’ national histories means11 and how this is connected to relations of power on both an academic and an institutional level.

2. The need to go against the ‘epistemic trap of Eurocentrism’12, which has gained extra prominence in the wake of the postcolonial critique and exemplified by the much-cited Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference13, does not engage all parts of Europe equally. It concerns only a small number of Western European historiographies, which need to come to grips with their colonial and imperial pasts. The majority of European historiographies, construed in this debate as ‘peripheral’, are striving to overcome their marginalisation and become visible by elaborating the historical consequences of their ‘peripheral’ positions.

3. The practical obstacles in ‘interweaving European historiographies’ are both shaped and closely linked to economic, political, and historiographic hierarchies and imbalances of power within Europe. Historiographic power at the European level is defined by the asymmetries of its distribution. There are multiple reasons that explain this, ranging from differences in the formation of contemporary historiographies and diverse and historically contingent meanings of Europe, to the structural inequalities in material resources, language skills, and research funding of the different countries within Europe. One only needs to look at the difficulties faced by non-native-English-speaking historians publishing in English and the indifference shown towards non-Western contributions to European historiographies as proof of the above observations. As a result, much of European history written in ‘small’ languages remains unknown to most European historians.14

1. Going beyond national history and decentering models

In Greece, research in European history is hosted in the academy and is closely related to teaching. Most history departments have at least one specialist in European history. Usually they teach and research the medieval or early modern periods, but there are also some scholars of nineteenth and twentieth century Europe. As elsewhere15, historians occupying these posts frequently specialize in one European language-state-people (outside of the Greeks and Greece), teaching a variety of generalized European history courses. Currently, historians teaching contemporary European history specialize in United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, or France. As researchers they face unique difficulties, operating in a context where history largely remains Greece-centered both within the academy and the public domain. If they want to make their research results known to the Greek public and publish in Greek, they frequently do not have interlocutors. Publishing in non-Greek languages, they normally face competition from established historical and linguistic communities.

During the last thirty years, Greek historiography – especially more contemporary history – has developed and diversified, becoming more outward facing with more publications in non-Greek languages, especially English. The growing number of Greek historians willing to integrate the Greek case into various international historiographic debates through their research has had two main consequences. First, it has encouraged them to be more outward looking in their writing of history – to ‘Europeanise’ or/and ‘globalise’ it – when publishing in English. However, the geographical references of each case depend on the specific research being conducted as well as the historically changing place accorded to Greece in particular mental maps. Whether Greece is considered part of Ottoman, Balkan, Southern or Southeastern European, or European history is a matter of historiographic politics, but also a consequence of politics in the sense of the changing position of the country in geopolitical hierarchies.

For example, if I want to publish an article in English on the foundations of the Greek juvenile justice mechanism in the 1940s, I might wish to integrate this case into the historiography of juvenile justice in Europe and beyond. In doing so, I would identify the influences from abroad that have shaped Greek protagonists and the way in which these influences modified local debates and legislative measures, comparing these forms and practices internationally. I might also explain why what Western Eurocentrism – still prevalent in historiography – would characterise as ‘delay’ in the Greek case is, in fact, a consequence of many factors that need to be contextualised and historicised. Finally, I might argue that the inclusion of the Greek case into the history of juvenile justice could alter the established narrative.

This is not solely a Greek predicament. In order to counterbalance the widespread evolutionism and exceptionalism of much of European historiography, historians of ‘small’ or ‘peripheral’ European cases have to convince their English-speaking audience that what is needed is the de-centering of the ‘model’.16 This later viewpoint can have positive effects for both European history and national historiographies.

The second consequence of this growing ‘internationalisation’ of Greek historiography is the realisation that a European, transnational, or even global ‘national’ history is possible. I will give two examples from the Greek case, one from an earlier period outside of the periodisation assigned by the editors, the other focused on the twentieth century. My point here is that all national histories are not the same.

The year 2021 will coincide with the celebration of the bicentennial of the Greek revolution, resulting in the foundation of the Greek state. The formation of the Greek state and the process of its construction constitutes the core of the predominant Greek national and nationalistic historiography. 1821, however, was a European transnational event.  It unsettled the Holy Alliance; it generated a strong Philhellenic movement across Europe; and it involved the diplomatic, financial, and military intervention of the great European powers. But it was also a global event. It shook the Ottoman Empire and was part of the Age of Revolutions in Europe, South America, and beyond. Finally, it became an integral part of the ideologies of romanticism and nationalism. Of the celebratory activities planned for next year, conferences and collective volumes promoting the European and the global dimensions of the Greek revolution have been proposed as central components in the innovation of national historiography. They will form an important counterpart to both official and public histories of national reawakening and triumph, providing an opportunity to further open up Greek history, ‘globalizing’ and ‘Europeanising’ while underlining its connections with other parts of the world.

The same inextricable links between Greek, European, and global histories are applicable to the most important military and political events of the Greek twentieth century: the Balkan Wars; the Asia Minor expedition and the ensuing Greco-Turkish war; the Second World War; the Holocaust; the Civil War; and the 1967 military junta. For instance, the Greek Civil War of 1946-1949 – fought on European soil – marked the beginning of the Cold War and involved British and American military intervention. Integrating this into a European history questions the traditional argument that the Cold War remained ‘cold’ in Europe while ‘hot’ in other parts of the world.

2. Greek history as European history

Greek historians increasingly strive to have their contemporary national history recognized as ‘European’ because it is not traditionally viewed as such. In the dominant mental maps of European historiographies, and in spite ‘the fundamental importance [that] archaic and classical Greece plays as an arsenal and sounding board for the Western tale’17, contemporary Greece is (during different historical periods) part of the ‘Levante,’ the ‘Balkans,’ the margin of Europe, the ‘South,’ or one of the ‘PIGS,’ but not necessarily ‘European’.18This is not only the product of the way others view Greek history, but also the consequence of constructing a national historiography, which in Greece – as elsewhere – was heavily conditioned by the particular exigencies of nation-building and changing forms of nationalism.

Historians of other ‘marginal’ regions of Europe might consider Greece an exception in respect to the lack of integration of Southeastern European historiographies.19 This is hardly the case. More Greek historians are participating in collective volumes dedicated to European history or other fields of research than in the past, but this participation remains the exception.

I still remember my frustration in the early 2000s when I read A History of European Women’s Work (2002), by Deborah Simonton. At that time, there were several publications in English written by Greek historians concerning women’s work in Greece in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Simonton’s book made no mention of Greece. As she explained, her aim was to identify distinct patterns in various European countries ‘while locating trends which held across Europe,’ however, she concentrated solely on ‘the story of women’s work primarily in Western Europe’20: namely, United Kingdom, France, Germany plus some mentions of Italy, the Netherlands and a few others. Why Portugal was included and not Spain to this day remains a mystery to me.

Five years later, the collected volume on European women edited by the same historian went much further.21 In her introduction, she recognized all the pitfalls and the restrictions of adopting a purely Western European historical perspective.  However, with a similar phraseology to her previous work, she noted that the volume primarily focussed on Western Europe because there was more research and it was more convenient. In this volume, there are several mentions of Greece, yet all – but one – references are to non-Greek historians.

This comes as no surprise to the participants of this debate, since the need to overcome Eurocentrism, evolutionism, and internal marginalisations is clearly advocated by the editors. Others have repeatedly made similar remarks.22 Of course, inclusion is not an issue of justice or injustice. It is mainly a matter of relevance.  It depends on the criteria used when choices of inclusion are made.  It also depends on whether each national historiography on a specific theme has particularly relevant or unique cases and arguments in relation to the designated debate. Thus, who sets the terms of the historiographic debates also sets the terms of visibility – and this is of utmost importance.

We must acknowledge that Eurocentrism, in the sense of Western Europe as the centre of the world, is still prevalent in much of ‘European’ historiography. We are still far from ‘focusing on the role of Europe’s ‘smaller nations’ and (re)integrating their histories into the study of wider events, trends and institutions’.23

3. Asymmetries, hierarchies and their consequences

One crucial reason for this persistence relates to ‘asymmetric processes, the formation and development of dependencies … within Europe’,24 as well as globally. The historically shaped political and economic hierarchies and imbalances of power within Europe have important effects on the unequal visibility of the various European historiographies, accentuated by language barriers and funding discrepancies. ‘Small-language’ European contemporary historians face a double bind: on the one hand they want to write in their native language in order to express themselves fluently, helping to shape a strong national historiographical community.25  On the other hand, they have to write in English to contribute to historiographic debates in their specific field of historical study and provide their research with a greater readership. The language in which we write, however, directly impacts the way we conceive and express our analysis and the comparative terms we use to relate our research to others. The epistemological and historiographic consequences in writing history in languages other than our own – most often in English, but also in other languages, depending on your linguistic skills – are rarely discussed. Nor are the potential losses of European historiographies addressed from not engaging with the often untranslatable insights, formulations, and concepts employed by ‘small-language’ historians.

The implications of ‘anglicisation’ are even more wide reaching. Writing scholarly articles in a non-native language is one challenge, publishing a book in a foreign language, however, is a separate issue. Not all academic institutions are capable of providing funds to cover the costs of translation, meaning researchers are often faced with the option of personally underwriting them or attempting to write directly in English – a time consuming endeavour at the expense of potential research. All this, before trying to find an editor interested in publishing the work. This is how ‘hierarchies of academic, linguistic, editorial and political power’ are constructed26 and why, as many acknowledge, ‘the majority of [non-Anglophone] publications … [fail] to appear in English and to receive the attention they deserve.27

The emergence of global history has accentuated the issues relating to ‘small-language’ European historiographies. This is most visible in editorial policies. Publishers have more ‘interest in bringing in the non-West ‘other’ for correcting Eurocentrism’28 than adding another European case with unproven originality.29 Consequently, often writers’ only hope is the occasional series dedicated to the history of the relevant region or country.

As the editors attest, there are other important factors relating to these inequalities. The historical context in which each historiography has developed, the local needs to deconstruct national myths, and influence ‘public histories’ shape the possibilities and highlight the difficulties of proposing new methodologies, attempting to set historical questions with wider relevance, and increasing visibility.

The main question is already set: How to achieve a pluralistic approach of European history within and beyond (which?) Europe.30 The answer is also set: by changing perspective, admitting and combating dependencies and inequalities, deconstructing conceptualisations taken for granted, and promoting networking and exchanges.  Existing networks attest to the richness but also the limits of these integrating efforts.31 It is essential that we keep trying and doing our best. At some point, however, must we not admit that this quest is a project too good to be true?  

Cite this article as:

Efi Avdela: The Quest for (a Utopian?) European History, in: Sonja Levsen / Jörg Requate (eds.), Why Europe, Which Europe? A Debate on Contemporary European History as a Field of Research, November 2, 2020, https://europedebate.hypotheses.org/301.

  1. For our discussions and their suggestions in earlier drafts of this paper, many thanks to Akis Papataxiarchis, Rika Benveniste, Tonia Kiousopoulou, and Dimitra Lampropoulou. []
  2. Marc Bloch, 1928, Pour une histoire comparée des sociétés européennes, in: Revue de synthèse historique 46 (1928),  pp. 15-50. []
  3. Hélène Ahrweiler/ Maurice Aymard (eds.), Les Européens, Paris 2000. []
  4. Jitka Malečková, Gender, History and ‘Small Europe’, in: European History Quarterly 40.4 (2010), pp. 685-700. []
  5. Michael Geyer,  Historical Fictions of Autonomy and the Europeanization of National History, in: Central European History 22 (1989) pp. 316-342. []
  6. Andreas Wimmer / Nina Glick-Schiller, Methodological Nationalism and Beyond: Nation-State Building, Migration and the Social Sciences, in: Global Networks 2.4 (2002), pp. 301-334. []
  7. Sonja Levsen / Jörg Requate, Why Europe, Which Europe? Present Challenges and Future Avenues for Doing European History, in: Sonja Levsen / Jörg Requate (eds)., Why Europe, Which Europe? A Debate on the Present and Future of Contemporary European History as a Field of Research, October 15, 2020, https://europedebate.hypotheses.org/86. []
  8. Laurence Cole / Philipp Ther, Introduction: Current Challenges of Writing European History, in: European History Quarterly 40.4 (2010), pp. 581-892: 586. []
  9. Prasenjit Duara, Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China, Chicago 1995; Antoinette Burton, On the Inadequacy and the Indispensability of the Nation, in: Idem. (ed.), After the Imperial Turn: Thinking With and Through the Nation, Durham NC 2003, pp. 1-23. []
  10. Edward Q. Wang, Toward a Multidirectional Future of Historiography: Globality, Interdisciplinarity and Posthumanity, in: History and Theory 59.2 (2020), pp. 283–302. []
  11. Levsen – Requate 2020. []
  12. Levsen – Requate 2020. []
  13. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton 2000. []
  14. Wang 2020: 294. []
  15. Lynn Hunt, Is European History Passé?, in: Perspectives on History 40.8 (2002), pp. 1–6. []
  16. Fabio Giomi / Stefano Petrungaro (eds.), Voluntary Associations in Yugoslavia (1918-1941) / Le fait associatif en Yougoslavie (1918-1941), Special issue, European Review of History: Revue européenne d’histoire 26.1 (2019); Dan Diner, Cataclysms: A History of the Twentieth Century from Europe’s Edge, Madison 2008. []
  17. Diner 2008: 8; see also Mark Mazower, Democracy’s Cradle, Rocking the World, in: The New York Times, June 29, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/30/opinion/30mazower.html (last access 23/7/2020). []
  18. Wang 2020: 291; Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans, New York 1997. []
  19. Malečková 2010: 689. []
  20. Deborah Simonton, A History of European Women’s Work: 1700 to the Present, London 2002: 6. []
  21. Deborah Simonton (ed.), The Routledge History of Women in Europe Since 1700, London 1997. []
  22. Patricia Clavin, Time, Manner, Place: Writing Modern European History in Global, Transnational and International Contexts, in: European History Quarterly 40.4 (2010) pp. 624-640; Jörn Leonhard, Comparison, Transfer and Entanglement, or: How to Write Modern European History today?, in: Journal of Modern European History 14.2 (2016), pp. 149-163: 154; Malečková 2010. []
  23. Clavin 2010: 632. []
  24. Levsen – Requate 2020, points 6-8. []
  25. Ann Curthoys, We’ve Just Started Making National Histories, and You Want Us to Stop Already?, in: Antoinette Burton (ed.), After the Imperial Turn: Thinking with and through the Nation, Durham NC  2003, pp. 84-85. []
  26. Giulia Calvi, Global Trends: Gender Studies in Europe and the US, in: European History Quarterly 40.4 (2010), pp. 641-655: 643. []
  27. Wang 2020: 294; also, Dominic Sachsenmaier, World History as Ecumenical History?, in: Journal of World History, 18.4 (2007), pp. 465-489, cited by Calvi 2010: 642. []
  28. Wang 2020: 294. []
  29. Malečkova 2010: 693. []
  30. Levsen – Requate 2020. []
  31. COST Action Who Cares in Europe?, https://whocaresineurope.eu/ (last access 25/7/2020). []

The Crisis of European History

Martin Conway

The idea that Europe is in crisis constitutes one of the most widely repeated phrases of our age. Of course not everybody shares the same understanding of the crisis; but the sense that Europe – as an entity, as a set of institutions, or perhaps more profoundly as a culture bounded by certain core values – is in crisis is an assumption which it has become difficult to avoid, and still more to refute.

Historians, of course, are not particularly enamoured of languages of crisis. We have seen them before: in feudal Europe, in the seventeenth century, in the late ancien régime, and most profoundly in the first half of the twentieth century. Such precedents relativize the present-day language of crisis, and give us reason to consider what is at stake behind its widespread use. Languages of crisis are never objective, and they are often resorted to by those who have a stake in the existing regime. This seems particularly so in the current circumstances. The present-day sense of crisis is rooted in shifts in power from west to east within Europe, in the changing structures of the European economy, in the volatile electoral behaviour of voters, and in the erosion of the liberal value structures of the post-Christian society of the second half of the twentieth century. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the language of crisis is voiced primarily by those who feel threatened by these changes: the political elites of a Western-oriented Europe, those social groups rendered vulnerable by forms of neo-liberalism and globalisation, and an intelligentsia accustomed to the defence of a pluralist and western model of society. Crisis in this context is the language of losers, or more specifically of those who fear that they have something to lose.

Historians are not neutral in this process. By their social background, intellectual formation, and historical studies, they are inclined to regard the Europe of the present-day – or more exactly what was until recently the present-day – as the product of long- and short-term processes which possessed an underlying historical rationale. The European Union, the social-market economy, and the emancipatory logics of an increasingly plural but united model of society, are all aspects of the Europe in which most historians came of age, and which tacitly or explicitly they tend to regard as the consequence of Europe’s long and contested process of modernisation. Many contemporary European historians are in this respect believers in a soft teleology. The united democratic Europe which emerged in the 1990s might not have constituted, in Francis Fukuyama’s formula, the end of history, but to many it seemed that it had long been the direction in which Europe was headed.

History and Europe became, in this sense, mutually reinforcing constructions in the final decades of the twentieth century. Europe was the product of history; but, equally, contemporary history acquired a purpose and a sense of direction through Europe. This latter process went much deeper than some simple partisanship for Europe on the part of historians, though there was (and remains) an element of that as well.1 More importantly, Europe became the prism through which many historians approached their subject matter. As is often the case, there was a strong generational element to this historiographical trend. Europe became the new home of a predominantly younger cohort of historians, for whom the ‘other’ against which they chose to define themselves was the national-oriented historiographies (and historians) that had flourished in the decades immediately following the Second World War. As the manifesto which launched this debate well indicates, the wish to define the project of European history against the mentality of the Sonderweg remains a defining element of the project of European history.

Europe as a subject and a methodology

This discovery of Europe – a point that would in truth have hardly come as a surprise to historians of earlier centuries of European history – became the new focus for the writing of much contemporary history. Multi-volume histories of Europe flourished, of which the five-volume Storia d’Europa published by Einaudi from 1993, with the collaboration of a stellar and for once genuinely international team of historians, was perhaps the most imposing achievement. Significantly too, it started from the present-day, with the publication of the first volume as L’Europa oggi.2 Europe, it suggested, was best understood from the vantage point of the present, which provided the template by which to examine the Europes of the past.

Europe served a dual purpose in such studies. It was both a subject, and a methodology, seeking to identify the ways in which larger processes which one might identify as European emerged at different points in the history of the continent. This historiographical trend, to which Kiran Klaus Patel and I made our own modest contribution,3 drew its energy from the intuitive sense that Europe was not just a useful framework for studying historical problems, but also a means of rethinking contemporary European history, outside of national parameters. What was interesting, for us at least, in the study of Europeanisation was the way in which it changed chronologies, and made new sense of processes of political, social and cultural change which were in danger of becoming overly familiar. By focusing on the changing dynamics of the European, we could identify how different forms and definitions of Europe had waxed and waned across the modern history of Europe. This mentality might have been Europeanist; but it was also emphatically historical. In an era when the ascendancy of the EU risked diminishing other chronologies, it provided a means of indicating that other Europes had existed, and would no doubt do so in the future.

A rallying-call for a generation

This approach provided a rallying-call and a legitimation for what constituted the first (modern) generation of European historians. The policies of research councils, the proliferation of schemes of academic mobility, and the professional and personal trajectories of a more transnational cohort of younger historians, all contributed to the flourishing from the 1990s to the 2010s of a Europe-minded history which mixed together ingredients derived from different historical methodologies to privilege the hitherto neglected importance of the European.

That this process should have coincided with the zenith of more institutional projects of European integration, most notably the expansion of the EU into post-Communist east-central Europe was far from accidental: where grant-giving bodies lead, historians tend to follow. But the more profound logics of this Europeanization of contemporary history lay not only in the perceived obsolescence of the much-abused national templates but also of other ways of writing history. National paradigms were not the only ways of writing history in and of Europe which flourished in the twentieth century. The ascendancy of a European methodology was also the consequence of the decline of a distinguished Marxist tradition of historical writing as well as of the confessional mindsets of an older religious history.

As these older stage-sets of European historical writing fell away, so it was the European which came to seem more essential, and simply more visible. But, as the opening manifesto of this debate rightly makes clear, the definition of the European was always problematic. It rested on mental maps of the shape of Europe and also of its frontiers which carried within them assumptions which at their most benign were essentialist and often verged on the colonial. The reasons for this were of course much larger than the practice of history. The definition after 1945 of a smaller and more homogenous Western Europe excluded territories such as the Near East and Turkey, as well as those on the southern littoral of the Mediterranean, which in previous eras would have been unproblematically regarded as part of a European zone. Above all, the collapse of the Cold War division of Europe in 1989 sucked the former Socialist states of the east into a unified but western-led Europe, the centre of which lay somewhere between Brussels, Frankfurt, and Berlin.

A tacit Franco-German axis

The project of writing European history was complicit in these larger changes. The post-1945 project of contemporary history had long rested on a tacit Franco-German axis, in which British and Italian scholars also played a notable but supporting role. This implicit hierarchy was abruptly rendered much more explicit by the reconfiguration of the universities and research institutes of east-central Europe that occurred after 1989. As an older generation of historians from the Socialist era were marginalised, so they were replaced by historians from the west, or by those of a younger generation who succeeded in re-tooling their methodologies for a post-socialist era. The imbalance which this created in east-west historical relations was evident in the ambitious projects of European history which flourished in the new landscape of the 1990s. Though continent-wide in their scope, these were directed in large part from the major scientific and academic institutions of Western Europe, who supplied much of the funding and personnel, and also the methodologies and agendas.

That this Western ascendancy should over time have been challenged by the emergence of more national schools of historical writing within east-central Europe was not surprising. But, at the same time, the definition of European history was also destabilised by the resurgence of the global. Much of the writing about European history in the final decades of the twentieth century was remarkable for the way it established a distance between Europe and the non-European world. It acknowledged the importance of the European imperial experience (as well as its crimes and abuses), but also defined it as a process that happened outside of Europe, and which belonged to the pre-1945 past. In the project of writing the contemporary history of Europe after the Second World War, empire was a problem inherited, wrestled with, but then resolved through the retrospective rationales of decolonisation.4

From the 1990s onwards, however, these separate histories of Europe and of empire converged, or more simply collided. Again this was a process which had origins wider than the writing of history: the engagement of European powers in quasi-imperial interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, as well as the emergence after 9/11 of Islamic-inspired violence within European cities brought the interconnectedness of Europe and projects of empire, past and present, to the fore of contemporary politics. But it also reflected the emergence of new forms of global historical writing – perhaps most influentially the work of Jürgen Osterhammel – which located modern structures of European imperialism in much more complex and continuing narratives of interaction between Europe and the other areas of the globe.5

The resurgence of the global

The idea of writing a history of Europe separate from these larger stories came to seem myopic, or even a deliberate evasion of a shameful past.6 Dipesh Chakrabarty’s highly influential concept of ‘provincializing Europe’ – as expounded in his book of the same title, first published in 20007 – serves as an encapsulation of this new orthodoxy. In the manner of the imperial statues which remain a prominent element of the topography of many European towns and cities, Europe must be pulled down from its privileged plinth, and studied on an equal level with other areas of the world. This also implied a need to study the history of Europe in a new way. The inward-facing mentalities that had long taken precedence in the writing of histories of Europe needed to be replaced by an outward-facing history of Europe, which studied European societies – emphatically in the plural – through their multiple interactions with the non-European world. Unsurprisingly, therefore, there has been a shift of historiographical focus from the European to the global. The prism of a global history of Europe offers an agenda better attuned to our times, but also to the scholarly recognition that the contemporary history of Europe for too long ignored the ways in which Europe was shaped profoundly by forces that emanated beyond the continent. So much we unreflectively thought of as European has turned out not to be distinctively European at all.

This new approach is demonstrated most strikingly by the success of the collective volume a Histoire mondiale de la France, published by Seuil in 2017.8 In truth, this volume might seem to be the fruit of a very French conception of global history, as indicated by the fact that nearly all of its 122 contributors are French, and all but a small number are employed in French academic institutions. But perhaps what is most interesting is the way in which the book, for all of its apparent radicalism, is a reconceptualization of a very traditional national enterprise. Taking its inspiration from the universal ambitions of Michelet’s history of France, its purpose is to provide ‘une histoire mondiale de la France’, rather than ‘une histoire de la France mondiale’. The word order is significant. The volume is intended as a study of France open to the world, rather than of how the world has made (or unmade) France. Perhaps most significantly, there is no place in the Histoire mondiale for Europe, which one searches for in vain in the titles of its many brief chapters. Europe, it seems, has no explanatory force for approaching the history of France, thereby demonstrating rather starkly the decline of the European paradigm for the writing of history, at least as seen from Paris.

A need to re-think the history of Europe

This effacement of Europe, crushed between the global and the national, serves as a demonstration of the need to re-assert, but also to re-think, the history of Europe. This is no easy task. Vacuous plaidoyers for a European history floating above national agendas risk becoming the formulae of inaugural professorial speeches which display all too visibly their historical and political vintage. Times have changed, and the embattled and defensive priorities of the contemporary European Union no longer have the same historical legitimacy as once did the federating ambitions of Mitterrand, Kohl, and Delors.9 The academic and scientific landscape too has changed. The drive, so visible in the two decades following 1989, to create transnational research teams of historians, spanning the diversity of Europe’s academic cultures, has lost energy over the last decade, and has been replaced by the more individual and rooted projects supported, ironically enough, by the European Research Council. This has been accompanied by a decline in mobility within the European historical profession. In difficult times, historians – and especially those understandably enough in search of a post – tend to stick close to home, reinforcing the distinctively national character of academic cultures. Indeed, it is striking that the system of higher education and research which has most markedly opened itself up in recent decades to historians from Europe (and elsewhere), namely that of the United Kingdom, is the one that is becoming, in formal terms, the least European.

And yet, as historians well know, crises are never the end of the matter. There remains a need for a historiography which asks questions about the contemporary history of Europe, rather than providing answers; and which is willing to confront its complexities and diversity, rather than seeking to elevate a particular definition of Europe. Above all, it is a history which needs to read the messy contemporary history of Europe forwards rather than backwards. We have had too many examples of the writing of European history which knew where they were going to end up; now we need a history of Europe that has no idea as to where it – and we – are going.

July 2020

Cite this article as:

Martin Conway: The Crisis of European History, in: Sonja Levsen / Jörg Requate (eds.), Why Europe, Which Europe? A Debate on Contemporary European History as a Field of Research, October 26, 2020, https://europedebate.hypotheses.org/142.

  1. Students of lost causes might wish to consider the Historians for Europe manifesto signed by 307 British historians (including myself) ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/25/vote-to-leave-eu-will-condemn-britain-to-irrelevance-say-historians. []
  2. Perry Anderson, et al, L’Europa oggi, Turin 1993. []
  3. Martin Conway / Kiran Patel (ed.), Europeanization in the Twentieth Century. Historical Approaches, New York 2010. []
  4. Todd Shepard, The Invention of Decolonization. The Algerian War and the Remaking of France, Ithaca, London 2006. []
  5. Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World. A Global History of the Nineteenth Century, Princeton 2014. []
  6. Robert Gildea, Empires of the Mind: The Colonial Past and the Politics of the Present, Cambridge 2019. []
  7. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe. Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton 2000. []
  8. Patrick Boucheron / Nicolas Delalande / Florian Mazel / Yann Potin / Pierre Singaravélou, Histoire mondiale de la France. Paris 2017. []
  9. I have written about this in Martin Conway, Writing European Unification Backwards, in: Contemporanea 23 (2020), pp. 103-107. []

Why Europe, Which Europe? Present Challenges and Future Avenues for Doing European History

Sonja Levsen and Jörg Requate

What is the current status of European history as a field of research, and what are its challenges at present? Why should we research European history at all, and how should we do it? Surprisingly, there has not yet been a Europe-wide debate on these issues. Despite many demands for a transnationalisation of historical perspectives, historiographical debates in Europe are still predominantly framed within national contexts. This also concerns debates about the methods and topics of European history. Up until now, these have only taken place within national or narrow transnational contexts, with few partners, and so by no means encompass ‘all’ of Europe. But the questions historians put to European history, the challenges they perceive, and their diagnoses of the current state of research and future potential of the field differ, not least, along the boundaries of established national historiographies. While scholars of European history in Brexit Great Britain, for example, possibly share some concerns and approaches with their colleagues in Hungary or Finland, there are also many, possibly more, concerns and approaches that separate them.

We would like, therefore, to invite historians from within the diversity of European and non-European historiographies to enter into a new discussion on European history as a field of research: on the status quo of European history, its goals and its future, its relationship to both national historiographies and global history. The project, then, is about discussing the opportunities, limits, and challenges of European history. Above all, however, it is about doing so in a new way: by expanding the debate and inviting a pluralistic approach within and beyond Europe.

European history as a discipline has become increasingly self-reflective. A few years ago, many optimistically viewed it as ‘the’ means to break out of national history. The upswing in transnational and global histories has since made it clear, however, that European history needs more than just the aim of transcending borders to legitimise itself. We see this challenge as productive, because it lays the foundation for a reflective choice of space and scale in designing research projects. It prevents a naive, seemingly natural focus on areas within Europe, or on areas which have been defined according to European perspectives. European history must define more precisely its place in relation to national and global history. In politics, voices propagating a return to nationalism have become stronger for some time. Today’s political climate, then, also raises questions about the task and potential of European history.

So what is European history? There are a number of uses of the term ‘European History’ which mean very different things. At US universities, for example, ‘European History’ as a term includes scholars specialising in French or Italian history. In this case, ‘European’ refers to the geographical area in which a research project or research focus is located, even if the project takes a nation-state perspective. At the same time, there is a long tradition of writing European history, which focuses on Europe as a whole (with more or less clearly defined borders) and seeks to create grand narratives. This debate is not about ‘European History’ in either of these two forms.  Rather European history, for us, is about what could be called ‘doing European History’: empirical research that transcends the nation-state in various ways – e.g. projects which are conceived in a transnational, comparative, trans-local way and which at the same time are located in Europe in one way or another. In order to provide some coherence, the debate will focus on research into contemporary European history, broadly conceived, and particularly on the period since the late 19th century. In our view, some of the challenges identified below are particularly relevant to research on the 20th century.

We would like to open the debate by putting forward eight propositions:

1. European history’s position within the various national historiographies appears to be as varied as it is unclear. To ask for its place in these historiographies respectively forms an important basis for fruitful dialogue.

In the early 2000s, turning the focus to Europe appeared to German historians as a quasi-natural response to calls for an expansion and correction of the historiography that had hitherto been focused on the nation-state.1 The historiographical debate in Germany reflected the growing public interest in Europe, and was driven by the assumption that the same or similar considerations held true for other national historiographies in Europe. But while a number of papers on Europeanising German History were published,2 no comparable papers on Europeanising British History, on l’européanisation de l’historiographie française, or – as far as we can see – on Poland, Hungary or Portugal came into print. Since the end of the 20th century, however, these historiographies have also undergone processes of transnationalisation, sometimes more pronounced, sometimes less. In many of these cases, however, methodologies that overcame national borders were not primarily interested in neighbouring European countries. For many years, for instance, British historians have focused mainly on Atlantic and post-imperial relational histories.3 Although a lively interest in ‘European’ (signifying continental European) history developed in Britain, it remained largely separate from British history. Within French historiography, the broadening of historical perspectives has often meant focusing on the Mediterranean region, and for Portuguese historiography, the reappraisal of the history of transatlantic relations with South America has become central.

The first step, then, would be to investigate which geographical areas have come under scrutiny in different historiographies, and which areas have been left out and to ask what the reasons for these choices could be. How do institutional structures and established mental maps shape the spaces of investigation of historians? What are the different conceptions of European history to be found in the respective national historiographies, and to what extent does European history interact in each case with national history?

2. We need a dialogue about the mental maps of historiographies within Europe and empirical research that interrogates their implications.

Historians have often discussed what is meant by Europe and asked how to define its borders. In answer to this, a social-constructivist concept of Europe has proven to be helpful: an approach to Europe as something that is in a permanent process of construction and reconstruction. Particularly in the case of Turkey and Russia, but also for North Africa, we can observe how central the debate on their belonging or their relationship to Europe has been for self-perceptions. However, analysing discursive constructions of spaces and their consequences applies to Europe as a whole and the question of its borders, but also particularly to the mental maps, the concepts of political and cultural spaces within Europe.4 Notions of Eastern or Central Europe have changed radically numerous times since the 19th century. Western Europe, too, has taken on many different contours and connotations. The concept of Western Europe commonly adopted in German historiography has found little resonance among British European historians. All of these constructions of geographically named, but conceptually meant spaces within Europe, indicate that Europe is far from uniform and highlights the central role that debates on different concepts of Europe may play for European history.

Dipesh Chakrabarty’s call to ‘provincialise Europe’ hit a nerve; it became a figure of speech.5 The author, however, was not interested in Europe as a region or its history, but in the emancipation of historiography from interpretations that take ‘European’ developments as a benchmark, not least by adopting European terminology. That was an important point. The popular concept of provincialising Europe has, however, developed a life of its own, and has come to suggest a unity that does not exist. Here in particular, a dialogue with non-European historians would be necessary and fruitful. But the debate can also be taken up within Europe. A challenge and a great potential for European history is what could be described as ‘internal provincialisations’.6 These would include the deconstruction of ‘normal’ and ‘special paths’ and of implicit teleologies, as well as a critique of narrative structures based on notions of a norm and deviation from that norm. An assumed ‘Western’ development in European history often functioned as an implicit norm and ‘deviant’ pathways of development were characterised as deficient, backward, or delayed. Self-positioning of countries or regions in Europe and the demarcation of European regions became the basis for powerful historiographic narratives, the deconstruction of which is one of the core tasks of current and future empirical research. The refutation of the theory of a German Sonderweg or ‘special path’ is one example of the immense heuristic gain of such deconstructions. Many comparably powerful patterns of interpretation, however, are still deeply rooted in Spanish, German, Greek or Polish historiography – as well as in the respective public spheres. An intensive dialogue between these historiographies would provide an opportunity to emancipate ourselves from such narratives and to generate new questions.

3. Interlinking historiographies would boost innovative research.

The ‘pluralising Europeanisation’ of historical debate can only be understood as part of the necessary process to internationalise historical scholarship, a process which does not end at the borders of Europe. It would, though, be an important step towards such internationalisation. A recent goal envisaged for global history is to interweave historiographies: scholars, it has been said, should interweave ‘European’ and ‘Asian’ historiography.7 As desirable as this is, we have to recognise that it is by no means possible to speak simply of a ‘European’ historiography. For many topics, periods, and research areas, more than a superficial weaving and interweaving of the many national historiographies within Europe is still a distant goal. Very often ‘European history’ has taken the form of edited collections, in which national case studies stand next to each other, but interact to a very limited extent.

Barriers to dialogue exist between Eastern and Western European history, as has already been widely discussed. But such limitations also apply to those historiographies that appear from an outside view to be closely interwoven and are often grouped together as ‘Western European’ perspectives: French, British, German history. Interpretative approaches from national contexts – such as ‘After the Boom’, a term coined by Anselm Doering-Manteuffel and Lutz Raphael within the German context, or the concept of ‘vingt décisives’ introduced to the debate by Jean-François Sirinelli for France – are hardly ever received and applied beyond national borders.8 This is true even when claims made by such interpretations reach beyond national boundaries. Thus the decade of the 1970s, which historians have flagged as an epoch of ‘transnationalisation’, continues to be debated primarily within national discourses. Even large projects of ‘European’ historiography such as the project ‘Écrire une nouvelle histoire de l’Europe’ remain clearly anchored in one nation; they are shaped by historians from a specific historiographical context, which brings with it its specific questions, patterns of interpretation, and methodological approaches.9 True, there are some fields of research in which transnational communication and cooperation have become more intense: the late 19th century, the First World War, and more recent fields of research such as the history of migration. Research on the First World War, in particular, shows the innovative potential of an intensified exchange of historiographies. Dutch universities have developed as places of productive interweaving of different historiographical traditions, as has the European University Institute in Florence.

However, the 20th century, in particular, is still shaped to an astonishing degree by national narratives of research. This applies especially to the historical phase following 1945, in which transnational developments have increased massively on many different levels. Even the dialogue between German and French historians remains limited; Spanish, Greek or Swedish historiography coexist with little connection. The United Kingdom holds an ambivalent position. On the one hand, its universities are key points of interaction and networking since the British academic labour market has been relatively open up to now.  At the same time, however, ‘British History’ itself remains largely cut off from the historiographical debates beyond its borders.

4. The methodological diversity of European historiography offers an important laboratory for analysing more accurately the relevance of the nation as well as transnational interdependencies in empirical studies.

Exploring the relevance of national, transnational and subnational, local and regional spaces and their interrelationships is, especially for the second half of the 20th century, a desideratum that has remained largely unfulfilled. We need the combination of comparative and transnational perspectives both for a precise assessment of the importance of national path dependencies and especially where transnational processes have crossed these paths. Between the grand narratives on the one hand and empirically dense descriptive histories on the other, comparison and histoire croisée in particular seem suitable methods to arrive at conclusions of a ‘middle range’, because they offer an important point of friction for established national narratives.10

European history could enable balanced, detailed and differentiated comparisons and analyses of transfer, interweaving and exchange processes between the different historiographies. In many fields, such research is still lacking. In this context, the study of the history of border regions has proven to be especially fruitful for multi-perspective interpretations. Thus, European history provides a virtually inexhaustible laboratory of possible constellations of investigation with which to pinpoint precisely similarities and differences, convergences and divergences. It could allow scholars to deconstruct national histories empirically. By no means does the nation-state have to be the primary object of investigation. Cities and regions – including cross-border ones – form, as repeatedly shown, equally meaningful objects of comparison or regions for investigation.

A dialogue on spatial categories, methodological instruments, concepts and variants of a European history would bring national historiographies, with their respective methodological trends and questions, into play and thus help to critically reflect on these trends and questions and their national characteristics. This would create a basis for broader and more closely-knit research cooperation across national borders.

5. European and global history are variants of transnational history with many common features. Instead of binary oppositions of ‘European’ versus ‘global’, it is important to ask about the relevance and the contours of transnational spaces, depending on the issue at hand, and to select and delimit spaces of investigation accordingly.

As a subject for research, the integration of European societies with other world regions was long overlooked; here there have rightly been calls for new approaches. Today, awareness of the epistemic trap of Eurocentrism has increased considerably. Nevertheless, the resulting pragmatic and conceptual challenges for research are still considerable.

The same can, however, be said of the state of research on entanglements within Europe. For many topics, themes and epochs of modern history, it is hardly better, if at all. Empirically, the ‘national container’ has often remained the dominant frame of investigation. For key phenomena of the 20th century, such as Second Wave Feminism, neither the European integration of movements, their interactions, transfers, similarities and differences, nor those that transcend Europe’s borders have been sufficiently investigated. The pragmatic challenges remain considerable, particularly in view of the plurality of languages.

Not least for linguistic reasons, British historiography has proved better at investigating ‘global’ relationships – especially within the region of the former Empire – than it is at researching the no less significant integration, relations, differences, and similarities with the European continent. The British ‘New Imperial History’ has achieved something that still remains a distant goal for British European history: the investigation of the repercussions of transnational interdependencies on British society.

A polarity of ‘European’ versus ‘global’ arises in current debates, although many practitioners of global history repeatedly distance themselves from this. This polarity reifies borders rather than overcoming them, and creates secondary exoticisms in some cases. Transnational history can focus on a range of fruitful geographical areas, each of them coming with their own heuristic gains and losses. The significance of influences and interdependencies within Europe as well as beyond its borders will have to be worked out and determined precisely for different regions, phenomena and developments. Thinking within boxes, binaries or ‘containers’ of any kind is not helpful for this study.

6. European contemporary history as a field of research must be aware that it stands in a specific political context. This challenge should be taken up by historians in a conscious and purposeful way.

With some reason, European history has in the past been under the latent suspicion of being used to legitimise European unification. Some studies looked for commonalities and convergences or even assumed these unquestioningly. European history, however, must generate questions, not presuppose answers. Investigations into the extent of convergence as well as into existing or growing differences between European societies must be carried out with an open mind, be empirically founded, and argued in a differentiated manner. The desire to leave the nation-states behind, both politically and in academic debate, must not tempt us to underestimate the significance of the nation-state.

Without doubt, historical scholarship should counter the suspicion that it serves to legitimise the project of European unification. This does not mean, however, that European historians should abstain from taking political positions. Especially in times when there are strong political currents that maintain that Europe is the problem and the nation-state the solution, it seems both scientifically and politically necessary to deconstruct old and new national myths while also deconstructing European unification myths. There are many ways of doing this, of which transnational-European perspectives are just one variant, but nevertheless an important one.  At the same time, this also means that a European-oriented historiography must emancipate itself from questions of possible political interest or disinterest in Europe. Moreover, it should not mirror political or social cycles without thoughtful deliberation.

As mentioned above, however, there is also an associative proximity between the preoccupation with European history and a suspected Eurocentric perspective on history as a whole. This can be countered by pointing out that Europe should be seen as one of the world regions whose research is on an equal footing with others and is in an ongoing dialogue with them.11 Eurocentrism is to be distinguished from an engagement with European history. Questions concerning asymmetric processes, the formation and development of interdependencies do not only arise between Europe and the global world, but also within Europe.

The political context of history is not independent of the place where and when history is written. What political implications do historians in different European societies perceive in their choice of research spaces? What about the implications for those who research European history outside of Europe? How do cycles of public interest and academic interest interact? National public spheres and historical research are related in many ways. Discussing the diversity of these territorial constraints would create an important basis for the dynamic development of European history as a field of research.

Finally, the last two propositions concern questions of research structures.

7. New and different research infrastructures are needed to promote the Europeanisation and internationalisation of historical studies.

National research funding programmes continue to target primarily relatively closed academic labour markets in each individual country. They are not designed to promote transnational, European research collaborations. Cooperation programmes exist, but their scope is very limited. The funding opportunities through EU programmes are relatively small compared to national programmes and the EU bureaucratic hurdles are relatively high. The EU ‘Societal Challenges’ programme offers just a few opportunities for the whole field of humanities and cultural studies and is designed to produce directly applicable results. The ERC (European Research Council) and Marie Curie programmes support basic research, but not primarily cross-border collaborations and thus contribute little to Europeanisation in the sense of an interweaving of historiographies. Language barriers, and nation-specific career paths, hinder more extensive mobility and cooperation.

8. We need a change in the publishing world, and we need to address the issue of linguistic boundaries and the associated limits to dialogue.

The eighth and last point relates to the market for scientific books and journals, which is at present still very national in scope. The English language transcends language barriers to a certain extent, resulting in a whole range of journals and forums with a European focus. However, the book and journal markets are still largely shaped by national cultures, which are decisive for the formation of disciplinary cultures and interpretations of history. The resulting discourses remain largely bound by national and linguistic borders. Without being a panacea, increased open-access in publishing could improve the situation just as much as an intentional and systematic internationalisation of the review culture. The digitisation of communication has so far contributed disappointingly little to the internationalisation of historiographical debates. Creative and innovative solutions need to be sought in this field with new determination, if historiography wants to meet the challenges of the present. New and more effective answers must be found to the question of language barriers and to the limitations on dialogue that accompany them.  This is an important challenge, especially for doing European history.

Certainly, the arguments formulated here are to a certain extent attributable to our German perspective and also in other respects to our own research priorities. We have tried to address conceptual, methodological, research pragmatic, structural and, last but not least, political issues. Our goal for the course of this debate is not to ‘defend’ these points in any way. Rather, they are intended to provide an initial impetus for debate, which will generate its own questions, themes, theses, focal points and controversies.

Cite this article as:

Sonja Levsen / Jörg Requate, Why Europe, Which Europe? Present Challenges and Future Avenues for Doing European History, in: Sonja Levsen / Jörg Requate (eds.), Why Europe, Which Europe? A Debate on Contemporary European History as a Field of Research, October 15, 2020, https://europedebate.hypotheses.org/86.

  1. Cf. especially Konrad Jarausch / Thomas Lindenberger (eds.), Conflicted Memories. Europeanizing Contemporary Histories, New York, Oxford 2007. []
  2. E.g. Ute Frevert, Europeanizing German history, in: GHI Bulletin 36 (2005), pp. 9-24. []
  3. Cf. e.g. J.G.A. Pocock, British History. A Plea for a New Subject, in: The Journal of Modern History 47.4 (1975), pp. 601-621; J.G.A. Pocock, The New British History in Atlantic Perspective. An Antipodean Commentary, in: American Historical Review 104.2 (1999), pp. 490-500; James Vernon, The History of Britain is Dead. Long Live a Global History of Britain, in: History Australia 13.1 (2016), pp. 19-34; Robert Aldrich / Stuart Ward, Ends of Empire. Decolonizing the Nation in British and French Historiography, in: Stefan Berger / Chris Lorenz (eds.), Nationalizing the Past. Historians as Nation Builders in Modern Europe, Basingstoke 2000, pp. 259-281; Roquinaldo Ferreira, Taking Stock: Portuguese Imperial Historiography. Twelve years after the e-JPH Debate, in: e-JPH. E-Journal of Portuguese History 14 (2016), http://www.scielo.mec.pt/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1645-64322016000100004. []
  4. Cf. e.g. Frithjof Benjamin Schenk, Mental Maps. Die kognitive Kartierung des Kontinents als Forschungsgegenstand der europäischen Geschichte, in: Europäische Geschichte Online (EGO), ed. by the Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte (IEG), Mainz 2013-06-05. URL: http://www.ieg-ego.eu/schenkf-2013-de URN: urn:nbn:de:0159-2013052237 [2020-03-09]; Martin Schulze Wessel, Die Mitte liegt westwärts. Mitteleuropa in tschechischer Diskussion, in: Bohemia 29 (1988), pp. 325-344. []
  5. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe. Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, New Jersey 2000; for criticism e.g. Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History, Berkeley 2005. []
  6. Jörn Leonhard, Comparison, Transfer and Entaglement or How to Write Modern European History today, in: Journal of Modern European History 14.2 (2016), pp. 149-163; Lars Jensen, Provincialising Scandinavia, in: KULT. Postkolonial Temaserie 7 (2010), pp. 7-21. []
  7. Margit Pernau / Monica Juneja, Lost in Translation? Transcending Boundaries in Comparative History, in: Heinz-Gerhard Haupt / Jürgen Kocka (eds.), Comparative and Transnational History. Central European Approaches and New Perspectives, New York 2010, pp. 105-129. []
  8. Anselm Doering-Manteuffel / Lutz Raphael, Nach dem Boom. Perspektiven auf die Zeitgeschichte seit 1970, Göttingen 2008; Jean-François Sirinelli, Les vingt décisives, 1965-1985. Le passé proche de notre avenir, Paris 2007. []
  9. http://labex-ehne.fr/; other important digital projects on European history are e.g. European History Online, http://ieg-ego.eu/; Themenportal Europäische Geschichte, https://www.europa.clio-online.de/. []
  10. Michael Werner / Bénédicte Zimmermann, Vergleich, Transfer, Verflechtung. Der Ansatz der Histoire croisée und die Herausforderung des Transnationalen, in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 28.4 (2002), pp. 607–636. []
  11. For area studies see e.g. Birgit Schäbler (ed.), Area Studies und die Welt. Weltregionen und neue Globalgeschichte, Wien 2007. []