The Great War and the Idea of Europe
Panel at the International Conference
Perspectives on the ‘Great’ War
Queen Mary, University of London
1-4 August 2014
Though the debates on Europe, on its decline, crisis and its future flourished in the interwar period and in the last months of the Second World War, it would be misleading to assume that during the Great War it was a concept devoid of all meaning. On the contrary, many intellectuals, historians, philosophers, economists, politicians and artists assumed that there was a unity, for some a “spiritual” unity, tying together the belligerent nations and to be saved at all cost. They referred to such unity with complex, protean and multifarious conceptions, images and representations of “Europe”.
Some claimed that their nation alone embodied and carried out its true values; others speculated on a different economic and political organization of the continent in order to avert future wars; for some, it was the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of a progress that had spread, in the previous centuries, to the entire world; others, on the contrary, believed that “progress” itself had perverted Europe’s soul and that it was necessary to put it back on the right path.
In the writings of Péguy or D’Annunzio, the calls for the heroic defense of the national onterest often mingled with references to a vague and yet historically meaningful European universalism; moreover, there were also others, men and women of letters, intellectuals and politicians as different as Benedetto Croce, Ernst Troeltsch, Francesco Saverio Nitti, Georg Simmel, Emile Durkheim, Bertrand Russell, Romain Rolland, Karl Kraus, or Mikhail Bulgakov who, at the peak of nationalist violence, spoke of Europe as a single entity and even imagined a united continent finally at peace with itself.
Although there are works on the history of the idea of Europe that include the 1914-1918/19 time-span (e.g. Pegg, Spiering and Wintle, Stirk), research has not focused expressly on this period; moreover, the specific relationship between the Great War and the way Europe was represented and imagined has been unduly under-researched. Shedding light on the influence the ongoing war had on conceptions of Europe among intellectuals, writers, men of letters and politicians is the purpose of the panel. The panel is addressed to intellectual historians, cultural historians, historian of literature, of political ideas, of art and, more generally, to all those interested in the history of the idea of Europe.
If you would like to present a paper (max 15 minutes), please send an abstract in English (max 300 words), including a suitable title and a short biography by 17 August 2012 to Matthew D’Auria (University of Salerno) firstname.lastname@example.org or to Jan Vermeiren (University of Essex) email@example.com. Please note that the working language is English.
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