With a view to the Cold War, historians claim that the ultimate catastrophe implicit to it - the Third World War - was after all avoided because even at times of extreme tension common sense and moderation prevailed. Allegedly, soon after World War II, if initially clearly enforced by the power-political situation of the day, a new pattern of thought emerged that overcame the habitual (violent) ways of conflict resolution for the sake of compromise and the search for common interests. The planned conference will address that notion of European peaceableness from different angles, historical and other, trying to verify if such a change of mind really occurred after 1945.
In particular, the post-war Western European integration process is referred to a general yearning for peace after the world wars and the holocaust, as a sort of (negative) founding myth of the ‘new Europe’. This approach is extended by scholars to an all-European context, so comprising Communist Eastern Europe, too, and creating the picture of a community of destiny of sorely tried and ‘reformed’ nations. As a consequence, the Europeans are said – in a way acting once more as the vanguard of mankind – to have forsaken war and violence as means of policy-making and to have overcome the old dilemma of national sovereignty in favour of a new, value-based, transnational political culture. A key term applied here was the notion of the European Union as a “civilian power”. To illustrate this alleged mental metamorphosis, some commentators quote American criticisms of the ‘Euro-pacifism’ making the Europeans widely useless for the pursuit of old-school Realpolitik as it seems necessary again in the post-Cold War era. Here, Europe seems to be in contrast not only with the USA but as well with the other old and new great powers of our time.
- But can one really speak of a process of ‘deep pacification’ with regard of the very continent whose powers have been at war so often and regularly over hundreds of years? Did the Europeans really undergo such a fundamental change of their mentality that would make them shrink back from the use of force more than this would be the case with other nations?
- Was the use of military force, or its threat, after 1945 the sole privilege of the superpowers? Does this mean that incidences of military force in Europe were mere details of an otherwise peaceful post-war history of Europe?
- Can one indeed trace the development of a – more or less – Europe-wide pacifist mentality that led to a principled refusal of military violence and the emergence of a transnational policy concept?
- And was the designation of the auto-stereotype of „civilian power Europe“ motivated by something more than just the wish on part of the European powers to compensate for their loss of global posture after 1945 by displaying ‘moral superiority’?
Starting from these guiding questions, the conference shall analyse the post-war era in Europe considering how peaceful it actually was with a view to political thought and mental dispositions, and to what extent one can speak therefore of a new era of cultural and intellectual history. In this context must be taken into account older patterns of collective perception, not least nationalism and the militarisation processes accompanying the world war era in all nations. At the same time, one has to regard the impact of the Cold War era ideological delineation between the two camps, which was dominated mainly by the superpowers.
Special attention should be paid to the chronological and spatial dimensions of the problem:
1. Do the observed developments allow for periodization in a more or less linear fashion, or are we rather dealing with recurring phenomena that cannot be assigned to a specific period of time?
2. Which developments can be described as „continental“, and which display rather a national or sub-regional specificity? On the other hand, is it possible to clearly delineate Europe from the rest of the world? This is also to serve as an exemplary way of asking about the reality of the historical region called “Europe” and of its sub-regions “Western”, “Central” and “Eastern Europe”.
Further factors that had an influence on those developments, were:
- the physical and practical adaptation processes of the national societies emerging from the war, to the post-war situation
- the evolution of international law, in particular regarding the normative legitimisation and de-legitimisation of war and the use of force
- the impact of colonial wars and the decolonisation process on mentalities and political identities “back home” in Europe
- the superpowers’ hegemonic position vis-à-vis the national interests of their respective allies
- the relationship between civilian and military power in different countries.
We invite papers on various topics related to this overall issue. They may relate to any European country or region, or indeed the entire continent, as long as they target the indicated guiding questions. Since the approach taken is fairly comprehensive, we encourage applications from a wide range of perspectives and disciplines.
Invited applicants will get their travel costs reimbursed; accommodation will be organised by the organisers in Warsaw.
Please send an expose of c. 1 page as well as a short CV to email@example.com by 30 September, 2013. Accepted papers will be the basis for presentations of c. 20 minutes and are intended for publication in a conference volume.
German Historical Institute at Warsaw
Aleje Ujazdowskie 39
00-540 Warszawa, Poland
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