The Research Project Europe 1815-1914

P.O. Box 24
Unioninkatu 40
FI-00014 University of Helsinki




The programme is continuously updated. New events might be advertised with short notice. External participants are welcome but preferably on a regular basis. Since the number of seats is limited pre-registration with project coordinator Minna Vainio (erere-info[at] is requested.

February 2010
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28

9 Feb
Laven, David and Lucy Riall, 2000, “Restoration, Government and the Legacy of Napoleon” and Anderson, Eugene N. and Pauline R. Anderson, 1967. "Political Institutions and Social Change in Continental Europe in the Nineteenth Century", introduced by Markus Prutsch. Reading seminar

In this reading seminar Markus Prutsch succinctly summarised and presented the selected texts. In the more recent text by David Laven and Lucy Riall (2000), he distilled their approaches and premises on the theme of restoration government and the legacy of Napoleon I in the nineteenth century. Outlining their transnational approach, their focus on public life and governance, Napoleon's legacy and the perception of it by restoration governments in the continent, Markus pointed to the ambiguous take of these governments – hostility to the legacy of revolution while embracing Napoleon's authoritarian streak.

In a similar way of presenting of the more 'classical text,' as he put it, of Eugene N. Anderson and Pauline R. Anderson (1967), which had an institutional and comparative historical take on the changes in political institutions of the nineteenth century continental Europe, Markus referred to their argument of the existence of two institutions in conflict with each other: Old Regime and Industrial Society. Accordingly, from this conflict emerged constitutional monarchism as a European standard, which in itself was also marred by problems and challenges.

He then moved on to the evaluations of the two texts, positive and negative, highlighting on the one hand the European perspective, transnational transfer and reception, focus on the restoration era in the first text, while on the other drawing attention to their uncritical understanding of the restoration area, conceptual vagueness, schematic understanding and implicit appraisal of the Napoleonic order. Also, for the second text, he considered helpful the authors' general understanding of political institutions, their comparative take as well as the wide chronological and geographical approach, while stressing their strong generalisations, simplistic assumptions, neglect of constitutional practices and so on.

The ensuing discussion developed around two main questions. The first question was about how Markus was going to challenge the implicit and explicit language of this approach - in which the analysis is schematically evolving around the domains of political and institutional history - in his project. And the second related to the issue of how this type of literature was one of the examples that the whole team needs to challenge and confront by providing an alternative perspective of the nineteenth century.

One strong suggestion emerged that rather than seeking to write a seemingly 'complete' history of nineteenth century Europe, which appears nonetheless rigidly constructed and narrated, the task of the team would be to undermine it through more contextualisation, probing of specific events and looking at the ways of how prominent thinkers and actors dealt with the multi-dimensional problems of the century.

12 Feb
Günther Frankenberg, Universität Frankfurt, “19th Century Constitutions and Constitutionalism” , Place: P668, Porthania

In this seminar, Günter Frankenberg, who holds the Chair of Public Law, Legal Philosophy and Comparative Law at the Goethe University Frankfurt/Main, provided an overview of 19th-century European constitutionalism.

Reflecting first results of an ongoing research project on "Projects of Constitutional Comparison", Prof. Frankenberg offered an analytic tool to categorize various constitutions by means of four "archetypes": 1) "manifesto", i.e. a form of constitution proclaimed unilaterally in which the political message is fundamental; 2) "contract", a form in which the creation of institutions by discrete parties is central and which is identified as the dominant constitutional form of the 19th century; 3) "statute/law", a constitutional form that is usually triggered by the experience of a catastrophe, e.g. the First World War, and that aims at establishing supreme law on the basis of popular sovereignty; and 4) "program/plan", a form of constitutionalism focused on socioeconomic development and most characteristic for constitutions in communist/socialist countries. After presenting these four archetypes, Frankenberg continued by outlining the main topoi and conflicts of 19th century constitutional architecture, which he considers to be interlinked, namely: questions of justice (rights and principles), the common good (values/duties), questions of political organization (organizational rules and principles), and of constitutional validity and hierarchy (meta- and collision rules). Frankenberg concluded his presentation by introducing his "IKEA concept" of the transfer of constitutional forms and ideas, emphasising that transfer is neither merely about copying an existing model nor is it a process of spontaneous self-generation; rather, he argued, transfer takes place as a kind of "shopping around" in a store of existing constitutional ideas and concepts.

Following Frankenberg's presentation, a lively debate ensued, revolving around the question as to how useful and adequate his theoretical approach actually was for grasping 19th-century constitutionalism. In particular, the concept of four distinct archetypes was examined. Among other suggestions, it was proposed that these archetypes might be better understood as Weberian ideal types than as actually existing constitutional "real types", and that it might be useful to include at least one additional type, namely the "octroi". The question as to whether Carl Schmitt's distinction between formal and material constitutions might be worth considering in a classification of 19th century constitutionalism was also raised, as was the question of how Frankenberg's present typological work might relate to his earlier critical studies on comparative constitutional theory. His "IKEA concept" of transfer met with general interest. However, it was argued that research on transnational constitutional exchange processes would necessarily have to deal with the actors involved and not only constitutional texts, or his project would risk being labelled as a mere continuation of classical comparative law; likewise, a sophisticated understanding of constitutions would require going beyond the drafting of constitutions to include an analysis of constitutional practice and life.