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.

March 2011
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9 March
Anti-imperialism in late-Victorian Britain: a reappraisal by Mira Matikkala

Mira Matikkala, Academy of Finland Research Fellow 2008–11, spoke to a paper drawing on research presented in her recent book, Empire and Imperial Ambition: Liberty, Englishness and Anti-Imperialism in Late Victorian Britain (2010). If recent historiographic interest in the diffusion of imperialism in late nineteenth-century Britain has revealed culturally pervasive support for the expansion of empire, Matikkala demonstrated that it had nevertheless obscured the prevalence of anti-imperial opinion in the same period. By highlighting the works of the likes of Herbert Spencer, John Morley, Frederic Harrison and W.S. Blunt, Matikkala revealed a much more fluid and complex picture of the Victorian debate on empire than has commonly been presented. Victorian anti-imperialism, she argued, drew upon numerous philosophical and political currents that interacted in sometimes unpredictable ways to fashion and refashion a shifting coalition of opinion directed against British imperial practice.


15 March
European Wars in the 19th century

Seminar in which Jörn Leonhard will provide a paper as an input for the discussions:
Jörn Leonhard, University of Freiburg, European Wars in the 19th Century: Experiences and Concepts
venue:Tieteiden Talo, Kirkkokatu 6, room:313

Previously published presentation from Ute Planert has unfortunately been cancelled and we are in a process of re scheduling it.
Ute Planert, University of Wuppertal, The Napoleonic Wars. What was new and what was the impact on 19th century warfare?

In his presentation on European Wars in the 19th Century, Jörn Leonhard, professor of modern history at the University of Freiburg/Breisgau, presented parts of his habilitation thesis Bellizismus und Nation. Kriegsdeutung und Nationsbestimmung in Europa und den Vereinigten Staaten 1750-1914 (Munich 2008). After delineating the main objective of his study, which is to offer a longue durée perspective on the interrelation between war perceptions and nation (building) in a comparative perspective, and the underlying methodical premises, Leonhard elaborated on three of his four national case studies while leaving out the United States: France, Prussia/Germany and Britain. With respect to France, the persistent idea(l) of "revolutionary citizenship" from 1789 onwards and the controversial character of the nation armée was portrayed as a characteristic until the First World War. In contrast, for Prussia/Germany the dilemma of nation building through war experiences (Nationalkriege) was identified as a distinctive feature throughout the 19th century. For Britain, yet another development was outlined, namely from imagined anti-militarism to colonial "small wars" and ethnic belligerence. In his conclusions, Leonhard stressed the variety of war experiences in different national contexts, but underlined that nevertheless all these experiences amalgamated in one way or another civic and ethnic connotations of "nation".

In the debate, some critical questions were raised as to the slightly uncritical use of the central concepts of "experience" and "war", and the generalizing thrust of the study, which would somehow contrast its own claim of being sensitive to the multilayeredness of perceptions and their changes over time. Further questions concerned the selection of the case studies, the role of the tension between concepts of "nation" and "empire" at the time, and in how far the inclusion of other aspects such as the financing of war would have been useful. Another issue was also the work's focus on written sources essentially representing an elite discourse, and whether a bottom-up approach might have been an alternative to reconstruct contemporary war experiences.