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.

May 2012
30 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 29 30 31 1 2 3


8 May

"From Law to Luxury - Entering the Nineteenth Century through Antoine Yves Goguet´s Stadial Theory of Human Understanding", by Liliana Obregon

Obregón presented a new version of the first chapter of her book manuscript based on a reading of Antoine Yves Goguet´s "The Origins of the Laws, Arts and Sciences and their Progress in the Most Ancient Nations" (1758). Goguet´s work was quickly translated into all major European languages and was extensively read and cited well into the nineteenth century. Obregón places Goguet as central opening chapter to the book because he sets forth a theory of progress based on legal development in growing civilizations. Obregón argued that Goguet´s narrative had a normative effect as it valued certain practices over others, and created the imagination of evolutionary hierarchies based on his conjectural analysis of historical causation. EReRe colleagues gave feedback on how to better present this idea in the book.


9 May
Hayden WhiteHistory-Literature-Fiction/Fact-Ideology
by Hayden White (bio)

The seminar is Co-organised by The Research Project Europe 1815-1914, CENS and the Finnish Literature Society

Venue: Finnish Literature Society (Hallituskatu 1), juhlasali

In this seminar emeritus professor Hayden White reminded the audience of the difference between studying an aspect of history and telling history. Nearly forty years after the publication of the groundbreaking first edition of Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth Century Europe, White insisted on close readings to analyze the literary devices used by authors writing "history" and declared that historiography is a discourse rather than a discipline. The composition of a story about the facts is a different operation than the existence of the facts themselves. The facts do not tell a history. Only the historian can construct a narrative from the facts, said White. The historian as writer constructs a story from a caos of facts by fashioning and emplotting them. Narrative history has the same epistemic force as myth, and constitutes a way of mastering temporality to flatten ontology.

To illustrate his well known theory, White used the examples of the history of the holocaust written by Saul Friedlander. Friedlander has criticized White as a relativist, and believed that a master narrative of the holocaust was possible and necessary, so he set out to write one. He researched the facts for twenty years and recently published a more than 600 page book titled The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945 that tried to avoid "even a hint of fiction" by leaving out central protagonists and plots. White pointed out that Friedlander, however, was also in the business of construction because he used several literary devices to tell a new story of the holocaust. In other words, White demonstrated that even someone who tries to avoid the classical techniques of story telling, must use others that still convey a type of story, even if the story seems different to previous ones.
White declared himself a "pastologist": someone interested in how people used their knowledge of the past for taking a stance in the present. He also said he was "the last Marxist" in the sense that he continued to believe that the idea of history writing is related to the spread of Christianity and capitalism, and that the present world economic and environmental crisis are the consequence of capitalism´s paradigm of consumption and waste.
Finally, White explained how he was now more in the business of advicing young writers rather than proposing anything novel, because "I have already said what I had to say". His advice to to young historians was that they should write whenever they begin a project and not limit themselves to waiting to use an outline and to collect all the necessary "facts." In his own experience, White has found that he only discovers what he knows and wants to say by writing it first, without worrying about the form it will take later. He also reminded young historians that they are not "researchers," they are writers, therefore they need to learn how to write well more than develop further research skills, because history is not a science and life is not logical.

23 May
16-18 "The Finnish Civil War", by Lars Westerlund

Lars Westerlund, who has written extensively about the wars in Finland and the Baltic in 1918-1919 and about the treatment of Russian prisoners of war during World War II, presented the results of a series of research projects in which he has been involved into the victims of war in Finland in the first half of the twentieth century. Beginning with the Civil War of 1918 and its aftermath, and going up to cover the victims of the Winter and Continuation Wars, Westerlund charted the various categories of war victims his research had identified, and explained the importance of such projects for Finnish society today.

venue: Tieteiden Talo, room 313