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.

October 2009
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1 - 5 Oct
Project presentation Liliana Obregón: An Alternative View on the Nineteenth Century Through the Consolidation of Independence and Rise of International Law in Latin America

Project presentation Francisco Ortega: The Birth of Latin American Citizenship: 1750-1850

Project presentation Markus Prutsch: Monocracy vs. Democracy

Project presentation Kelly Grotke: The Shaping of the International: History, Method, and Teleology in Europe, 1815- 1914"

On 1st October, Franciso Ortega presented his work on the origins of Latin American conceptions of citizenship in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and Liliana Obregón set out a research project that would examine the formative impact of Latin American experiences upon the shaping of international law in the European nineteenth century. In the penultimate session, on 2nd October, Markus Prutsch discussed the concept of 'modern Caesarism' as an alternative to nineteenth-century constitutionalism. Kelly Grotke closed the week, presenting a project that would analyze the ways in which the philosophical problem of method came to occupy a commanding position in nineteenth-century intellectual culture.

05 Oct
10-12 Thomas Hippler, Lyon and Milos Vec, Frankfurt present: some preliminary thoughts on the constitution of a working group on European peace movements and peace congresses in the nineteenth century

The aim of the seminar was to work out the conceptual basis and practicalities for a Working Group on paradoxes in languages of European peace in the nineteenth century. The meeting started with presentations by Milos Vec, (University of Frankfurt) and Thomas Hippler (University of Lyon) who are going to direct the working group.

Following Vec's presentation on legal meanings of the words peace and peace movements and Hippler's account of the "state of the art", the meeting discussed how to proceed from there. The main thematic areas of analysis, focus, possible contributors, and timetables for the working group were laid out.

14 Oct
10-12 A seminar by Jürgen Osterhammel, Konstanz presenting his recent book Die Verwandlung der Welt, followed by a discussion.

His book is an attempt to understand the nineteenth century in the manner of world history but consciously avoids many trappings of macrohistory such as periodizations and a focus on nation-states as delineated actors.

The presentation was followed by a general discussion. The participants of the EReRe project could clearly see connections and affinities with Osterhammel's work and research orientation.

Issues were raised such as the difficulties of long-range comparisons, whether teleologies were always something to be resisted and opposed and in what specific ways the 19th century transformed the world. One topic that surfaced on several occasions was the difficulty of studying the 19th century as our tools with which we can reflect on economic, political and social matters to a large extent were constructed during that century.

23 Oct
Jürgen Habermas, “Kant’s Idea of Perpetual Peace, with the benefit of Two Hundred Years’ Hindsight”, introduced by Martti Koskenniemi. Reading seminar

Martti Koskenniemi started the session by introducing Jürgen Habermas 1997 essay on "Kant's Idea of Perpetual Peace, with the Benefit of Two Hundred Years' Hindsight," (in Perpetual Peace: Essays on Kant's Cosmopolitan Idea, ed. James Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1997), Koskenniemi´s purpose was to present an example of a contemporary philosopher whose thinking on Kant is influential worldwide and highlight how Habermas, through Kant, presents a very clear and conventional endorsement of international legalism. Though some of the events addressed by the 1997 essay seem dated Habermas still exemplifies a powerful and hegemonic way of understanding cosmopolitanism today. Indeed, Habermas has continued to address the relevance of the "Kantian Project of Cosmopolitan Law" in several conferences and publications of the last decade. The discussion also led to questions on Habermas ineffectual engagement with Carl Schmitt via Kant. Further comments by the members of the ERERE group brought on question on how Kant was read in the 19th century, how Kant is used today, how Kant´s works on anthropology and physical geography are left aside in contemporary praises of his cosmopolitanism, and on how Kant´s work seems unescapable for the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, and thus the need of further discussion of Kant´s work throughout the evolution of the ERERE project.

26 Oct
Reinhart Koselleck, a selection of essays from Futures Past, introduced by Bo Stråth. Reading seminar

The seminar began with a brief introduction by Bo Strath. Particularly important was Strath´s discussion of Koselleck´s polemic relationship with Habermas and Schmitt. In view of our previous seminar on Habermas and Kant, it was suggested that if Habermas harked back to Kant a definite path towards civility, Koselleck draws from Hobbes and Schmitt to insist on the radical openess of political struggles. The blatant optimism of the former and the moderate pessimism of the latter find some philosophical sustenance in such suggestion. Furthermore, Koselleck experience as a combatant during World War II lends experiental content to Koselleck´s intellectual trajectory.

Martti Koskieniemi opened up the discussion by posing three questions suggested by the readings: 1) The question of the chronological limit (can we talk meaningfully of the 19th century?); 2) the crucial notion of the contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous (the fact that at once we might inhabit various time narratives, modalities, speeds, intensities, etc); and the question of the centrality and nature of concepts to understand conflict in society.

Various discussions ensued, but members of the seminar aggreed there were a number of key questions Koselleck presented to us:

  • Do we live in a time in which time accelerates? Is there any projection? Are there any utopias?
  • What are the past futures in the 19th century? How were these moments identified?
  • Did it seem possible to control the future? When and how did the belief of the mastery of the future emerge?
  • Can we politically master the future? How can we use history to master the future, or should we?

Finally, conversations have continued via e-mail and in hall exchanges. An impending question remains: what might be our relationships to the 19th century?