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 2010
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4.-5. Oct 2010
Working Group Teleology and History, second meeting in Rome
Outline (pdf)

On October 4 and 5, 2010, the working "Group Teleology and History: A Critical Assessment of an Enlightenment Thought," coordinated by Henning Trüper and Dipesh Chakrabarty, convened for its second meeting at the Swedish Institute in Rome. Even though many of the participants were attending for the first time, the exchanges from our previous meeting in Berlin carried over and enriched the debates in Rome. For this meeting the focus moved from the eighteenth century Enlightenment to the production of teleological perspectives in scholarly cultures during the nineteenth century. Invited scholars presented their research on the role of teleology in particular intellectual histories of the human sciences, social darwinism, political thought, religion, public law, and politics. The common thread was that teleologies indeed abound but with moments of disruption or hesitancy, even within highly teleological authors such as Kant, Hegel and Marx. These histories show how the teleologies ceaselessly and slyly reconstitute themselves and might even be inevitable while at the same time they are enabling and produce understanding, at least as much as simplification and violence. On the other hand, the participants also agreed that teleological narratives are dense sites of social, political and private investment that require careful historicizing as a strategy to reveal the cultural specificity of what otherwise claims naturalness, universality and inevitability. Thus, during the workshop there were those researchers who also explored anti-teleological strategies – such as the use of biography to counter the process of rationalization and homogenization of history and political interruption as a strategy within anti-colonial spaces. Participants will continue the third meeting in Athens with a reflection on the intellectual histories of teleology in classical modernity and beyond.

12 Oct
Work in progress presentation Markus Prutsch

After providing a brief overview of his research interests and focus in his work, which was presented under a new title "Crisis, Populace and Leadership: Reflections on the Foundations, Nature, and Long-Term Implications of 'Modern Caesarism," Markus J. Prutsch devoted most of the time in his presentation discussing the content and structure of the new Chapter III.

The chapter is entitled 'The French Revolution and the Frontiers of Democratic Government.' It offers a historical account of key events and actors in the French Revolution, the ensuing terror and internal instability, manifested through a perception of the contemporaries of perennial crisis unleashed by 'chimera of infinite liberty,' as Markus put it. In his reading, this continued political crisis of Revolution and democracy led some contemporaries to call for the 'domestication' of the Revolution and generated a heightened expectation for a heroic leader to take on that task.

It is in this light that Markus explored the emergence of Napoleon as a complex historical figure to confront this mixed expectation and his enduring research effort to conceptualise it as a precursor to the concept of 'Modern Caesarism.' More particularly, Markus underscored the ambiguity in contemporary French political and intellectual debates on drawing parallels between the figure of Caesar and Napoleon as well as the curious role Napoleon, himself, played in encouraging a self-image that resonated with this analogy.

After laying out the structure of the proceeding chapters, Markus concluded his presentation with questions relating to the intensity of charisma a modern Caesar had to have and the necessity of having a preconception of what Bonapartism (post-Napoleonic debates on his political legacy) Napoleonism and Caesarism are. The discussion opened up with comments which suggested a perhaps even closer engagement with the concepts employed by contemporaries, remaining aware of taxonomy, exploring further the connection between Bonapartism and democracy, 'concentrating' the French debate and focusing further on Caesarism, and the breakdown of sovereignty as opposed to Napoleon per se. The need for a narrative that was open and contingent was also highlighted. Questions were raised with regards to the meanings of traditional monarchy, populism, plebiscite as well as representation in the context of the time and 'Modern Caesarism.'

13 Oct
Work in progress presentation Kelly Grotke
CANCELLED, to be rescheduled. Rescheduled to 11.11. at 14-16.

15 Oct
Summing up seminar after the individual project presentations. Where do we stand?

Members of the project team met to discuss progress over the past year, and the road ahead. There was general satisfaction with the advances made in the individual research projects. As the project moves into its second year, attention will now shift to the production of draft manuscripts for presentation at the mid-stream conference in October 2011. Also on the agenda was the schedule of seminars for the year ahead. Continuing with the mixture of distinguished guest speakers and reading seminars that has proven so successful over the last year, the programme for 2011 is shaping up nicely.

18 Oct
Historiography sem. Session 1: Introduction - Historicism and the nineteenth century Outline (pdf)

On October 18, the Research Project Europe inaugurated a five session reading seminar, outlined and organized by Thomas Hopkins and Kelly Grotke, on the rise of historism during the nineteenth century. The first session started with a detailed exposition by Hopkins on the ideas of historicity prevalent in early nineteenth century Europe; the intellectual, social and political German milieu; the transformative role of historism in the shaping of the modern historical discipline, and the theoretical and intellectual challenges it poses. Though the focus of the seminar is on German idealism, the organizers stressed their interest in highlighting the nexus between philosophy and politics and the continuos flow of information and commodities throughout Europe and beyond.
The second part of the session focused on discussing the assigned readings --passages from Savigny's Of the Vocation of our Age for Legislation and Jurisprudence (1814); Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of World History (1827-31); Ranke's "Preface to the First Edition of Histories of the Latin and Germanic Nations" (1824), "The Great Powers" (1833), and "On the Epochs of Modern History" (1854)—in an attempt to reconstruct the vexed relationship between historical narratives and ideas about rationality and agency in the changing context of nineteenth century Europe. These primary readings were supplemented by a relevant selection from the twentieth century classics of Meinecke's Historism (1936) andBurrow's A History of Histories (2009).

During the discussion a number of questions arose in relation to human agency in history, ideas of subjectivity and of reason. However, the question of the tension between the universal and the concrete in historism and its relationship with teleology stood out most prominently. These questions and others will be further addressed in the following sessions.

22 Oct
Historiography sem. Session 2: History, reason, will and action Outline (pdf)

The second session of the historiography seminar titled ' History, Reason, Will and Action´ took a close look at selected writings of F. W. Schelling ( 1775 – 1854), F.W. von Humboldt ( 1767 – 1835), Count August Cieszkowski ( 1814- 1894), Wilhelm Dilthey ( 1833 – 1911), Karl Marx ( 1818 – 1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820 – 1895). Despite the interesting variety of texts, the main discussion centered once again around Hegel, as by the 1840´s his work was central either to be followed or attacked. Hegelianism was by then attached to ideas of social reform and revolution. Frederich William IV of Prussia undertook this as a challengeto his rule and called upon Schelling, Ranke, Mendelson and others as a pancultural attempt against Hegel.

However, the question of the awareness of what is politically possible according to what is philosophically possible during this period was also pointed out as a big question. It was also commented that though Schelling may seem obscure today, while Dilthey and Marx seem closer to contemporary sensibilities, all of their works must be placed firmly within the intellectual tradition of historism. A further characterization of historism was made by examining Schelling´s turn from knowledge as being given to knowledge as necessary to be discovered. Finally the question of the struggle between the relation of the universal and the particular was also highlighted in the discussion.

25-26 Oct
What Past for What Future? - What History for What Europe? Joint conference venture with CENS and the Network for European Studies (NES) at Helsinki University, Central European University, Budapest and Max Planck Institute for Legal History, Frankfurt

This conference inaugurated a series of meetings aimed at exploring the historical underpinnings of the European integration project against the backdrop of the severe legitimacy problems from which it currently suffers. If naïve historical understanding of the integration process has played a not unimportant role in the creation of this legitimacy deficit, there is an urgent need for a new history that emphasizes the fragility of the European project and questions assumptions about its origins and long-term prospects. Such a history, the organizers contend, must be one that emphasizes European integration's potential as a social and political project as much as an economic experiment; a history that provides the imaginative foundations for a future Europe, prepared to act in unity, but respectful of diversity and disunity.

Following a keynote address by Martti Koskenniemi distinguished scholars from across Europe and beyond addressed themselves to these problems in this first meeting, using as a focal point for the panel discussions two recent books, respectively co-authored and co-edited by Bo Stråth, co-director with Koskenniemi of the Research Project Europe 1815-1914.

  • Hagen Schulz-Forberg and Bo Stråth , The Political History of European Integration. The Hypocrisy of Democracy-through-Market. London: Routledge 2010
  • Małgorzata Pakier and Bo Stråth (eds), A European Memory? Contested Histories and Politics of Remembrance. Oxford: Berghahn 2010

27 Oct
Historiography sem. Session 3: History and genius Outline (pdf)

The third session of the historiography seminar series dealt with the relationship of "history" and "genius", more specifically the question of the role of individual figures in world history as seen by 19th-century writers. Texts of four authors in particular were taken into consideration, namely G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Georg Gottfried Gervinus (1805-1871) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). All of them had quite a different take on which role "world historical figures" should and indeed could assume: while for Hegel weltgeschichtliche Individuen impersonated the progress of "reason" in world history and thus represented a crucial element for the development of human society, Carlyle kept a transcendental, non-materialistic view of the world and believed in the importance of heroic leadership, acknowledging a wide range of different types of heroes from the field of religion to literature and politics (most explicitly in his work On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History). In contrast, Gervinus was critical of the idea that individuals played a decisive role in history, and rather argued for the understanding of Geschichte as a ganzheitliches phenomenon. It is in this vein that he aimed to liberate historiography from an all too narrow national perspective in favour of a broader European perspective. Nietzsche, again, did not call into question that individual actors could be of eminent historical importance, but for him individual action was only one element among others: central in what he called the "monumental" aspect of history, however of subordinate importance only in "antiquarian" and "critical" history.

In the discussion, differences and communalities between these four writers as well as the role of "genius" in history on a more general level were debated. Moreover, questions were raised as to the applicability of Hegel's philosophy of history for 20th-century figures as Hitler and Stalin, and today's use of 19th-century historical works for the understanding of the era.