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 (minna.vainio[at] is requested.
October 2011
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4-6 Oct
International Law and Empire Workshop

Martti Koskenniemi and Anne Orford
more information (ECI)

Programme (pdf)

From the 4th to 6th of October, ERERE project co-director Martti Koskenniemi, and professor Anne Orford, University of Melbourne, convened a workshop on the theme of International Law and Empire. The workshop brought together nearly thirty leading scholars from international law, history, anthropology, international relations and literature to assess the role of law in the organisation and occasional critique of formal and informal empire, and the role of empire in the organisation of modern international law.

The convenors asked the following questions: How did international law contribute to the process of European expansion from the 16th century to the 20th century? What has been the role of legal institutions and legal thought in the organisation of global commercial relations from the time of the Spanish empire to the present? How have international law and legal thought affected the global distribution of material and resources? To what extent have rules of public and private law facilitated the establishment of imperial relationships and when have they instead operated as an anti-imperial force? To what extent do the concepts of empire and imperialism help to grasp the nature of global relations today? Do categories of "formal" and "informal" empire still have a useful role to play in analysing the present world? Are the normative foundations and the legal relationships of "globalisation" similar or different from those of formal "empire"? Have imperialism and anti-imperialism still purchase as terms of political analysis and engagement?

The conference presentations were divided in panels on imperial history and international law, international law and early modern empire, informal empire and the history of administration, universalism, international law and empire, private law and commercial empire, the empire of humanitarianism, international law and imperial war-making, decolonisation and the transformations of empire.
The presentations were rich and diverse and sought to answer the questions posed by the convenorswhile posing new provocative questions.

Some of these questions led to methodological reconsiderations. How should texts be read? Should we care what they were intented to mean, or should we worry about their reception and effects? What is the relation between norms and actions, contexts, habits as norms, the law of nations as a general idiom? The practice of reading is important: what we read, how we read, who we are when we read and when we write. Do we read or write in order to understand this world today or to make visible what was invisible? Can we really be impartial objective observers? Do we read and write as activists as revolutionaries, as counterrevolutionaries?

These questions in relation to writing the history of empire provoked a bigger inquiry on what is empire and how to evaluate it in relation to international law. The answers were seen as unstable so it was suggested by the convenors that perhaps what may be important is studying the process of giving those answers. Why are some empires seen as "good" and others as "bad"? Why is the Roman empire celebrated vrs others that are chastised? What makes us think of some historical experience as empire? Does this distinction still do work for us today? Why are we antiimperial today? Is empire and international law the big topic or is it passing? What is the usefulness of the particular framework of empire and international law? Is empire universalism in its darkest side? Instead of looking at law as an accomplice to empire can we also see it as a universalizing gesture against international law´s solipsism?

22 Oct
European Wars and Nationalism
Ute Planert, Universität Wuppertal, “The Long-Term Implications of the Napoleonic Wars for Europe”, John Hutchinson, London School of Economics, “Wars and Nationalism”,
venue: Tieteiden Talo (Kirkkokatu 6), room 313

In today's seminar, the two invited speakers addressed the problem of "war and nationalism" with a focus on the 19th and 20th century from different angles. Ute Planert, professor of modern history at the University of Wuppertal, focused on the genesis of German nationalism(s) in the context of war experiences from the mid-18th to the 19th century. Starting with some remarks on the beginnings of 'German national sentiments' in the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, Planert then paid particular attention to the Revolutionary and especially Napoleonic Wars. She elaborated on the division of the German-speaking world after the dissolution of the Reich in 1806 into four distinct areas – Prussia, those territories occupied by the French, the Confederation of the Rhine, and Habsburg Austria – which not only had dissimilar war experiences, but also considerably different memory cultures and national(istic) discourses in the post-Napoleonic period. In conclusion, Planert argued that it was not until the Kaiserreich that the largely Prussian perception of the Napoleonic Age as being "evil" and one of foreign domination, finally ended by a "war of liberation" fought by the "united German nation", became hegemonic throughout Germany.

In his talk, John Hutchinson, reader in nationalism at the Department of Government at the London School of Economics, addressed the question whether and in how far the widely propagated claim of the end of the "heroic national era" can be corroborated. In a first step, he presented the four main sets of arguments commonly put forward to describe an assumed fundamental change in the relation between war and nationalism since the two World Wars: 1) the experience of mass death and the end of national cults; 2) the decline of the idea of the citizen in arms; 3) a range of post-imperial dilemmas, including the fact that intervention on national(istic) grounds is no longer legitimate; 4) postmodern "deconstruction" and the growing cult of victims. While not calling these four points fundamentally into question, Hutchinson formulated his criticism towards each in turn and presented a more compound picture of the (political) role World War I and II have played until today. He outlined the "foundational" character of both World Wars and essentially argued that they have remained a crucial reference point for many (European) societies to be used as a powerful source to generate energies – not least for the European Union and its policies.

In the debate following on from both talks, reference was made to the outstanding role of Germany in both the 19th- and 20th-century contexts presented by the two speakers, and to the more general relationship between "modernity" on the one hand, "tradition" on the other. Discussion also touched upon the caesura of the development of nationalism in Europe during the 19th century, the role of 19th-century experiences for post-Second-World-War discourse on the relationship between war and nation, the changes in the justifications for war, and altering perceptions of war due to new forms of threat and warfare (e.g., "global war on terror").

24-25 Oct
Midstream Conference

This conference is organised just over two years after the beginning of the project. The aim is to collect feedback on the project work so far from external experts. The team fellows will present draft texts of monographs which will be commented upon and discussed by the experts.
Programme (pdf)

On 24 and 25 October, 2011 the Midstream Conference was held in Helsinki marking two years after the beginning of the project. The purpose of this closed meeting was to collect feedback from external experts on each of the fellows´ draft monographs that had been distributed one month before the conference.

Adrian Brisku presented his monograph "Politics of Change and Stability in the Ottoman and Russian Empires during the 'Century of Europe'" and received comments from Edhem Eldem, professor at Bogaziçi
University, Istanbul and fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.
Thomas Hopkins spoke on "Before Socialism: Political Economy and the Social Question in Post Revolutionary France" and received comments from Martin van Gelderen, professor of European intellectual history at the European University Institute. Liliana Obregón presented her "Writing the World through Law: Lawyers and their International Histories 1758-1870" and was discussed by Alejandro Lorite-Escorihuela, Associate Professor on leave from American University in Cairo and Helsinki Collegium Fellow. Francisco Ortega discussed his monograph "Born of the Same Womb, Different in Origin and Blood: The Making of Latin America 1760-1860" with commentator Rebecca Earle, from Warwick University. Markus Prutsch presented his draft "Crisis, Populace and Leadership: Reflections on Discourse and Practice of 'Modern Caesarism'" and was commented by Christian Jansen, Ruhr-Universität Bochum/Technische Universität Berlin.

Each fellow made a 20 minute presentation to the group, the commentator responded for another 20 minutes, and a one hour discussion session with all participants followed. This method was very helpful for receiving comments from an expert in each field of study but also from the other discussants as well as the members of the ERERE project. The rich and constructive discussions made way for important insights and contributions from which to productively continue the next stage of the writing process.

Meeting was followed by:

26 Oct
14 -16 Summing up of the midstream conference. Proceeding towards completion.