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.

September 2010
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6 Sep
Work in progress presentation Adrian Brisku

Stability and Empire: The Russian and Ottoman Empires during the Century of Europe.

Today's talk by Adrian Brisku opened the series of work-in-progress seminars by the members of the EReRe team. This series serves as an opportunity to present and discuss the current state of each individual research project.

Starting with some general reflections on the overriding ambition of his research project, namely to address the interrelated questions of "stability" and "(multiethnic) empire" in the long 19th century, Adrian then presented the draft of what will later become the first chapter of the envisaged monograph on the Russian and Ottoman Empires during the Century of Europe, entitled "Law at Home, Religious Morality Abroad". He elaborated on the incentives for, the character and ultimate failure of two early 19th-century attempts to achieve such stability in imperial Russia: on the one hand, Michael M. Speransky's efforts to promote the constitutionalisation of the Empire, revolving around the idea(l) of "True Monarchy"; on the other, the initiative of Tsar Alexander I to achieve durable peace – and Russian hegemony – in Europe by means of the Holy Alliance.

In the third and last part of his presentation, Adrian then moved on to address some of the challenges for the forthcoming writing process, including the questions: which way the analysis of the "discourse" and presentation of the facts could be most effectively combined, and whether the chosen approach to focus exclusively on representatives of the political class (monarchs, high officials) might perhaps be too narrow.

In the debate that followed, there was common agreement that much progress had been made by Adrian during the first year of the project. At the same time, a series of proposals and ideas for ongoing research were put forward, with two issues raised by several seminar participants. Firstly, the danger of walking into the trap of a classical and teleological understanding of "stability", instead of which emphasis should be placed on the ambivalent "quest for stability"; and secondly, the need to contextualise research further by setting the analysis of particular persons and historical moments into a broader intellectual and historical framework.

In this context, it was suggested that the (geo-)political challenges of the time, particularly French hegemonic aspirations, might play a more central role. At the same time it was recommended that the two parts be better interlinked, e.g. by having a closer look at Tsar Alexander's "constitutional policies" and thereby building a bridge from Speransky's constitutional draft of 1809 to the Tsar's efforts for establishing a blueprint for lasting European peace during the Congress of Vienna.

13 Sep
Work in progress presentation Thomas Hopkins

Tom Hopkins presented the chapter "Sismondi and the Complimentarity of International Trade" of his future book manuscript "The Decomposition of Industrialism: Intellectual Origins of the Social Question in France, c. 1800-1850".

Hopkins envisions his work on Sismondi as one component of the first part of his book which would also include a study on Jean-Baptiste Say and Benjamin Constant. The debate these three thinkers had about what happened to the European economy after the wars and the ways the wars were reshaped will be the focus of this first part. The second part of the book will be about the emergence of Saint Simoneasim and the third and final part will focus on the rise of socialism from the 1830´s to the 1840´s. Hopkins pointed out that this early history of socialism is an important contribution to the literature because there are very few important studies on this topic written after the 1970´s.

Hopkins´ presentation focused on the review of Sismondi's "Nouveaux principes d'économie politique" by the scholar and diplomat, Alexandre de Laborde in 1820. In reviewing the Nouveaux principes, Laborde lost little time in condemning Sismondi's work as a call for retreat from the benefits offered by the advances in modern industry and finance.

The history of mankind could be characterised as one of progression from man's submission to necessity to his mastery over the forces of nature. Sismondi, Laborde noted, had pursued this new philosophy in De la richesse commerciale, adopting the system of Adam Smith, the most advanced known. It was evident, Laborde argued, that in directing his critique against the commercial system of Europe, Sismondi had Britain in mind above all. Laborde took Sismondi to be advocating the use of the state's authority to reverse the sequence that had led from the economics of scarcity to those of abundance. Laborde's book was intended to explain how it was that France might hope to share in these benefits. The answer lay in offering the greatest possible liberty to the individual to pursue their own interests, whilst establishing the strongest possible guarantees as to the security of their persons and property. Laborde's critique of Sismondi echoed some of the objections that had been raised to the works of Rousseau in the eighteenth century. Thus, by 1820, Laborde's presentation of Sismondi as a kind of Rousseauian Cynic served to evoke not only the image of misconceived philanthropic sentiment transmuting into the ethics of a 'real hater of mankind', but also that of a return to the 'levelling' politics of the 1790s.

Sismondi's goal was to demonstrate how income, capital and population could be brought into proportion. It was true that in order to achieve this, careful regulation of competition was in order. The more pressing problem, however, was to persuade governments not to fall back on the resources of the state in a bid to support a larger manufacturing base than their country could naturally support. The corporatist tone of Sismondi's welfare arrangements begins to look less like a straightforward return to the monopolistic practices of the guild system, and more like an attempt to disburden the state of its responsibility for the livelihoods of the labouring class. This was an important move if the baneful attempts of governments to interest themselves in speeding up the natural progress of industry were to be discouraged.

Sismondi´s vision was of nations more tightly bound by ties of commercial reciprocity than ever before. Recent work in the history of eighteenth-century political thought has advised us to be sceptical about attempts to sharply demarcate republican perspectives on markets from those associated with the emerging science of political economy, particularly when confronted with the vexed question of the relationship between markets and states. If nothing else, concluded Hopkins, Sismondi's reflections on international trade are suggestive of a more complex relationship between his republicanism and his later political economy than has at times been assumed.

15 Sep
 Work in progress presentation Francisco Ortega

Francisco Ortega, "Making The People: Simón Rodríguez, Republican Values, and Popular Education," Ch. 2 of The Making of Latin American Citizenship 1750-1850
Francisco Ortega began his first presentation of the academic year with a synopsis of his proposed manuscript project, The Making of Latin American Citizenship 1750-1850. His work, like that of the other EReRe Fellows, has undergone revision over the past year, which he credited in part to the group's ongoing and productive engagement with each other's ideas and arguments.

In keeping with the project's intention to challenge existing notions about "the European century," Francisco described his manuscript as an inquiry into the ways in which the emergence of Latin American republics in general and Greater Colombia in particular can shed light both on the meaning of modernity beyond European borders and on the political and cultural negotiations surrounding the concept of citizenship.
He outlined his proposed chapters for the group, which will address: American mestizaje and originality (ch. 1); the making of the people (ch. 2); the studying and writing of history (ch. 3); the making of space (ch. 4); concluding with a discussion of "split identity" (ch.5).

The group discussed both the general structure and the choice of topics, in light of Francisco's intention to move beyond his past work in conceptual history. Several members recommended that more attention to the role of economic concerns in the construction of citizenship would be desirable; others remarked on how Francisco's project covers ground less well-traveled in the scholarship by not taking law and economics as the main historical focal points, thereby potentially bringing out new material for analysis.

The discussion then moved to his chapter on "Making the People," which takes up the role of education as a key factor in the construction of citizenship, and the ways in which it stood at the crossroads between liberalizing and authoritarian impulses, between the new and the old. Francisco's continuing engagement with the ideas of Simón Rodríguez was widely appreciated, since the chapter clearly establishes Rodríguez's centrality to educational debates and to the ideas of citizenship and governance contained within them.

The group then pressed Francisco to define more sharply the intellectual context for these debates, both comparatively and with respect to the specific dynamics and emphases in Latin America, in order to highlight the ways in which his work-in-progress might complement or draw from that of the other project members.

The session closed with a reminder from Bo Stråth about the plurality of teleologies, and the need for continuing attention to the indeterminacies and uncertainties that inform past futures.

21 Sep
16- Visit to Helsinki City Museum

Members of the Research Project Europe 1815-1914 were invited to a guided tour of the Helsinki City Museum by its curator, Jari Harju. The visit was conceived with a twofold purpose in mind. On the one hand, members of the research project wanted to improve their knowledge of Finnish history and to explore the ways in which their particular projects relate to it. On the other, the visit was conceived as a way of opening up a conversation with museum professionals on the role of cultural heritage and the importance of history for today's society. Furthermore, as the City Museum begins to get ready for its future relocation and develops plans for new exhibitions, the curator was interested in critically engaging with members of the research team. The whole group enjoyed the visit as it helped researchers see both Helsinki and Finland's history in another light.

22 Sep
14-16 Work in progress presentation Liliana Obregon

Liliana Obregon presented her work-in- progress under a new working title "A Space for the Past, A Time for the Future: Writing the History of International Law from the Early Nineteenth Century."
She pointed out that this was a last revision of her overall objectives of her project. Indeed, Liliana elaborated on the efforts to combine her initial focus on writing the historiography of international law in the nineteenth century with case studies, Haiti and Mexico, in the early part of this century. For her, particularly the example of Haiti's declaration of independence and the efforts to gain international recognition was a case in point in which international law – a teleologically driven discipline and practice – was silent and subsequently Haiti remained invisible.

In light of this she deemed it particularly interesting and potential insightful concentrating on the period from early nineteenth century to 1870 and revisiting the histories written during this time, also because, accordingly, international law seems to reject this early part of the century.

After detailing her chapters' outline, identifying influential contemporaries writing about international law, and presenting the chapter "Haiti out of the History in International Law" as well as laying out her concerns with regards to her current work, the discussion proceeded with questions, comments and suggestions.
Questions were raised on the relation between morality, slavery and international law, on the issue of recognition of Haiti's independence, on whether the efforts to combine the case of Haiti with the historiography of international was the way to pursue, on what was at stake for contemporaries writing about international law and so on. The discussants observed in her work a sharper link to the notion of teleology, an entangled portrayal of the interaction between emergence of international law, commerce and slavery. It was suggested that concentrating on potential tensions emerging in the writing of history of international law would be a much more fruitful path.