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.

September 2011
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8-9 Sept
Working Group Teleology and History, 4. meeting in Budapest.

On 8-9 September 2011, the Working Group "Teleology and History: A Criticial Assessment of an Enlightenment Thought", organized by Dipesh Chakrabarty, Henning Trüper and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, convened for its fourth workshop in Budapest. The workshop produced an exceptional number of excellent papers converging on a number of sometimes surprising shared themes.

The workshop first discussed an only seemingly marginal problem of 19th-century history, the emergence of philanthropic sea rescue associations, as a blueprint for the theoretical problems engaged in the working group. Several motives from this discussion proved recurrent and highly fruitful for the further presentations, e.g. the value of the rescue or non-rescue of lives, the civilizing process, and the problem of particular histories. Then, seeking to deepen our previous work on modern European historical teleologies as seen from colonial history, the workshop explored the unmaking of the 19th century in the early 20th and the foundation of new nation states and new historical teleologies, especially in the Middle East and South Asia. In a densely connected set of papers on the independence and partition of British India and its political thought, and on the specific regime of historicity accompanying Zionism, the importance of historical consciousness for political projects and political opposition to Europe was put in stark relief. This work opened innovative perspectives on historical teleologies as instruments of domination and sites of conflict. Similar motives were pursued in the context of the European and North American discourse of international law in the 19th century and the solutions it sought for conceptualizing and putting in practice extraterritoriality. Here, too, the use of a historical teleology, that of international law, for domination, and its unmaking out of the resulting contradictions and lacunae, proved a prominent motive.

The workshop concluded with a discussion of the melding of "natural" and "civil" history in the Scottish Enlightenment, a topic that points forward to our fifth meeting, in which the relations of political and natural history will be the central concern.

20 Sept
14-16 Liisi Keedus, University of Tallin, ”The Crisis of Liberalism after 1871: Historicism as a Response", Porthania P545

Drawing on her past research into the intellectual life of Weimar Germany, Liisi Keedus looked back in this paper to the political climate of the decades following the creation of the German Reich in 1871. Focussing on the careers of the historians Heinrich von Treitschke and Friedrich Meinecke, she attempted to paint a more subtle picture of the relationship between the crisis of German liberalism under Bismarck and late nineteenth-century historicism than has generally been drawn. Treitschke, she explained was, from his youth in Saxony, an ardent German nationalist, at a time when the ties between German nationalism and liberalism were strong. Treitschke conceived the writing of history as a search for national unity. He was concerned with the state, with its power, and with that power as a vehicle for the working out of the national genius. In the second half of the paper, she explored how this vision of the state was countered in the work of Meinecke, whose career, spanning the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, constituted a slow progression away from an Hegelian-inflected liberalism towards a more critical attitude towards the assumptions of German liberal nationalism. Keedus' paper was followed by a most interesting discussion of the problem of historicism and its relation to nineteenth-century liberalism, and of the German 'Sonderweg' problem.

21 Sept
The Borders of Norden: Where Are They? a joint venture with CENS

A half day seminar on 19th century Schleswig-Holstein, Nordkalotten,  and Karelia in comparison organised by Centre for Nordic Studies and the research project Europe 1815-1914 in cooperation, Programme (pdf)
venue: Tieteiden Talo (Kirkkokatu 6), room 312

What happened to the 19th century border between the Finnish and the Russian in Karelia, between the Danish and the German in the Duchies of Schleswig/Slesvig and Holstein, and between Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia in the arctic North, and how were the nomadic Sami populations affected by these borders? How did the border between the power politics of ruling princes and people's everyday practices look like? What was German and what was Danish? What was Russian and what was Finnish? And what about the Arctic Area of the Nordic countries and the Kola Peninsula: what was Norwegian? What was Swedish? What was Finnish? What was Russian? What was Sami land?

With what gauges do we measure when we discuss these and similar questions?

The nineteenth century was the century of both nation and state building. Ideally borders of nations and borders of states coincided. However, these were ideals that in practice often looked quite different. A European history where for centuries territorial power had been established through marriage and war, politics by ruling dynasties had lead to a patchwork of
possessions implying that the rulers were members of several political assemblies. The Danish king, for instance, was also in the capacity of Duke of Holstein a member of the German Bund. In the Finnish case one might ask about the difference between the Russian tsar and the Finnish Grand Duke. To what extent did the ruler suffer from a split personality? How were the relations between the multiethnic populations and their subjects in the high North?

These, and other questions were addressed in a half-day seminar organized with CENS by such distinguished guest speakers as Steen Bo Frandsen (Syddansk Universitet), Max Engman (Åbo Akademi), Ilkka Liikanen (University of Joensuu), Einar Niemi, and Jens Petter Nielsen (both Tromsø University).