Bo Stråth, Europe´s Utopias of Peace: 1815, 1919, 1951

Book launch, 16 Nov., 5 pm: with Martti Koskenniemi, Aline Sierp and Erkki Tuomioja

The never again thinking in Europe during the last two centuries:

Bo Stråth’s book Europe´s Utopias of Peace. 1815, 1919,1951 (Bloomsbury 2016) as an innovative opening in peace research

Europe’s Utopias of Peace (2016) is a product of a major research project carried out at the University of Helsinki and financed by the European Research Council (2009-2014) that Stråth co-directed with Martti Koskenniemi. The aim of the project was to undertake a critical reevaluation of the 19th century in the retrospective view from today’s Europe and explore the legacy that it represents today. The book discerns three world wars (1792-1815, 1914-1918, 1939-1945) embedded in deep economic, political and normative (value) crises, each followed by a European unification project under the motto of never again. The book investigates how the unification projects eroded, and how instead of peace continuously new wars and crises emerged. It argues that the mutually reinforcing connection between warfare and welfare has been a key factor in the bicentenary history since Vienna 1815, and reflects on how the present crisis, where fragmentation and re-nationalisation seems to replace the post-1945 imagery of European unification, should be understood in this historical framework.

On this latter point the book and the project connects to a new project at the University of Helsinki in cooperation with research teams in Barcelona, Frankfurt and Torino, in operation since September 2016 and hosting this seminar, The Debt: Historicizing Europe’s Relations with the South, sponsored by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area). The aim is in a long-term perspective to explore the historical background of today’s chasm between Europe’s North and South in the wake of the Euro crisis and its austerity politics.

Europe’s Utopias of Peace can in many ways be regarded as the magnum opus of an extensive oeuvre. The focal point of Stråth’s research has been on ways to modernity in Sweden, the Nordic countries, Europe and the world. One of the great comparativists among contemporary historians on Europe, his perspective is that of a conceptual historian with a concern for avoiding reductionist interpretations and paying careful attention to the capacity – or incapacity − of human beings to change structures of society and to the responsibility of human agency for success as well as shortcomings, actions as well as non-action.  

Book launch event on Wednesday 16 November at the Swedish School of Social Science of the University of Helsinki (Snellmaninkatu 12, room “Festsal”) 5 pm onwards.

Following a short presentation of the main arguments by prof. Martti Koskenniemi, the discussion with Bo Stråth will be initiated by comments from Aline Sierp, assistant professor in European Studies at Maastricht University, and member of parliament and historian Erkki Tuomioja.