Between Restoration and Revolution, National Constitutions and Global Law: an Alternative View on the European Century 1815-1914 (EReRe)

Directed by Professors Bo Stråth (Department of World Cultures , Faculty of Arts) and Martti Koskenniemi (Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, Faculty of Law)

University of Helsinki

Sponsored by the European Research Council
Working period: September 2009-August 2013 (closed project)">Presentation of the project (pdf)
Final report (pdf)

This page is not being updated.

Europe between 1815 and 1914

Europe today teeters upon a precipice, the apparent choice placed before its peoples one between dissolution and a union subordinated to the demands of the bond markets.  Behind the strident political rhetoric that accompanies this dilemma lies a profound failure of political imagination that emerges from a deeply a-historical view of Europe’s past.  There is an urgent need for a more realistic history that rejects any teleological understanding of Europe as a self-propelling project on a steady march towards a predetermined goal.  Instead, the fragility of European peace and progress, so evident today, needs to be highlighted.  Recent attempts to look for historical analogies to the EU in the American constitutional convention that met in Philadelphia in 1787, or in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation that collapsed in 1806, ring hollow, even as European states take hesitant steps towards fiscal union.  They bypass Europe’s long experience of violent nation-building and global expansion.  Europe was not born anew in 1945.  The legacies of its past, and of the attempts that Europeans have made to deal with that past, pervade the institutional structures of contemporary Europe, and the mentalities that govern it.  Planning for the future must entail a reckoning with this past, but such a reckoning must go beyond the conventional pieties attached to that much repeated phrase, ‘Never again!’  The dark ambiguities of the European inheritance are no more exhausted by inquiry into the cataclysm of the early twentieth century than its potential is defined by the achievements of the last sixty years.  The conflicts of the interwar years and the political order that emerged as a safeguard against their return were alike deeply rooted in the political, legal and economic regimes that had emerged in the nineteenth century.  In the late twentieth century it was common to write European history as an epic of hubris, nemesis and redemption.  There was a crude narcissism in such self-aggrandizement that betrayed the origins of this mode of thinking in the triumphalist histories of earlier generations, and it carried with it the note of special destiny that had characterized them.  But the idea that Europe continues to struggle with the creations and failures of its moment of ascendancy is a powerful one, and it is in the spirit of that struggle that this research project was conceived.

The EReRe Project was established at the University of Helsinki in 2009 with the goal of providing an alternative view on the European Century, 1815-1914.  From the outset,  our assumption was that the century is traversed by themes and tensions that in one way or another continue to dominate ideas about European peace and progress today. These need to be highlighted so as to enable an adequate historical understanding of the difficulties of the present moment, including the nature of the alternatives faced by European decision-makers today. We also insist that focus must reach beyond European institutions, so as to grapple with the themes and tensions that traverse the past two centuries both nationally as well as globally. The present situation is an outcome of developments at all of the three levels: national, European and global. They must all be captured in their inter-relatedness, and this must be done realistically. By realistic we mean a view of the past as open towards the future, fragile and contentious in its achievements, and contingent rather than  deterministic in terms of outcome.


Project Leaders

Professors Bo Stråth, Department of World Cultures and Martti Koskenniemi, Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights


Adrian Brisku holds a PhD degree from the Department of History and Civilisation in the European University Institute, Florence (2009). After completing his undergraduate studies in Humanities and English Language in Albania (1999), he graduated from Sussex University with an MA in Contemporary European Studies (2000), as well as from Central European University with an MA in Political Science (2001). He has taught a number of courses on History of Modern Europe in Prague, Czech Republic and on Nationalism and Political Ideologies in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. For three years he co-directed an academic project, Critical Sociology Network - Caucasus Academic Project (2004-2007), in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.

Since September 2009, he has been a research fellow at the University of Helsinki within the international research project Europe 1815-1914, funded by the European Research Council. He is currently working on ‘Politics of Change and Stability’ in the Ottoman and Russian Empires, 1815-1914. Main interests include comparative political, intellectual history, as well as economic and legal thought in modern Albania and Georgia and nineteenth-century Russian and Ottoman empires.

‘Politics of Change and Stability’ in the Ottoman and Russian Empires, 1815-1914

Kelly Grotke received her BA in philosophy from Oberlin College, and her MA and PhD in history from Cornell University.  Her dissertation on natural law in eighteenth-century Germany (presently a draft manuscript with the working title, Between the Unity and the Manifold:  Natural Law in Eighteenth -Century Europe), was completed under the supervision of Isabel Hull (chair), Gregory Alexander, and Rachel Weil. She is an intellectual historian with particular interests in philosophical methodologies and the problems of time, legal history/theory, and the history of liberalism and conservatism. Her recent work has analyzed the importance of methodology and methodological claims within the natural law tradition as it developed in Europe and particularly Germany, with the aim of uncovering the historical and philosophical sense behind ideas about universalism and particularism as expressed in law, science, and politics. She was a Lecturer in German history at Northwestern University for several years, working with Peter Hayes on his courses in modern German history and the history of the Holocaust ; she has also worked at the Northwestern School of Law on property issues with Clint Francis. Prior to joining the EReRe project, she was Director of Research at Harvest Investments, a private-sector independent securities evaluation firm, where she led a project on increasing financial transparency for state and state-regulated entities. 

The Challenge Method: Natural law, Natural Philosophy, and Universalism in the 17th and 18th Centuries

Thomas Hopkins read History at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge as an undergraduate, before moving to Christ's College, Cambridge to study for the MPhil in Political Thought and Intelletual History. He is currently working towards completion of a University of Cambridge PhD thesis on the work of the political economists, Jean-Baptiste Say and J.-C.-L. Simonde de Sismondi, in relation to the politics and political economy of Europe in the aftermath of the French Revolution, under the supervision of Prof. Gareth Stedman Jones. For the EReRe Project, he will be pursuing his interests in the history of social, economic and political theory into the mid-nineteenth century, looking at French and German perspectives on the idea of 'industrial society'.

"Industrial Society and the State: French and German Perspectives"

Liliana Obregón is Associate Professor of Law (on leave) and former Director of the International Law Program at the University of Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. Professor Obregón obtained her doctoral degree from Harvard Law School where she specialized in the history and theory of international law and international institutions, with particular interest in the study of Latin American regionalist perspectives. She also holds an MA in International Affairs from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University where she concentrated in Latin American Studies. Representative publications include "Between Civilization and Barbarism: Creole Interventions in International Law," in International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice", edited by Richard Falk,  Balakrishnan Rajagopal and Jacqueline Stevens, Routledge-Cavendish,  London, 2008.  "Noted for Dissent: The International Life of Alejandro Alvarez", special edition of the Leiden Journal of International Law, volume 19, No. 4, Cambridge University Press, (2006) .   "Creole Consciousness and International Law in Nineteenth Century Latin America" in International Law and Its Others,  edited by  Anne Orford, Cambridge University Press,  (2006) and  "In Search of Hope: the Plight of Displaced Colombians" in The Forsaken People, edited by Roberta Cohen and Francis Deng, The Brookings Institution, Washington D.C., 1998.

Writing the World through Law: Lawyers and their International Histories 1758-

Francisco A. Ortega is an associate professor at the History Department and teaches in the Cultural Studies graduate program at National University of Colombia in Bogotá. He is also the former Director of the Center for Social Studies (CES) and currently holds a research position in the same Center. Mr. Ortega obtained his PhD. from the University of Chicago (2000), where he specialized in Colonial Latin American studies and critical cultural theory. He was a visiting scholar at Harvard University from 1995 to 1999 and was an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, from 2000 to 2004. He spent 2003 in Colombia as a Fulbright scholar. Mr. Ortega has edited a Spanish language anthology on Michel de Certeau (La irrupción de lo impensado Bogotá 2003) and a newly published collection of essays by US based anthropologist Veena Das and local Colombian authors focusing on social violence, language and interpretation (Veena Das: Sujetos de dolor, agentes de dignidad Bogotá 2008). Since 2003 his main focus of research has been the political culture of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Latin America. He has published in academic journals in the US, México, Peru and Colombia on social theory and colonial Latin American intellectual history.

"Born of the Same Womb, Different in Origin and Blood:  Social Fragmentation and the Making of the Gran Colombian Republics 1770-1870" 

Markus J. Prutsch, born in 1981 (Wagna, Austria), studied History and Political Science at the Universities of Salzburg (Austria) and Heidelberg (Germany). In December 2005, he was conferred Best Graduate of the Year Award by the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. Between 2003 and 2006 Markus J. Prutsch worked as research assistant at the Universities of Salzburg and Heidelberg and as associate member of the Military History Research Institute in Potsdam (Germany). Between 2006 and 2009 he was researcher at the European University Institute (Florence, Italy).

In June 2009, he was awarded the Bruno-Kreisky-Prize for Political Literature for his book: Fundamentalismus. Das 'Projekt der Moderne' und die Politisierung des Religiösen. Markus J. Prutsch has lectured at conferences and universities in Spain, Hungary, and the United States to name but a few. His main fields of interest are: European political and constitutional history; political theory and philosophy; comparative politics.

Plebiscitary Monocracy. Reflections on the Foundations, Nature, and Long Term Implications of ‘Modern Caesarism’

Markus J. Prutsch homepage

Guest Fellows

Peter Haldén was affiliated as guest fellow 1.9.2009 - 31.5.2010. Peter Haldén was raised in Botswana, Sweden and the United Kingdom. In 2006 he received his Ph.D. in social and political sciences from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. 

His research interests are state-formation/state-building, constitutions, European and German history, African and Central Asian societies and international security.

Benno Teschke studied history, politics and international relations at the Universities of Tuebingen, Cardiff, Paris (Sciences-Po) and Berlin, before he completed his doctorate in

International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Thereafter,he was a Andrew Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Comparative and Social History at the Universityu of California, Los Angeles and a Lecturer at the University of Wales in Swansea. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of International Relations at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.

Teschke is the author of the Deutscher Prize Memorial Award-winning 'The Myth of 1648: Class, Geopolitics and the Making of Modern International Relations' (translated into German, Japanese, and Russian). Teschke has contribued to a wide range of IR and Social Science journals and is currently conducting research on a monograph on Carl Schmitt's international thought, while also preparing a sequel to his 'Myth of 1648', which carries the story of the co-constitution between regionally differential economic development, stateformation, and military rivalry in Europe into the 18th and 19th centuries.

Project Coordinators

Minna Vainio, until June 2013
Mathias Haeggström, from July 2013

Working Groups

”Europe 1815-1914” is supported by three working groups, which meet at an annual or biannual basis serving as a space of reflection for the team through input by external experts in important fields of the research agenda. The work will result in edited volumes. The groups are:

Teleology and History: A Critical Assessment of an Enlightenment Thought

Organised by Henning Trüper, University of Zürich in cooperation with Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, University of California

The aim is to examine and critically confront teleological perspectives in history and the social sciences through a series of workshops, and to discuss why teleologies recur and how alternative philosophies of history and time in social theories may be explored.

Paradoxes of Peace in 19th Century Europe

Organised by Thomas Hippler, Université de Lyon and Miloš Vec, Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Frankfurt/Main

The aim is to explore and highlight the contradictions and paradoxes in nineteenth-century discourses on peace. Rather than being opposites, war and peace do constitute each other, while constituting a normative order within the international realm.

Constitutions and the Legitimisation of Power

Organised by Kelly Grotke and Markus Prutsch, University of Helsinki, The Research Project Europe 1815-1914

This working group will study the power implications of constitutions. Rather than seeing constitutions as instrument of a linear development towards parliamentarism the working group will shed light on how constitutions were used for restoration and reactionary politics as well as for reform and revolution. 

Ordering the World in the Nineteenth Century: Beyond Realism and Idealism

Organised by Thomas Hopkins University of Helsinki, The Research Project Europe 1815-1914

The aim of this working group is to offer a fresh perspective on the emergence of novel ways of thinking about the international order in nineteenth-century Europe, with a particular emphasis on investigating the discursive landscape of legal and political theory.

Property and Poverty: Perspectives on the Nineteenth-Century Social Question

Organised by Thomas Hopkins University of Helsinki, The Research Project Europe 1815-1914

This working group will investigate the rise of the nineteenth-century ‘Social Question’ and its decisive impact on European political, social and economic thought.  The aim is to produce new perspectives on the conceptual dislocation produced by the transformative social changes of the age of industrialisation.

Cooperating Partners

"Congress of Vienna The International History of Cosmopolitanism", directed by Professor Glenda Sluga at the Sydney University

"Between Cosmopolitanism and Empire: Europe, Human Rights, Sovereignty" at Birkbeck College, University of London

Network for European Studies, NES

University of Zurich/URPP Asia and Europe In co-operation with the Working Group Teleology and History: A Critical Assessment of an Enlightenment Thought 



29 Sept
Project presentation Adrian Brisku: Competing Geopolitics and Clashing Values during the Century of Europe

30 Sept
Project presentation Peter Haldén: Nineteenth projects for ordering international relations through law

Project Presentation Thomas Hopkins: Industrial Society and the State: French and German Perspectives

Over four days of intense discussion based upon pre-circulated papers, each member of the research team had the opportunity to flesh out and refine their individual research projects. Adrian Brisku opened the proceedings on 29th September, presenting his initial thoughts on a comparative study of the Russian and Ottoman empires in the nineteenth century. The following day, Peter Haldén discussed his plans to investigate the shaping of international relations in the century following the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, whilst Thomas Hopkins outlined a project on the intellectual origins of the 'social question' in France.

1 - 5 Oct
Project presentation Liliana Obregón: An Alternative View on the Nineteenth Century Through the Consolidation of Independence and Rise of International Law in Latin America

Project presentation Francisco Ortega: The Birth of Latin American Citizenship: 1750-1850

Project presentation Markus Prutsch: Monocracy vs. Democracy

Project presentation Kelly Grotke: The Shaping of the International: History, Method, and Teleology in Europe, 1815- 1914"

On 1st October, Franciso Ortega presented his work on the origins of Latin American conceptions of citizenship in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and Liliana Obregón set out a research project that would examine the formative impact of Latin American experiences upon the shaping of international law in the European nineteenth century. In the penultimate session, on 2nd October, Markus Prutsch discussed the concept of 'modern Caesarism' as an alternative to nineteenth-century constitutionalism. Kelly Grotke closed the week, presenting a project that would analyze the ways in which the philosophical problem of method came to occupy a commanding position in nineteenth-century intellectual culture.

05 Oct
10-12 Thomas Hippler, Lyon and Milos Vec, Frankfurt present: some preliminary thoughts on the constitution of a working group on European peace movements and peace congresses in the nineteenth century

The aim of the seminar was to work out the conceptual basis and practicalities for a Working Group on paradoxes in languages of European peace in the nineteenth century. The meeting started with presentations by Milos Vec, (University of Frankfurt) and Thomas Hippler (University of Lyon) who are going to direct the working group.

Following Vec's presentation on legal meanings of the words peace and peace movements and Hippler's account of the "state of the art", the meeting discussed how to proceed from there. The main thematic areas of analysis, focus, possible contributors, and timetables for the working group were laid out.

14 Oct
10-12 A seminar by Jürgen Osterhammel, Konstanz presenting his recent book Die Verwandlung der Welt, followed by a discussion.

His book is an attempt to understand the nineteenth century in the manner of world history but consciously avoids many trappings of macrohistory such as periodizations and a focus on nation-states as delineated actors.

The presentation was followed by a general discussion. The participants of the EReRe project could clearly see connections and affinities with Osterhammel's work and research orientation.

Issues were raised such as the difficulties of long-range comparisons, whether teleologies were always something to be resisted and opposed and in what specific ways the 19th century transformed the world. One topic that surfaced on several occasions was the difficulty of studying the 19th century as our tools with which we can reflect on economic, political and social matters to a large extent were constructed during that century.

23 Oct

 Jürgen Habermas, “Kant’s Idea of Perpetual Peace, with the benefit of Two Hundred Years’ Hindsight”, introduced by Martti KoskenniemiReading seminar

Martti Koskenniemi started the session by introducing Jürgen Habermas 1997 essay on "Kant's Idea of Perpetual Peace, with the Benefit of Two Hundred Years' Hindsight," (in Perpetual Peace: Essays on Kant's Cosmopolitan Idea, ed. James Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1997), Koskenniemi´s purpose was to present an example of a contemporary philosopher whose thinking on Kant is influential worldwide and highlight how Habermas, through Kant, presents a very clear and conventional endorsement of international legalism. Though some of the events addressed by the 1997 essay seem dated Habermas still exemplifies a powerful and hegemonic way of understanding cosmopolitanism today. Indeed, Habermas has continued to address the relevance of the "Kantian Project of Cosmopolitan Law" in several conferences and publications of the last decade. The discussion also led to questions on Habermas ineffectual engagement with Carl Schmitt via Kant. Further comments by the members of the ERERE group brought on question on how Kant was read in the 19th century, how Kant is used today, how Kant´s works on anthropology and physical geography are left aside in contemporary praises of his cosmopolitanism, and on how Kant´s work seems unescapable for the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, and thus the need of further discussion of Kant´s work throughout the evolution of the ERERE project.

26 Oct

 Reinhart Koselleck, a selection of essays from Futures Past, introduced by Bo StråthReading seminar

The seminar began with a brief introduction by Bo Strath. Particularly important was Strath´s discussion of Koselleck´s polemic relationship with Habermas and Schmitt. In view of our previous seminar on Habermas and Kant, it was suggested that if Habermas harked back to Kant a definite path towards civility, Koselleck draws from Hobbes and Schmitt to insist on the radical openess of political struggles. The blatant optimism of the former and the moderate pessimism of the latter find some philosophical sustenance in such suggestion. Furthermore, Koselleck experience as a combatant during World War II lends experiental content to Koselleck´s intellectual trajectory.

Martti Koskieniemi opened up the discussion by posing three questions suggested by the readings: 1) The question of the chronological limit (can we talk meaningfully of the 19th century?); 2) the crucial notion of the contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous (the fact that at once we might inhabit various time narratives, modalities, speeds, intensities, etc); and the question of the centrality and nature of concepts to understand conflict in society.

Various discussions ensued, but members of the seminar aggreed there were a number of key questions Koselleck presented to us:

  • Do we live in a time in which time accelerates? Is there any projection? Are there any utopias?
  • What are the past futures in the 19th century? How were these moments identified?
  • Did it seem possible to control the future? When and how did the belief of the mastery of the future emerge?
  • Can we politically master the future? How can we use history to master the future, or should we?

Finally, conversations have continued via e-mail and in hall exchanges. An impending question remains: what might be our relationships to the 19th century?