Tag Archives: Europe

Book review – Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy by Simms

9780465013333_p0_v1_s260x420[This is a slightly longer version of a review published in The English Historical Review]

A summary of more than 550 years of European history on 690 pages is no mean feat, but Brendan Simms’ Europe fails to convince much beyond its ambition.

The author decides to approach Europe’s history through the lens of international relations. After a short prologue on medieval Europe, the author sets off properly with the advent of modern times. The first 200 years of the span are dealt with in 40 pages; half of the book covers the twentieth century. Simms’ aim is to reveal a range of constants in international relations: European powers Continue reading Book review – Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy by Simms

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as Associate Professor at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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Lieux de mémoire: the end

the-endIn 2005, I began a project at the university of Luxembourg, together with other colleagues, on Luxembourgish lieux de mémoire. We tried to bridge the gap between academic history and public memory by publishing a “book with footnotes” and a “book with a lot of images“. End of 2006, the project was finished and I started working on a history of psychiatry but the lieux de mémoire continued to haunt me. The topic remained extremely popular among academics and conferences continued to be organised. I drifted more and more from the Luxembourgish lieux de mémoire to a more general historiographical reflection on lieux de mémoire. My last article on this theme, entitled “The ‘lieux de mémoire’: a place of remembrance for European historians?”, tries to write a histoire au troisième degré1: how the lieux de mémoire became a lieu de mémoire for the European historiography in the last twenty years. If you want to read more, click here.

  1. Nora P., « Pour une histoire au second degré », Le Débat, 1 novembre 2002, n° 122, no 5, p. 24‑31. []

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as Associate Professor at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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Narrating Europe

An European narrative told by geneticists interested in the Y-Chromosome.  The maps are from the following article: Semino Ornella, Magri Chiara, Benuzzi Giorgia, Lin Alice A., Al-Zahery Nadia, Battaglia Vincenza, Maccioni Liliana, Triantaphyllidis Costas, Shen Peidong, Oefner Peter J., Zhivotovsky Lev A., King Roy, Torroni Antonio, Cavalli-Sforza L. Luca, Underhill Peter A. et Santachiara-Benerecetti A. Silvana, « Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area », The American Journal of Human Genetics, 74-5, 1 mai 2004, p. 1023-1034.
An European narrative told by geneticists interested in the Y-Chromosome.
The maps are from the following article: Semino Ornella, Magri Chiara, Benuzzi Giorgia, Lin Alice A., Al-Zahery Nadia, Battaglia Vincenza, Maccioni Liliana, Triantaphyllidis Costas, Shen Peidong, Oefner Peter J., Zhivotovsky Lev A., King Roy, Torroni Antonio, Cavalli-Sforza L. Luca, Underhill Peter A. et Santachiara-Benerecetti A. Silvana, « Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area », The American Journal of Human Genetics, 74-5, 1 mai 2004, p. 1023-1034.

  On European stories in books, museums and on the web

8 October 2012 

René Leboutte on his  ̋Histoire économique et sociale de la construction européenne ̋ published in 2008.

5 November 2012

Michael Neumann on the series  ̋Mythen Europas : Schlüsselfiguren der Imagination ̋ published between 2004 and 2009.

26 November 2012

Hartmut Leppin on  ̋Das Erbe der Antike ̋ published in 2010.

17 December 2012

Taja Vovk-Van Gaal and Christine Dupont on the House of European History planned to open in 2014.

25 February 2013

Bernd Schneidmüller on  ̋Grenzerfahrung und monarchische Ordnung ̋ published in 2011.

18 March 2013

Susana Munoz on the  ̋Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe ̋ (www.cvce.eu)

These conferences are organised by the Master in European Contemporary History and take place in Walferdange, Room X.0.34., from 11.45 to 13.15.

Registration is free but obligatory.

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as Associate Professor at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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Everyday Life Under German Occupation

 

Luxembourgian propaganda poster, probably edited by the government in exile
Luxembourgian propaganda poster, probably edited by the government in exile

Tatjana Tönsmeyer from the Bergische Universität Wuppertal and Peter Haslinger, director of the Herder-Institut für historische Ostmitteleuropaforschung, plan a document edition on every day life under German occupation during World War Two1. They took the stimulating decision not to organise the archives around countries’ reports but to present the sources around four topics in four volumes: “Supply and Shortage”, “Rule and its Institutions”, “Labour and Exploitation” and finally “Exclusion, Forced Migration and Persecution”2. Last week they assembled historians representing 17 countries – I was invited as the Luxembourgian representative – at the Topographie des Terrors in Berlin to have a first discussion on theoretical and practical challenges. At the end of this meeting, three major elements struck me:

  • The difficulty to conceive a common European definition of occupation. As Olivier Wieviorka pointed it out: in France (and in Western Europe in general) war was the exception during the four years of occupation.3 In Eastern Europe, occupation and war were almost synonyms. Tatjana Tönsmeyer, a specialist of Central European History, characterised the history of occupation in her keynote as intrinsically marked by every day violence. Peter Romijn and myself were not so sure that this was true for large parts of the (rural) population in the Netherlands and in Luxembourg and pleaded to pay more attention to normality during occupation.
  • The different national war narratives are still considered as exceptional by the respective historiographical fields. Most of us started our brief country presentation in the morning by underlining how “unique”, “specific”, “exceptional” the situation was in Luxembourg, Denmark, Greece, France, Poland or in the Ukraine…
  • Finally, Luxembourg lags behind the rest of (Western and Eastern) Europe despite a university that will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year, a Centre de Documentation et de Recherche sur la Résistance, created in 2002, and a Centre de Documentation et de Recherche sur l’enrôlement forcé, created in 2008: no published guide to archives related to World War Two, no editions of documents, only a limited digitisation program…

 

  1. The whole project is financed by the Leibniz Gemeinschaft []
  2. They also plan an online edition but for the moment, the editors want to focus on the paper version []
  3. Richard Vinen wrote in his fascinating history of Europe: “In the late summer of 1940, Europe was at peace (…) the idea that Europe was at peace in 1940 is no more bizarre than the notion that it had been at peace during what historians call the ‘interwar’ period. Vinen Richard, A history in fragments: Europe in the twentieth century, Cambridge  MA, Da Capo Press, 2001, p. 63-64 []

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as Associate Professor at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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Narrating Europe

Next year I will teach a course entitled Narrating Europe. How do historians today tell the European story in academic books, on the internet, in museums, in films…? The goal is to make students aware of the advantages and problems of such narratives by discussing it with people working on the topic. In order to prepare the class, I started a small reading group with some colleagues. During this term we will try to go through Norman Davies’ Europe. Written in 1990 by a specialist of Polish-Russian history, the book is certainly one of the most well-known synthesis on Europe. I doubt that is the most-read on the topic: my paperback version from 1997 has 1365 pages. Last week we read the “Introduction” and I would like to stress third points.

  • First of all, Norman Davies loves to experiment with historical writings. In a book on Polish history he tells the story backward, starting with Post-War Poland and then travelling back in time1. In this volume he follows a classical chronological narrative, but by inserting so-called “capsules” he regularly tries to change of scale in his account. He also uses the concept of hyperlinks by frequently referring the readers to other parts of the book.
  • Second, in order to prevent critics to blame him for an essentialist approach of Europe – after all he begins his narrative with prehistory – he presents the different meanings Europe had since the Middle Ages. The geographic discussion of the Eastern frontier, which was first defined as being the Don River and became only in the 18th century the Ural, was particularly interesting to me. The map2, I choose to illustrate this post, shows nicely how many different frontiers cross Europe. Davies also strongly argues against a “Western” definition of Europe by emphasising the place of what we call today Central or/and Eastern Europe.
  • Third, despite this methodological safeguards, Davies does not always escape an essentialist view. This is probably due to the fact, that he stays in a somewhat modern, 19th century approach of history. He clearly hates post-modernism3 and defends a history that has a direct role to play in the the political construction of societies: “Sooner or later, a convincing new picture of Europe’s past will have to be composed to accompany the new aspirations for Europe’s future.” (p. 45). And so even in this “Introduction”, which wants to deconstruct the stories that has been told over Europe, Davies sometimes does not escape these narratives. The most striking example was the central role he gave to Christendom, defined as an amalgamation of classical and barbarian worlds. Its emergence is the moment in history when “European history ceased to be an assortment of unrelated events” (p. 15).
  1. Davies, Norman (2001) Heart of Europe : the past in Poland’s present (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press). []
  2. Moving frontiers inside Europe (Davies, Norman (1996) Europe : a history (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 18 []
  3. “‘Postmodernism’ has been a pastime in recent years for all those who give precedence to the study of historians over the study of the past.” p. 6 []

Benoit Majerus

Since January 2011, I am working as Associate Professor at the University of Luxembourg. I have written my PhD on the occupation of Belgium during World War One and World Two. In 2013 I published a history of psychiatry in the 20th century from below. I am also co-editor of h-madness.

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