“First write, then shoot. East Central European Intellectuals and the Great War”

The third key-note lecture will be delivered by Professor Maciej Górny (The Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences)

“First write, then shoot. East Central European Intellectuals and the Great War”

gornyThe engagement of East Central European intellectuals in the Great War is certainly not a blank spot in historiography, even if it is rarely accorded more than a marginal position in national narratives. This is partially due to the dominance of political history. I aim to show that the significance of this phenomenon can only be measured if it is viewed in the right context. First of all, the bulk of writings of intellectuals from the region subscribed to the tradition of ‘national characterology’ (which is a term wider than ethno-psychology). In effect they form a widely varied, and yet consistent whole. The different camps engaged in a lively exchange of views as well as invectives, while showing exceptional determination in the pursuit of patronage from German, French, and British elites. Hence, brochures and other publications did not solely reflect the current political conjunction, but also represented a part of a broader, international debate. Second, the intellectual exchange concurrent with the events in the East parallels the phenomenon of patriotic exaltation of the intellectuals in the West which the historiography of World War I dubbed ‘the war of the spirits’ (“Krieg der Geister” as it was originally baptized in 1914) in structure, participation, argumentation, and the Continue reading