Keynote address

We are pleased to announce a official three keynote address, which will be delivered by Professor Belinda Davis (Rutgers University)Professor Pieter Judson (European University Institute) and Professor Maciej Górny (The Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences).

Professor Pieter Judson (European University Institute), “War and The Habsburg Monarchy: A Revisionist View”

Although we commonly associate the First World War with the end of the Habsburg Monarchy, we rarely investigate on their own terms the specific reasons for that empire’s collapse and disappearance. In part this is because historians and propagandists of the successor states tended to frame the history of the empire in terms that justified its end as a necessary precondition to a new enlightened age of nation states. Moreover, the division of the historical profession in national schools all but guaranteed that the history of the Habsburg state (and of its end) would be written in terms of individual political nations rather than in terms of larger imperial institutions and societies.
In this talk I argue for a comparative Europeanization of the history of the Habsburg Monarchy, for its treatment by historians as a legitimate polity on its own terms, and for a comparison of its wartime strengths and weaknesses with those of other European Empires such as Britain, France, Italy, and Germany. Too often historians have treated Austria-Hungary as a political anachronism destined to fail (with or without the war), conveniently forgetting that other empires came close to collapse as well in 1917 and 1918, also thanks to situations of severe ethnic or class conflict. My talk will examine the range of specific factors that produced a collapse of empire in 1918, while analyzing the many ways that contemporaries understood the crisis of empire. In the case of Austria-Hungary I will argue that the unreflective handover of civil power to the military from 1914 to 1917 and the consequent abandonment of the existing Rechtsstaat indirectly created several compelling new visions of what empire could be in a postwar world, as well as what a postwar world could be without empire.

Official PortraitPieter M. Judson is Professor of 19th and 20th century History and Chair of the Department of History and Civilization at the European University Institute in Florence. He is the author of prize-winning books on the Habsburg Empire, including “Exclusive Revolutionaries: Liberal Politics, Social Experience, and National Identity in the Austrian Empire”, 1848-1914 (1996), “Wien brennt!  Die Revolution von 1848 und ihr liberales Erbe” (1998), “Guardians of the Nation. Activists on the Language Frontiers of Imperial Austria” (2006), and “The Habsburg Empire. A New History” (2016), for which a German translation will appear with Beck in 2017. Judson is recipient of prizes and fellowships from the Guggenheim foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Karl von Vogelsang Prize of the Austrian government, the Internationales Forschungszentrum für Kulturwissenschaften, and the American Academy in Berlin. He is currently editing the Cambridge History of the Habsburg Monarchy with Mark Cornwall and The Great War and the Transformation of Habsburg Central Europe, 1908-1923 with Tara Zahra.

Professor Belinda Davis (Rutgers University), “”Going All the Way” for the People? Changes in Thought and Action Concerning Governance in World War I Germany”

How did the conditions of the war in Germany transform notions of “serving the country” for those already charged as servants of the state, as civil servants or mid- and low- level political office holders? What were the ramifications of these individuals’ wartime struggles with their positions and attendant commitments, in terms of their views of governance and governmentality, and how in turn did transformations in their thinking affect their actions in and out of service, during the war and then after the November 1918 revolution? This conference offers the opportunity to think broadly about the notion of “intellectuals” a very fruitful approach permitting exploration of changing thought among highly educated individuals in influential positions in and also outside of universities. This presentation pursues this approach, using archival and especially diary and memoir sources to trace the highly ambivalent and often contradictory stances these “intellectuals of government” took in the course of the war, and to consider how their attendant actions helped and hindered popular support for the war effort. It interrogates how their shifting thinking played off against a mass move among Germans toward popular sovereignty: the notion that these government figures’ role was no to protect the state against the populace, but rather to serve the populace itself.Exploration too of the emotional register of these figures’ reactions to consistently overwhelming wartime demands, reactions that ranged from besiegement and guilt to resentment and fury, offers insight into how these figures, who largely continued in the same or similar positions even after the revolution, helped shape the efficacy and legitimacy of the Weimar Republic, or lack thereof, and played a role in envisaging alternatives.

Davis Head Shot EUIBelinda Davies is author or co-editor of three books (including Home Fires Burning: Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000) and several dozen articles, on themes including popular politics; gender; history of everyday life; oral history, memory, and emotion; urban history; transnational history; policing, violence, and terror; and consumption. Davis, who serves on the Board of Editors of the “American Historical Review”, has been recipient of inter alia of a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellowship at the European University Institute, a Volkswagen Foundation Research Fellowship, and a fellowship at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center, Princeton University.


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”

The 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 ethno-psychological generalizations it relied on. There seem to be no sufficient causes for treating East Central Europe as an exceptional front of the war. Neither in intellectual standing of the authors involved, nor in the discursive strategies they used, did ‘Krieg der Geister’ in the East deviate from its counterpart on the Western front. A geographically broader approach to the phenomenon necessitates a revision in the chronology of the European conflict. In the West, as well as in Russia, the ‘war of the spirits’ erupted suddenly in the final weeks of Summer 1914 and continued at a slowly declining pace until the Russian Revolution and the German capitulation. The inclusion of East Central Europe to this narrative necessitates a shift in the time-line. In this region, war – both actual and intellectual – continued beyond 1918. Its life-span was extended by the persistent threat of Bolshevik invasion, the smoldering internal conflicts, unresolved territorial disputes, and finally the vivid revisionist propaganda in Germany and Hungary. What British and French intellectuals perceived as a passing phase became a chronic problem in Germany and countries further to the East. In some cases, the intellectual mobilization for the war never really ended.

gornyMaciej Górny is assistant professor at the Historical Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences since 2006 (extraordinary professor since 2015). Currently he is also professor at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw. He was a research associate at the Centre for Historical Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin from 2006 to 2010. Górny research interests are Central-Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th century, history of historiography, discourses on race and the First World War. Among his publications are “The Nation Should Come First: Marxism and Historiography in East Central Europe” (2013, Polish edition 2007, German edition 2011), “Wielka Wojna profesorów. Nauki o człowieku 1912-1923” (2014, Russian and English editions forthcoming) and “Nasza wojna”, vol. 1: Imperia (together with Włodzimierz Borodziej, 2014, English edition forthcoming). He co-authored and co-edited multivolume editions “Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe, 1770-1945” (2006-2014) and “Polsko-niemieckie miejsca pamięci / Deutsch-polnische Erinnerungsorte” (2012-2016).