Transnational Western Europe since 1945: integration as political society formation

Wolfram Kaiser*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


    Modern European history has for a long time been treated as little more than the collation of clearly delineated national histories. Although competing for hegemony within European historiography between the 1960s and the 1990s, both the diplomatic history as well as the social history of Europe since the French Revolution have been equally characterized by ‘fictions of [national] autonomy’ (Geyer, 1989: 317; Hobsbawm, 2002: 18). Diplomatic history is traditionally based on implicit realist assumptions about the dominant role of states and political and military power in international relations and their control by small and largely self-contained foreign policy-making elites defining ‘national interests’. At the same time, social history has mostly concentrated on micro social phenomena as well as the evolution of national welfare state models since the mid-nineteenth century and at best, their comparison. It has generally emphasized national specificities in the context of the thesis about a German ‘special path’. Neither historiographical tradition has ever developed a convincing notion of the common European dimension of modern European history, or of its constitution through multiple cross-border societal as well as governmental contacts. When traditional ‘inter-national’ concepts such as ‘influence’ have been applied, it has usually been in the context of state foreign policy, colonial history and the ‘Europeanization’ of the world (Olsen, 2002: 937-40), not European history itself. Moreover, with its heavy emphasis on the formation of national (political) cultures in the nineteenth century, cultural history has contributed very little to undermining the predominant nation-state perspective. While discarding this traditional framework, finally, micro-histories have withdrawn to the individual and local and have also shown no significant interest in the transnational dimension of modern Europe. Only economic history has been a partial exception to the general rule, for example through its analysis of the growth of the European dominated world economy in the second half of the nineteenth century, but it has hardly affected the general historiography of modern Europe.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationTransnational European Union
    Subtitle of host publicationTowards a Common Political Space
    EditorsWolfram Kaiser, Peter Starie
    Number of pages19
    ISBN (Electronic)9780203016534
    ISBN (Print)9780415498999, 9780415365123
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2005

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