Present Threats to Democracy – Resolution by the German Historical Association (VHD)

The German Historical Association (Verband der Historiker und Historikerinnen Deutschlands) passed a resolution on present threats to democracy at its bi-annual meeting in Münster

The German Historical Association (VHD) held its bi-annual meeting, the Historikertag, from 25-28 September in Münster, Westphalia. The 3.700 visitors debated the theme “Divided Societies” (“Gespaltene Gesellschaften”) in almost 100 sessions and panels ranging from ancient to contemporary history. The topic was also intensively discussed with regard to historians’ role in the present. Initiated by Dirk Schumann and Petra Terhoeven from Göttingen and supported by a group of a dozen historians, the General Meeting on 27 September passed a resolution on the present threats to democracy (“Resolution des Verbandes der Historiker und Historikerinnen Deutschlands zu gegenwärtigen Gefährdungen der Demokratie”). An overwhelming majority of the several hundred members present voted in favour of the Münster declaration (pdf)

The resolution defends key principles against present-day threats posed by populists’ voices and activities. It argues amongst others for a historically sensitive language against discriminatory cries like “Volksverräter” or “Lügenpresse” reminiscent of the anti-democratic rhetoric in Germany during the first half of the twentieth century. It further appeals to hold up humanitarian principles and international law with regard to asylum seekers and refugees calling to mind past German deeds and experiences. The declaration also mentions the search for European cooperation that emerged from the bitter strife and conflicts during period of two world wars as well as the principles of debating in pluralist democracies. The resolution concludes with an appeal to study the past critically so that political abuse in the form of fake history can be rejected based on scholarship.

The resolutions has already attracted comments in the press. See for example

https://www.welt.de/kultur/history/article181702310/Deutscher-Historikertag-Als-Japan-den-Islam-einfuehren-wollte.html

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/historikertag-stellt-sich-gegen-die-afd-15812149.html

https://www.bild.de/politik/inland/politik-inland/52-historikertag-ist-unsere-gesellschaft-wieder-so-gespalten-57539680.bild.html

https://www.tagesspiegel.de/wissen/deutscher-historikertag-in-muenster-raus-aus-der-komfortzone/23123400.html

During the General Assembly and in a panel discussion on the previous evening, members of the German Historical Association discussed not so much the detailed points in the draft resolution, nor did they question the exact wording. A large majority appeared to support the key principles. The foremost question was whether and how historians should intervene in political debates. Some argued against a resolution on particular political issues although they generally supported the ideas and values of the text. They preferred to focus on threats to freedom of research and the democratic conditions necessary to maintain that freedom. Few saw the resolution as a party political statement or pointed out that a rhetoric of crisis might fuel the danger. That the declaration was also directed against the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) was plain without that party being explicitly mentioned. Nevertheless, most recognized that the text was on the defence of principles rather than policies and does not support positions of any single political party.

Those in favour agreed that historians should give guidance based on their scholarly expertise. Historical guidance for the public usually takes the form of analysis and historical explanations. However, it seemed to the majority that present threats called also for normative statements. One speaker reminded the assembled historians of Theodor Mommsen’s intervention in the anti-Semitism debate in 1880 and declared that Mommsen’s principled stance may serve as a positive reference for today’s German Historical Association. Distinguishing between the historian as scholar and expert on the one side and the historian as citizens on the other was described as a moot and artificial point under present circumstances. It was felt that historians should explicitly defend those principles of pluralist society under attack from populism at present. One speaker from Chemnitz and another one from a memorial site (Gedenkstätte) in Lower Saxony strongly urged those present to pass the resolution because they needed this kind of support by the professional organisation against the current, sometimes daily threats to their freedom of research. The final vote by showing of hand demonstrated that German historians as an organised profession overwhelmingly recognized the present threats and saw the need to defend key principles of pluralist and democratic society.

Graduate Workshop 2017/18 at Leibniz Institute of European History

European History across Boundaries from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century

Cross-posted from http://europehist.hypotheses.org/219

Conveners: Gregor Feindt, Johannes Paulmann (Mainz) and Lyndal Roper (Oxford)
Venue: Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz, Germany
Date: 24 – 26 January 2018
Deadline for Applications: 16 July 2017

The Leibniz Institute of European History invites international PhD students to a workshop on European history across boundaries from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, including Europe’s relations with the world. We encourage researchers working in this field to present their dissertation projects and to discuss the transcultural and transnational scope of their findings in a stimulating environment. Topics that aim to cross and reflect boundaries and borders are of particular interest. Projects can employ a variety of methodical approaches such as comparative studies, the study of transfer processes and entanglements, or the histoire croisée.

The Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG), an independent research institution in Mainz (Germany), contributes to this new approach from an interdisciplinary perspective. It fosters research on the religious, social, and political dynamics in Europe from the early modern period into the twentieth century and focusses on processes of establishing, coping with and enabling difference. The Graduate Workshop 2017/18 takes place in cooperation with Lyndal Roper, Regius Chair of History at the University of Oxford.

At the workshop, we will discuss pre-circulated papers based on archival research (max. 8,000 words, written in English, submitted by 7 January 2018). The institute will provide accommodation for the duration of the workshop and contribute to travel expenses within Europe.

Proposals should include an abstract of the overall project and its archival sources (500 words) plus a brief biographical note (including institutional affiliation, thesis supervisors, and contact details). These documents should be sent in one pdf-file to Gregor Feindt – feindt@ieg-mainz.de – by no later than 16 July 2017. For any questions, please contact the organisers.

CfP Graduate Workshop 2017_2018 pdf

New Blog “Europe Across Borders” by Johannes Paulmann

Enjoy reading and following!

The blog Europe Across Borders is a forum for historical research on Europe across borders from around 1500 to the present. It advances historical knowledge in present scholarly and public debates.

como-2015_040The blog posts cross and reflect boundaries not merely between nation states or cultures but also between social, economic, religious, ethnic, gender, and other entities. The blog thus fosters research on the dynamics in Europe from the early modern period into the twentieth century and the immediate past. The blog is open to a broad variety of topics, both with regard to methodological approaches and fields of research. Methodologically, it brings together approaches such as comparative studies, the study of transfer processes and entanglements, the histoire croisée, or international, imperial and global history. Beyond that, the blog takes up all fields of cultural, political, social, economic, environmental and intellectual history throughout Europe in the modern period. It is especially interested in providing a fresh picture on Europe’s place in a globalising world.

Continue reading