New lecture series marks centenary of 1918

Posted on: 18 October 2018

With nine new nation states emerging from the wreckage of the First World War, the events of 1918 can be seen as a defining point in the history of modern Europe.  At a time when Europe is experiencing a rise in nationalism and xenophobia a new lecture series in Trinity College Dublin starting on Thursday, October 18th, 2018, will reflect on the origins of nation states in Europe and the pivotal events and legacy of 1918.

Entitled ‘1918 and the New Europe’, the six-part lecture series will hear from national and international experts who will re-examine the significance of 1918 as the beginning of a new European order. Reflecting on the events of 1918 from a transnational and multinational perspective the series will focus on the collapsing Empire and the states that were forged—territorially, culturally, and politically—in the peace treaties that followed.

The ‘1918 and the New Europe’ lecture series has been organised by Trinity College Dublin’s Department of History and Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies in association with the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute and the MPhil in International History.

The first lecture entitled “Without any Revolution and Riots: The Quiet Collapse of the Habsburg Empire, 1918” will be delivered by Alexander Watson, Professor of History, Goldsmiths, University of London and will take place on Thursday, October 18th, 2018 at 6.30 pm in Trinity Long Room Hub.

Organiser of the lecture series Dr Molly Pucci, Assistant Professor of Twentieth Century European History, commented: “At a time when significant parts of Europe—and much of the world—is experiencing a rise in nationalism, xenophobia, and intolerance of diversity, it is worth reflecting on the origins of nation states in Europe: the hopes, dreams, and idealism attached to the concept of the nation-state after the First World War, and the gaps between politicians’ promises of national independence and the realities that these promises brought. Our speakers examine this issue from a variety of national and multi-national perspectives to show how and why national sentiments are created, constructed, and appropriated for political ends, and why it is important to remember alternative ways of conceiving of political life.”


“Without any Revolution and Riots: The Quiet Collapse of the Habsburg Empire, 1918”: October 18, Alexander Watson, Professor of History, Goldsmiths, University of London. The end of the First World War was a transformative moment for East-Central Europe.  The historiography is dominated by the fraught peace deliberations to build a brave new world and the ethnic rivalry and ideological conflict within and between the newly forming nation states in 1919-23.  This talk focuses on the earlier, neglected instant of Habsburg imperial collapse in October 1918.  It asks why, in a period usually defined by its violence and chaos, the revolutions that spread across the empire were so strangely bloodless, rapid and orderly.  The talk explores the complex reasons for this swift transition of power and what it reveals about the potential for a more harmonious post-war world.

“1918 and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire: from Multinational Empire to Multinational States”: November 2, Pieter Judson, Professor of European History, European University Institute. At the end of 1918, as the Habsburg Empire collapsed and both brand new and existing states took over its territories, nationalists in Central Europe proclaimed the dawn of the era of the nation state. They hailed the nation state as the embodiment of a bright, democratic, and modern future, while castigating multinational empires as outdated and oppressive. The revolutions that the nationalists appropriated for their own, however, produced anger and resentment about unfulfilled promises among victors and defeated alike. And contrary to nationalists’ claims, 1918 heralded a new age of multinational empire in Central Europe, one as radical, brutal, and extreme as the age of total war that had produced it.

Escaping a Prison of Peoples? 100 Years after the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire” November 19, Mark Cornwall, Professor of European History, University of Southampton. This year marks the centenary of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire, a monarchy whose disappearance from the European map transformed the history of the twentieth century. At a time when the UK is planning to exit from another multinational European body, this lecture revisits the reasons why different peoples decided to exit the Habsburg empire and create their own independent states at the end of the First World War. What expectations guided the idealists who created the new Czechoslovak and Yugoslav states? Certainly, in the years that followed the hopes of many were quickly deflated as new borders and identities sprang up. It leads us to ask, in retrospect, how far this really was an anachronistic and anti-modern state, a ‘prison of peoples’. Or should we follow those like the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig who viewed the Habsburg empire with great nostalgia, a cosmopolitan experiment with much to teach us.

Contested Identities: National Independence and Women’s Suffrage in Poland: November 29, Aneta Stepien, Trinity College Dublin. This talk discusses the complex social and political situation in which women organisations operated in Poland under partition and the intimate relationship that developed between the fight for the national independence and the political independence of women.   Although presented as equal in the struggle for independence, the Polish suffragettes faced criticism and resistance of different groups of men: politicians, workers and the military. The talk focuses on the role of the nationalist and militant/militarist suffragettes in obtaining voting rights for women in 1918 and its key figure, Aleksandra Pi?sudska. Drawing from her Memoirs, published in 1940 in London, the talk considers the potential problems in commemorating the achievements of the women’s suffrage movement in Poland.

From the Ashes of Empire: Competing Nationalisms and the Radicalisation of Political Space in Interwar Romania”: December 3, Raul Carstocea, Lecturer in European Studies at the Europa Universität Flensburg and Fellow at the Imre Kertesz Kolleg Jena. This talk will address the idea of ‘the nation’ in Romania after 1918 and its importance for the radicalisation of interwar politics. It will briefly discuss the history of competing nationalisms in 19th century Romania, the country’s wartime experience and the post-war territorial changes that resulted in a significantly expanded and politically heterogeneous entity referred to as ‘Greater Romania.’ This territory was marked by the overlapping legacies of the three Eastern empires that collapsed at the end of the First World War (Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian). This incomplete or failed project of nationalisation and the numerous ‘questions’ it left unresolved, the talk argues, opened up the space for radical politics and led to the growing popularity of Romania’s native fascist movement – the ‘Legion of the Archangel Michael’ or ‘Iron Guard’. This talk will argue against the existence of a monolithic ‘Romanian nationalism’ and explore the fluid, intersecting, and competing nationalisms in Romania during this period.  

“Rethinking 1918: Interventions into the Future”: March 21, Peter Apor, Institute of History,The Hungarian Academy of Sciences. This talk explores the ways of imagining and planning of possible futures that emerged in the postwar period of Europe in 1918. Elites, intellectuals and large proportions of European societies believed that it was possible to anticipate the future and foresee decisive trends of socio-developments, therefore it was possible to plan for even large systematic changes. However, the multiplication of ideas about and attempts to plan the future also suggests that crucial components of prognosis about further development were shaken and the “future” of Europe itself became uncertain. This paper investigates how social groups and individuals were engaged in a broad cultural process of mastering the future in ways that encompassed aspects of the human environment and the deepest layers of individual identities.

Details: ‘1918 and the New Europe’, lecture series, with first lecture on Thursday, October 18th, 2018, Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity, 6:30 – 8pm

For further information and registration details please see here:

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