About Us

Research Network on the History of the Idea of Europe

The failure of the European constitutional project, the threat of a collapse of the Euro, the incapacity of Europe to speak with one voice in the international arena can be related to the absence of an adequate reflection upon its legitimacy by the political and academic world as well as by civil society at large. Indeed, the current impasse has produced a greater general interest in the legitimacy of the European Union and the sources of its political and philosophical foundations.

The need to overcome conceptually the classical dichotomy between nation-state and supranational federation, to define new identitary forms of political organization, now seems a necessary precondition for any further institutional initiative.

Above all, the need to rethink Europe, to understand its ‘identity’ and place in the contemporary world requires a greater attention to the images, perceptions and ideas through which Europe imagines itself. One way of doing so is by going back to its past. On the one hand, it would help investigate the way in which cultural elites perceived and imagined Europe through the centuries and how they contributed to the construction of a ‘European’ heritage. On the other hand, the study of the history of the idea of Europe would represent an invitation to reason about today’s Europe; the way in which Voltaire and Hugo, Kant and Hegel, Coudenhove-Kalergi and Spinelli represented Europe and the solutions they offered to its predicaments may help solve some of its current problems.

This research network aims to help further the study of the history of the idea of Europe facilitating the exchange of findings and ideas between established professors, senior researchers, and early-career academics from different countries and with different backgrounds. One possible outcome of this research will be a renewed emphasis on the necessity to go beyond EU-centric answers to the question of ‘What is Europe?’ As Gerard Delanty has explained, Europe is not a ‘self-evident entity’ but a contested concept that is constantly invented and re-invented, ‘a historically fabricated reality of ever-changing forms and dynamics’.

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