Is there a European Interwar Intellectual History?
The European interwar period was an age overflowing with controversies and contradictions. With the fall of empires in continental Europe, it began with the unprecedented promise of democracy for the new sovereign nation states, yet ended with an equally unprecedented wave of authoritarian regimes. Artistic, intellectual and cultural life saw bursts of extraordinary creativity, leaving a lasting and rich legacy, yet many of its most innovative waves supported or shared the frenzied ideologies of their time. The period, in many ways, gave rise to optimistic social utopias and boldly ultra-modern visions of the future of social life, yet it was also an age overwhelmed with a sense of decline and catastrophe.
The scholarship of the interwar period is similarly ridden with controversies, or at the very least profound disagreements: methodological, historiographical, and ideological, to name just a few. Intellectual history, thus far successful in rethinking and resignifying ideas in other centuries, has only recently begun approaching the 20th century. As this task starts to unfold, the number of questions raised exceeds those answered.
In the workshop, "Is there a European interwar intellectual history?" we seek to map and address some of these disagreements, by questioning and problematizing each term of our title. We are especially interested in case studies which – in dealing with different aspects of intellectual and cultural life in this period of European history – can offer wider considerations on any of the following aspects: chronology and periodization, spatial dimensions, and wider methodological issues concerning the distinction between intellectual history and its sister disciplines (cultural and political history, social history, history of science, history of art). We thus invite papers from historians in any of these fields relating to any of these wider issues: