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Passage to a New Europe during the First World War

Conference contribution
Authors Mats Andrén
Published in The 6th Euroacademia International Conference. The European Union and the Politicization of Europe. 11 – 12 December 2017, Florence, Italy
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Language en
Subject categories History of Ideas


t is well known that the First World War marks a passage to a Europe of nation states. Four empires dismantled and a dozen of new states declared their independence. In this paper, I argue that the transition in the mind goes step-wise, but that it has path-breaking consequences that still defines the thinking of Europe. The outbreak of the war was by many literates understood as a loss of a unified culture, while others kept recognizing a European culture or a common civilization. In the paper, I pay attention to wartime visions of a future Europe, mainly in Central Europe and Britain. Especially is followed the notion of a New Europe and its different implications regarding national self-determination. When H. G. Wells exclaimed ‘Nationalities will out’ during the First World War, the notion of self-determination was a controversial concept of key importance. Significantly, neither Wells nor many other supporters of similar declarations, backed wide spread national independence. Europe rather came out as a place of nation states only late at war and often reluctantly. However, some embraced it for offering an alternative to the Imperial system of Europe, hoping it should lay the ground for a new internationalism and for a Europe in peace. The paper rounds up with further comments on the outcome of the war and its impact on thinking Europe in a broader sense as well as on the European idea of a shared federation.

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