Transformation of the International I: Geopolitics, Colonialism and the Making of Germany (1840 - 1914)

Our research takes the growing discussion within International Relations of the emergence and transformation of “the international” as its vantage point. This burgeoning literature is heavily rooted in the problematique of the transformation of empire to nation-state. Our point of departure is the observation that this literature is rooted solely in the example of British Imperialism. By focusing on the example of Germany, which is drastically understudied in Historical International Relation, our aim is to underline the centrality of empire in shaping Germany and the way in which the German nation-state was formed. As such, different empirical examples focus on a variety of factors that were instrumental in the shaping of the German state and their intersections with empire and colonialism. We aim to focus on the creation of novel spaces (such as the economic sphere, geopolitics and other modes of governance) as the political formations within the German federation were transformed into the imagination of Empire and nation-state. As such we intend a new historically sensitive reading of German nationality and citizenship legalisation as well as the role of statistics, finance and industry in the shaping of politico-legal and economic space. It shows the entanglements and circulations between the colony and the metropole and the connections between the socio-legal and socio-economic, underscoring their arbitrary division in the literature heretofore. These transformations spurred a series of re-imaginations and re-articulations about how to conceptualize and understand geopolitics, society, economy and belonging.

Transformation of the international II: The Global 1920s

Exactly 100 years have passed now since the negotiations between the German Reich and the Allied forces were brought to an end with the signing of the Versailles Treaty on June 28 1919. This treaty not only brought to an end the First World War, but also laid down the foundation of the global 1920s.

This research seeks to look back at both the negotiation of the Versailles Treaty and the international order it laid out and thereby pursues two objectives. First, it seeks to establish the 1920s – understood as  ‘long 1920s‘ – as an objective of analysis in its own right. When we examine the 1920s, we usually do so in line with E.H. Carr as part of the ‘Twenty Year’s Crisis‘ of the interwar period. This narrative, however, already defines the 1920s in relation to ‘their end‘ in the late 1930s and hence understands the processes and dynamics from the perspective of the Second World War. We believe that the ‚Twenty Years Crisis‘ narrative narrows our understanding of what happened in Versailles and after. In particular, the ‚presentism‘ inherent in this narrative forgets that the crises were simply unknown in 1919. The more the question becomes relevant what aspirations, what power/knowledge and what struggles were in operation? Secondly, our research wants to analyse the 1920s in a global perspective that leaves behind the methodological nationalism and Eurocentrism inherent in so many historical accounts in International Relations (IR) and beyond. Instead, we seek, by building on a global perspective, to highlight the entanglements, circulations, connections, comparisons and translations. Within our research activities, we analyse for example how the demise of empires brought about global dynamics and were felt at different parts of the world. It also seeks to highlight how the instability of the Weimar Republic can be linked to ‚global‘ financial connections.

Such an approach to the 1920s hence may not only allow us to better understand these past events, but eventually also bring insight for the current political forces of nationalism, protectionism and populism. The end of the Great War seems ever so important to actually understand what the world witnesses right now. In brief, with the proposed approach to the global 1920s, we are able to identify continuities, discontinuities and ruptures.