Writing Intellectual History in East-Central Europe, 1945-2000

Course Description: 

Trying to fill a gap in scholarship, this seminar is a critical overview of the various traditions of intellectual history that emerged in our region after the Second World War. The discussions will provide a comparative insight into the transformation of historiographical cultures in East-Central Europe, and the participants are invited to contribute with case studies on their respective traditions. Special attention will be paid to the formation of “schools” and “paradigms,” the debates on methodology, and the various attempts at shaping the “national canon.” Putting all this into a historical context, the course will help the participants locate their own intellectual traditions in a regional setting and also become familiar with the current East-Central European historiographical developments.

Obviously, only a relatively weak sample of the historiographical production in these countries is available in English, which sets a serious limitation to the depth of our inquiry. To face this challenge, the course seeks to catalyze an exchange of expertise and ideas among students who are raised in different “national” contexts, and thus able to provide a deeper insight into the complexity of their own intellectual scene (and, along these lines, they are also welcome to bring in materials from contexts, which are not covered by the basic set-up of the course, such as Turkey, the Baltic countries, Ukraine, etc.).

In general, the course is meant to contribute to the self-positioning of the participants, helping them develop a more reflective methodological framework for the thesis project. Most of all, it seeks to develop skills of discursive analysis of historical writing, providing the participants with tools to handle historical texts stemming from different cultural contexts of our region – seeking to reach a more synthetic image based on comparisons, but also remaining conscious of the cultural idiosyncrasies underlying the various historiographical canons. It also seeks to stimulate further research and offers a general orientation in post-1945 trends in intellectual, cultural and political history for the students to place their own research into a broader context.



Progress in the course will be evaluated as follows:


Seminar Presentation  20% of the overall grade

Term Paper                 50%

Class Participation      30%

At each class, one of the students will give a short presentation (15 minutes) on some aspects of the chosen historiographical tradition. The term paper is a ca. fifteen-page case-study on some phenomenon in the context of the chosen national historiography. Class participation means regular attendance, in-class comments and questions related to the weekly topics and readings.