An East Central European View
Eds.: Constantin Iordachi, Balázs Trencsényi, Péter Apor
As comparative history emerges throughout Europe as a conceptual and methodological means to overcome the traditionally fragmented and isolated state of writing national histories, the task of teaching comparative history in Central, Southeastern, and Eastern Europe to shed light on the transnational and regional aspects of our past appears more and more pressing. One of the most important obstacles that hinders the development of such courses is the lack of a consistent, comprehensive and easily accessible course material available for universities throughout the region.
Therefore, the main concern of the CHP, initiated to foster the teaching of comparative history in the area, is to prepare a comprehensive Reader in the field. Our companion seeks to avoid the typical faults of such volumes, that is to say, their usual complete ignorance of scholarly and intellectual traditions in areas outside of Western Europe and Northern America. In spite of the typical approach towards comparative history in the international scholarship that connects its development to the French and German attempts to write “truly European” histories, there is a rich but largely ignored if not not completely forgotten tradition of Eastern, Central and Southeastern European regional comparative history. In interwar Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, this tradition focused mostly on Balkan studies; interwar Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, it focused mostly on studies of social backwardness and the rise of nationalism. This tradition was complemented in the post-WW II period by the emergence of various schools on area studies; its legacy was revived in the 1970s by Marxist or “Marxisant” economic and social history based East European studies. After 1989 the “cultural turn” merged the tradition rooted in historical sociology and the one stemming from intellectual history, giving birth to new trajectories of scholarship in dialogue with the Western methodological schools.
Against this background, our reader has three main objectives. First, it seeks to reintegrate Central, Southeastern and Eastern European comparative history in the broader tradition of international scholarship, highlighting relevant connections to theoretical and methodological discourses in the field. Second, and more importantly, we would like to uncover the existence of a relevant tradition of comparative historical studies in the countries of the region that has been in constant dialogue with the European trends. We argue that comparative history is not simply imported from external scholarships into these countries, but has its own regional and national contexts providing a rich intellectual tradition worth continuing. In our contention, these regional traditions provide a firm basis studying the inherent entanglements, transnational and regional aspects of the history of our regions. Third, the systematic overview of the traditions of comparative thinking in Central, Southeastern, and Eastern Europe will enable a profound revision of the existing canon of comparativism in Europe, more generally. Bringing back Eastern, Central and Southeastern European traditions of comparative history into the broader European and international discussions could provide a rich material for reconceptualizing the integrated history of Europe, at continental level.
A major challenge in teaching comparative history today is the difficul access to fundamental texts relevant for a regional debate. This is because the most important texts were written either in vernacular languages and published in domestic scholarly journals accessible only to national audiences, or appeared in currently unavailable French or German publications. Our Reader aims ot collect these texts into one volume and group them together with some of the most formative Western European texts that had a huge impact on the region. In doing so, the Reader will render the comparativist tradition easily available to students, while its distribution through the CHP network would make it available for immediate use in higher education.
The problem of European comparative frameworks
Historical regions and entanglements:
Comparative History in East Central and Southeast Europe
Istoriografie si politica in estul si vestul spatiului romanesc
[Historiography and Politics in Eastern and Western Romanian Space]
(ed. by Svetlana Suveica, Ion Eremia, Sergiu Matveev, Sorin Sipos), Editura Unversitatii din Oradea/Editura Cartdidact din Chisinau, 2009