Mats Andrén

Europe in the Mind: Unity, Borders, Crisis

European history cannot be fully understood without taking into account how people were contemplating about Europe. Therefore, we need an in-depth longitudinal intellectual history on the concept of Europe and the European idea. This study presents an innovative narrative of the long-term effects of ideas. Based on a conceptual and transnational approach, it offers for the first time an assessment of the intellectual paths of the mindset for European integration that both comprises documents from 15 countries across Europe and common processes and developments, as well as conflicting political visions and dissimilar interests. Europe in the mind argues that the comprehension of Europé is a dynamic and dramatic interplay between the dreams of unity, longing for borders and fears for crisis. It assesses effects from the 19th century to the postwar on the concept of integration, debates on European identity, and the contemporary notion of crisis.
Final report
The project has assessed critical dimensions of the idea of Europe. The main findings concern the dynamic and dramatic interplay between unity, borders, crisis, and other cultural and political notions. It examines the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the post-war concept of integration and more recent debates about European identity. By learning about how the history of the concept of Europe has been entangled with unity and division, along with its close connection to crisis, we can better comprehend the project of integration and present-day Europe. With this in mind, the project has produced at book manuscript that should appeal to academics and students in the fields of European studies and intellectual history, as well as to readers with a keen professional or general interest in Europe’s past and present.

The book's title is Thinking Europe: The European Idea Since 1800. The book offers an in-depth and longitudinal intellectual history of the idea of Europe. It examines both a long period and large portions of Europe, as well as the impact of varied hierarchical visions of Europe as an entity. It takes advantage of transnational approaches and new materials, drawing on a variety of voices from different countries and regions. In sum, the book presents a new historical narrative of the concept of Europe.

The examinations of the idea of Europe, it's uses and meanings, demonstrate the close associations to both unity and cultural and political borders. Incorporating dreams of unifying its separate parts, as well as longing for borders between states and nations, the idea of Europe represents progress and wealth, but also decline and crisis.

The book’s ten chapters have explored the main dimensions of the concept of Europe, all of which emphasise Europe as a unity, but one marked by borders and divisions. In certain respects, Europe is obviously a unifying concept that has made it possible to think beyond divisions and transcend borders. Europe has been associated with pleadings for a political unity that could undo the legacy of war, and with pledges to uphold a common culture. As a unifying concept, it can be associated with idealism, at times with humankind’s higher goals, but also with the pragmatism of putting social organisation into practice.
The chapters also offer much evidence that the concept of Europe is associated with hierarchies, exclusion, and borders, confirming historical differences and stressing current divisions. From certain perspectives, Europe can be seen as a dividing concept, highlighting political borders and cultural differences. This is related to differences between regions and nations within Europe, however geographically defined, and there is a long history of associating these differences with hierarchies. For instance, in Victor Hugo’s imagined European Parliament, French would be spoken: ‘The United States of Europe speaking German would mean a delay of three hundred years. A delay, that is to say, a step backward’. In the economic crises of the 2010s, we heard arguments that the Southern European countries were less well-organised and that their people worked too little in comparison with Northern Europe.

From the early 1800s until the present, the concept of Europe has appealed to different visions. Romantics and conservatives, market-oriented liberals, and revolutionary socialists have all articulated political visions of European unity. So too have experts who turned to technical measures for unification. Some wanted to restore Europe to its previous glory or reacted to a perceived decline, while others looked for a Europe entering a new stage of development. Europe has been associated with threats and with hopes, with superiority and inferiority. Sometimes, the visions represented idealistic dreams and sometimes mere exercises of the will. As a unifying and dividing concept, Europe is contested and an object of disputes.

The manuscript has been revised after anonymous peer reviews organised by the publishing house Berghahn Books, that will publish the book in the series Making Sense of History. It will also be available on Open Access provided by Berghahn.

Chapter 1: Dreaming of Unity
Time for Europe – Europe of the monarchs or Europe of the people – Europa in the world – Design of the federation and its bodies – Unite for peace – Visions of Europe
Chapter 2: Longing for Borders
The border paradox – Time for nations – The parts of the whole – Ways of defining uniqueness and supremacy: North and South, East and West – What they talk about, when they talk about Central Europe – Entangled ideas: Reconciling borders with unity – The border paradox of Europe: The diversity of unity
Chapter 3: Looking for Common Ground
Defining Europe by contrasts – Towards a notion of European civilisation – Shared versus divided Christianity – Civilisation on everybody’s lips – Discontent with civilisation
Chapter 4: Performing Communality
The quest for legitimacy: Citizenship and local self-government – The quest for modernisation – The books – European individualism – Approaching standards and unification

Chapter 5: Passing to a New Europe: The First World War
The European war – In spite of it all: Defending unity – Nationalism for an empire: ‘Mitteleuropa’ – The nationality principle – A new Europe – The Wilsonian moment: An ending with new divisions

Chapter 6: Fearing Crisis
Borders: necessary barriers or opportunities for cooperation – The crisis of civilisation and how to overcome it – Crises of the mind and the quest for moral values – Rationalism contested: European reason and European nihilism
Chapter 7: Organising for Europe
A pan-European discussion – Economic and political arguments for European unity – European movements: Organising for the sake of unification – Pan-Europe – A war for the sake of European unity

Chapter 8: Claiming European Unity and a Europe of Nations
‘The spirit of Europe’ – Europe with nations, Europe without nationalism – Towards unity without nationalism – Organising for Europe, taking on a new world mission – European unification and integration
Chapter 9: Elevating European Awareness
Ambivalent narrative: Unification or division – Europe beyond the Iron Curtain: The Central European perspective – Turning to identity – Looking for a definition: A new beginning, a long history, and modernity – Divided Europe
New interpretations of old themes: Notes on the debate of the 2010s – So, where do we stand?
Publication list
Andrén, Mats. Thinking Europe: History of the European Ideas Since 1800. New York: Berghahn Books, 2022.
Grant administrator
University of Gothenburg
Reference number
SEK 1,651,000.00
RJ Sabbatical
History of Ideas