School of History

Professor Robert Gerwarth, History, University College Dublin (UCD)

Thursday, 27 January 2022, 16.00 (4 PM)

The paper will be delivered through MS Teams. Please, contact Dr Jérôme aan de Wiel, School of History, UCC, to obtain a Teams link:

Paper In the first half of the twentieth century, Europe experienced an unparalleled pandemic of civil wars resulting in millions of deaths. Civil war, as much as inter-state war, was a defining feature of the period for many European societies, ranging from Ireland in the west to Russia in the east, and from Finland in the north to Spain and Greece in the south. While civil war had been a prominent and recurring element of modern Europe's history, from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first, they acquired a particular density in an era which has come to be associated primarily with the inter-state conflicts of the two world wars. Both of those wider conflicts were not so much unitary wars as amalgams of different national, imperial and regional struggles, within which the dividing lines lay as much within societies as between them. Conflicts between reds and whites, between monarchists and republicans, between different linguistic and ethnic groups, and between workers, farmers and the middle classes, all contributed to an era when civil wars were less the exception than the norm. But what, ultimately, distinguished these civil wars from others? Despite their multiplication across Europe in this period, historians have been remarkably slow to engage in comparative work on modern civil wars. Even fewer studies have explored connections between them – be it transfers of people or practices – beyond their major ideological themes. This has resulted in a tacit assumption of national distinctiveness, whereby each civil war is assumed to have been the product of a particular national history. In order to get beyond these parallel and separate histories, this lecture will propose a number of themes that could form the basis of a new comparative history of civil wars in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

Robert Gerwarth is Professor of Modern History at University College Dublin and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. He is the author and editor of several books that mainly revolve around the history of political violence in twentieth-century Germany and Europe more generally.

College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences

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