11-12 October 2018
Federal Foreign Office, Berlin
Funding: Auswärtiges Amt
Freie Universität Berlin, Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut,
Arbeitsbereich Neuere Geschichte,
Koserstr. 20, D-14195 Berlin
Winning peace – the end of the First World War with its history, remembrance and current challenges
Conference, 11-12 October 2018
The conference aims to shine a light on the precarious peace after the First World War, with a view to determining the lessons it holds for us in the present, as well as better understanding commemoration of the centenary. The guiding questions of the conference are being asked from a present‑day perspective, much in line with Marc Bloch’s school of thought, who argued that this is how the past should be understood. The aim is to learn from the year 1918 lessons that we can apply in 2018. What historical developments extend from the time immediately after the war to our day? What current problems and crises can be traced back to that time? Of the designs for peace that were developed around 1918, which ones are still relevant today? What contradictions did they contain, and what were their limitations? What mistakes were made translating them into action? Looking at other pivotal moments in 20th century history, such as 1945 or 1989/90, what has been learned from these mistakes, with a view to ending war and making peace – and how can we apply these lessons to present‑day crises and conflicts?
From this vantage point, and bearing in mind the emotional reactions that are widely provoked by memories of the First World War, as well as the constant temptation to instrumentalise history, the conference will also attempt to examine current cultures of remembrance. Centenary events to commemorate the First World War and the armistice appear to vary greatly from nation to nation. Diversity, or even conflicting ideas, seem to be the order of the day. In Germany, the defeat and Versailles are viewed as further milestones along the road to the cataclysm of National Socialism; in other countries, the centenary is yet another opportunity to remember the heroic sacrifices that were made to claim victory in a legitimate war for the cause of freedom and what is right; in yet other countries, people are reminded of how their nations eventually won independence, also through the wars that would follow. In view of these diverging narratives, how can similarities between, and shared aspects of, cultures of remembrance be created and strengthened in a way that does not cast aside national experience, so as to enable shared learning?
Discussions will be grouped into three major themes. First, there will be a stocktaking of the outcome of the peace negotiations, including a re‑examination of the problems that were solved, left unsolved, or newly created. The new values and standards these efforts gave birth to will also be discussed, despite possible disillusionment regarding their implementation: a new international order and diplomacy, the demarcation of new borders and the development of international law and the rise of new norms, such as self and co‑determination, democracy, international cooperation and economic exchange. The focus of this theme is the longue durée – the long shadow of the treaties – including the respective lessons and mistakes.
A second theme will be regional and other issues that are important for understanding the peace order (or disorder) after the First World War. Various regions will be examined – not only in Europe, but also further afield, including Africa and the former colonies – as well as certain peacekeeping principles. Furthermore, discussions will centre on the consequences of war, such as migration, forced displacement, population transfers, war traumas, brutalisation and violence and, last but not least, the challenge of demobilisation.
Third, the conference will look at the many and diverse ways that different cultures commemorate the First World War and its end. There will be a concluding panel discussion that will bring together various political thinkers and experts from the fields of peace research and conflict resolution.
The conference is very much designed to examine present‑day implications and will pursue an interdisciplinary approach. Its objective is to initiate an exchange involving academics from a wide range of disciplines, intellectuals, journalists and conflict resolution actors from different European countries and other regions of the world. Anyone who expresses an interest may participate in the conference, and it will be accompanied by an intensive public relations effort that will include the social media. The decision to hold the conference was made at the Franco‑German Council of Ministers on 13 July 2017. It is being organised by Freie Universität Berlin, in cooperation with the Franco‑German institute for history and social sciences (IFRA) in Frankfurt, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Centre Marc Bloch, Humboldt‑Universität zu Berlin, Fondation Jean Jaurès and Mr. Markus Meckel. The conference is being held under the patronage of the Federal Foreign Office, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the First World War Centenary Partnership Programme.