The EurHistXX network is a new scientific initiative composed by excellent research institutes for contemporary history in Europe. It was founded during a conference on "Thinking Europe. Towards a Europeanization of contemporary Histories" held in May 2004 at the Potsdam Centre for Contemporary History. In addition to the core group of research institutes forming the network individual researchers in contemporary history from other institutions all over Europe are affiliated with EurHistXX. It is also intended that more institutions, notably from those countries not yet represented within EurHistXX, will enlarge the network over the coming years.
I. The Task of Europeanizing Contemporary Histories
The central challenge for EurhistXX is the Europeanization of contemporary histories. As sub-discipline of historical knowledge, contemporary history remains dominated by historiographical traditions stressing national singularity. The partners of EurhistXX intend to focus on the history of Europe in a critical way that emphasizes the ambivalences and contradictory experiences of Europeans in the past. Therefore EurhistXX dedicates itself to avoiding the writing of teleological history, i.e. a narrative of the European Union as a transnational variant of traditional nation-state building. Divisive and contentious developments such as war, genocide, revolution and their contrasting memorialization will be taken as seriously as the consensual aspects of a shared history such as political and economic integration, cultural transfers, and the growing consciousness of a European identity.
II. A Pluralist Method and a Regressive Approach
The writing of European contemporary history needs a methodological reflection of its subject. A clearer understanding of the European dimension ought to depart from a pluralized perspective, which explores the changing and contending constructions of the idea of Europe. At the same time it requires the use of a broad range of historical methods such as the comparative approach, historiographical self-reflection and a transnational or transversal perspective. In order to identify and develop joint fields of activities EurhistXX suggests a regressive approach that starts from major preoccupations in contemporary Europe and works backwards as far as necessary in order to explore their significance for a contemporary European history.
III. The Need for Open Access to Sources and Archives
Historians of contemporary European history are confronted with a paradoxical problematic regarding their source materialss: On the one hand, access often remains limited or privileged, thus preventing independent historical work. Sometimes the destruction of key documents rules out research altogether. On the other hand, the massive size of written and audiovisual material poses particular problems of systematic selection and preservation. EurhistXX strives for general accessibility and protection of all material suited for historical research, be it under state or private control, and furthers the exchange on problems of archival preservation and documentation.
IV. Scholarly Communication and Dissemination of Research Results
EurhistXX considers advanced information technology indispensable for creating open lines of transnational communication among scholars of various cultural and disciplinary backgrounds. It therefore intends to establish a communication platform and an Internet gateway for contemporary history on a European level. The platform will enable members of EurhistXX and other interested scholars to share news and reports on matters of common interest via a mailing list. The gateway will inventory and review the massive amounts of information relevant for European contemporary history already existing on the web, permitting access to and guidance for these confusing virtual offerings. Additionally, thematic web sites may be developed out of joint research projects.