Postwar Decolonisation and Its Impact on Europe


University of Exeter, United Kingdom, 2-3 December 2013

The unravelling of European empires was foundational to the making of the modern world. An old imperial order was swept away, and a new age of nation states rapidly replaced it. Whilst decolonisation played a fundamental role in the shaping of postwar world, its repercussions for Europe itself, in a host of political, social and cultural spheres, are still relatively little examined. Its impact outside Europe’s so-called ‘western core’ has attracted even less attention. This conference will examine how the global dynamics of decolonisation impacted upon different parts of the continent. To this end, we would like to encourage papers from a diverse range of countries and political areas within Cold War Europe, and, where possible, comparative (and even collaborative) proposals that explore impacts across national or regional boundaries. In doing so, we seek to explore the diversity of the continent’s responses to decolonisation, as well as shared experiences across eastern, southern and western Europe.

Proposals are welcomed on the following themes.

1. How did decolonisation impact on cultural, political or economic debates about Europe’s role in the world and how Europeans thought collectively about themselves and their futures? In what ways did elites re-imagine a role for Europe after the end of empire, whether of the capitalist or state socialist variety?

2. What were the impacts of decolonisation on different national identities in Europe?

3. How did decolonisation impact on the relationship between blocs in a divided Europe?

4. How did decolonisation reshape ideas of race, immigration and citizenship?

5. What impact did decolonisation have on the domestic political sphere - how did political parties, labour and social movements respond to the end of empire?

6. How did decolonisation shape ideas about extra-European ‘interventions’, whether in terms of development, aid, or humanitarian, peace-keeping or military assistance? How did decolonisation reshape debates about human or social rights?

The organisers are open to suggestions for other panels relevant to the theme. We welcome papers that deal with major transnational and national debates, alongside those which focus on case studies. Some funding is available for the conference, but speakers are also encouraged to look to their universities or other funders to help support their participation. The conference is organised by the University of Exeter, with the assistance of the Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena and the Centre for Area Studies, Leipzig. Proposals should be sent to James Mark – – by 5 May 2013.

This conference will followed by an event hosted by the Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena and the Centre for Area Studies, Leipzig, in March/ April 2014, focusing on the interaction between eastern Europe and the ’global South’ during and after the Cold War.