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Call for Papers - Vienna 1815: the Making of a European Security Culture

3 July 2013

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and the Dutch Young Academy will organize a conference on the Congress of Vienna on 5-7 November 2014 in Amsterdam.

The Congress of Vienna, that brought an end to the protracted Napoleontic Wars, was a milestone in European history. Following from the effervescent Congress of Vienna, the European powers  not only established elementary conditions for the protection of the “status quo” and the regulation of inter-state conflict through “political equilibrium” – as literature on this era has it – but also created a “Pax Europeana,” in which common European interests had to be defended together. Indeed, new ranks and files of professional diplomats, informal practices, multilateral cooperations and an entirely new culture of mediation and conflict management arose from the meetings that set off in September 1814 and lasted until June 1815. This Pax Europeana differed from the peace treaties concluded in the decades or ages before in the sense that it ignited a series of concrete multilateral and even truly international peace projects that took distinct institutional forms.

Although there is a strong focus on the Congress of Vienna as a vehicle for restoration regimes and antirevolutionary repression in modern historiography, the larger and the smaller countries did in fact embark on several unprecedented cooperative projects to tackle transnational threats (such as pirates, anarchists, colonial rebels, and smugglers) and defend collective interests as early as 1815. These joint ventures did not end after the Crimean War in 1856, but persisted in the decades thereafter. Social learning processes amongst diplomats transplanted the classical ancient regime practices where princes and kings dominated negotiations that were mostly performed through traditional rituals and highly symbolic festivities. New generations of bureaucrats emerged, and in dialogue or contestation with members of the old generations that survived the Napoleontic transformations, introduced new forms of negotiations, meetings and celebrations. The Congress of Vienna heralded an age in which administrative reforms and technological innovations enabled the growing corpus of professional agents to exchange information and communicate on a much more intensive and informal level than before, thus promoting processes of social learning and instilling shared norms and attitudes.

Vienna was thus midwife to a nascent but veritable European security culture. This culture was performed through politics, public and through all kinds of new media outlets after 1815, in theatre plays, music, opera’s and works of visual art. The Congress’ outcomes were moreover fervently debated and proliferated through newspapers and public celebrations and commemorations of the battlefield heroes.

This conference aims to rethink the significance of the Congress of Vienna by exploring the nexus between international relations, politics and security culture. Vienna 1815 has been a focal point for scholars in international relations, who studied this venue as the starting point for modern diplomacy, whereas political or cultural historians have often concentrated on the question of transformation and change of bureaucracies, politics and collective identities on a domestic level alone. By studying Vienna 1815 as a platform for the creation of a European security culture, both internationally, domestically, in its diplomatic, institutional, but also political, practical and cultural outlets, we hope to shed new light on the relation between new forms and practices of international relations and the emergence of a security culture in Europe.

The postulated existence of a shared European security culture in the 19th century may seem surprising. Scholars in international relations situate the start of European security cooperation after 1918 with the setup of the League of Nations and view the 19th century as an era characterized by the realist paradigm of a balance of power. More sophisticated narratives of the Congress of Vienna replace the “balance of power” concept with “hegemony” or “political equilibrium.” They, however, still devote their main attention to classical diplomacy, inter-state relations, and conflicts and their outcomes rather than unpacking and analyzing decision-making processes. Most importantly, they miss out on the carriers of these processes: the new elites of professional agents in the fields of diplomacy, warfare, administration, police, and the judiciary. Current literature on international relations has introduced the concepts of security, security cooperation, and security culture, but in a highly presentist or generalizing fashion, largely remaining silent on manifestations of collective threat perceptions and security cultures before 1945. We hold that the Congress of Vienna also produced a series of (competing) collective threat and enemy perceptions, that served to build new ideas on a transnational European identity and culture, as open and contested as such identities and cultures usually are.

We invite proposals that take seriously the “cultural turn” to the history of international relations in the 19th century. By “historicizing security,” e.g. paying attention to the intersubjective character of threat and interest construction within the historical context, we would welcome transnational and multidisciplinary perspectives to the combined history of international relations and internal policy. This conference particularly stresses the question of agency (without isolating the agents from the institutions they are embedded in): who were the carriers of these social learning processes, what were their competences, how were these competences, practices and norms negotiated and established? Who were the role models, what were the ‘graduate schools’ and learning places for the new generation diplomats – both the official and the unofficial ones?

Call for papers

The conference will take place in Amsterdam, 5-7 November 2014. Travel and lodging will be provided for the conference’s speakers.

Paper proposals (300 words) should reach the conference committee by 1 October 2013 by e-mail: The committee invites proposals on any relevant topic related to the central theme of this conference: the significance and legacy of the Congress of Vienna. Suggestions for papers or panels are:

  1. 1815 and its professional agents (see above)
  2. 1815 and its new institutions (Ambassador’s congress, anti-piracy commission, committee on the navigation of the Danube etc.)
  3. 1815 in the public sphere (Commemorations, celebration of war heroes, Waterloo, masses)
  4. 1815 and its legacy (in research, autobiographies, canonical literature etc.; culture, memory, legal framework for international law, ‘long peace’).

As soon as the proposals have been selected, the Committee will invite the speakers to submit their paper in advance, in order to discuss them in more depth during the conference.

Organizing committee:

For practical information:
Jeffrey Muskiet, The Young Academy/KNAW,

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