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Researcher: Dr Félix Krawatzek

Funder: John Fell Fund

The European Union is facing fundamental challenges, many of which are driven by issues of identity and different perspectives on European history. But what is European history? This project seeks to understand which elements of the past are interpreted as being part of a European history, and how. Who drives a Europeanisation of history and what implications does this have for a sense of collective identity?

European Memory refers to the ideas that people hold about what Europe represents. Rather than assuming that “Europe” has a fixed meaning and fixed boundaries, this research looks more closely at what “Europe” means when the term is used in public debate. What forms of shared European history and identity exist in public discourse, and what experiences and expectations are woven into this? From Antiquity to the Renaissance, to the Holocaust and Soviet totalitarianism, how does the memory of these “mnemonic signifiers” impact on the decisions taken today, and how have historical experiences shared between European countries shaped their politics?

Collective memory changes constantly, and this project analyses the process by which evolving and differing interpretations of events and history interact, compete and coexist. The project therefore studies how the many ways people understand European history has changed after decisive moments – EU enlargement in 2004, terror attacks in London and Madrid, the financial crisis of 2008, the migration crisis of 2013/14, or Brexit. How does the way that European Memory is invoked vary between Europe’s “core” and “periphery”? Who has the power to define and use European Memory to achieve their political goals?

Focussing on the past decade, and systematically studying press output from across six European countries (UK, France, Poland, Spain, Italy and Germany), this project uses advanced methods of qualitative content analysis and quantitative discourse analysis to understand patterns of European memory, the way the discourse is expressed and by whom, and how it has changed over time.

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