Call for Papers | Warfare, Welfare, and Transformation of European Society in the 20th Century

Call for Papers | Warfare, Welfare, and Transformation of European Society in the 20th Century

Deadline: 25/06/2021

Warfare, Welfare, and Transformation of European Society in the 20th Century

Michele Mioni (SOCIUM, Bremen)
Fabien Théofilakis (Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne / Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin)


The proposal aims to study the transformative impact of 20thcentury total warson European societies. It does so, by pursuing two main research avenues: 

- it emphasises a perspective “from below”, by focusing on the relations between society and State policy;

- it deconstructs the traditional view centred on the Nation-State by proposing to analyse the phenomena of mobilisation, demobilisation and transformation according to infra-state (at micro and meso levels) as well as supra-state scales. 

The existing interdisciplinary scientific literature on the topic thoroughly scrutinised the various causal mechanisms that linked total warwith social reforms, the impact of modern warfare on State structures and policies, the consequences of wartime mobilisation on labour movement as well as on constituent bodies. Based on these research outputs, this proposal purposes to shift focus on social actors and “sectional interests” (e.g. unions, employers’ organisations, voluntary sector), and aims to discuss the impact of the war from a transnational and entangled point of view. This workshop aims to highlight three mean phenomena: 

- the role of the transfers, mutual learning, and competition among the warring parties;

- the action of international and humanitarian organisations in the reconsideration of social policy during and after wartimes;

- the links between war and social reform in Europe as well as in the colonial territories of European powers. 

This project intends to use interpretations and methodologies from different disciplines, so as to provide a comprehensive view that integrates the current scientific literature on the topic, and analyse the entangled features of the many links between war and social change.

The workshop thus explores the nexus between the First and the Second World Wars by emphasising connections along two binomials: “State-society” and “national-supranational”. As it calls into question the natural primacy of the scale of analysis of the nation-state, it questions the caesura between wartimes and post-war times to consider the dynamics of war exit (sortie de guerre) and the dynamics of social translation beyond the end of the fighting. 

The workshop welcomes contributions dealing mainly with

- the interaction between public and non-State actors;

- the role of social interests and groups in organising and/or prompting social reforms; 

- the transfers and exchanges that enabled the international spread of social reform ideas and projects; 

- the international humanitarianism and social aid.

In so doing, the proposal strives to engage in an interdisciplinary dialogue, welcoming contributions from history, political sciences, social sciences, anthropology. The workshop provides a spotlight to study total mobilizationin its impacts on social actors at national, supranational, and transnational levels, as well as the entanglements between European and non-European areas. Relevant questions stemming from this topic may include:

1) How did specific social groups (e.g. conscript workers, POWs, unionists, employers, mutual sector, colonial administrations, etc.) reconsidered the relationship between State and society during and after the First and Second World Wars? 

2) How did these sectional interests concretely act to negotiate autonomous action for social improvement and with public authorities?

3) To what extent specific social groups, voluntary associations, etc. were able to organise social relief out of – or in collaboration with – the State?

4) How and to what extent did the war act as a catalyst for transnational/supranational social change?

5) Through what formal and informal channels/non-State actors did social reform ideas, practices, policies circulated between countries (including transfers between metropoles and colonies) and/or crisscrossed enemies’ lines?

6) What impact did international/humanitarian organisations and the ‘mixed economy’ of welfare have in implementation of a more inclusive social policy?

7) How can history and political/social sciences interacts so as to provide a more all-rounded interpretation of the warfare-to-welfare transformative phenomenon at all levels (State/society; national/transnational; political/economic; metropole/colonies etc.)

Workshop and Outputs

The workshop will take place between the second half of September and the beginning of 2021 -- depending on the evolution of the sanitary situation-- in Berlin, at the Centre Marc Bloch, and will be a 1-day conference. It would ideally stem from the collaboration among the Centre Marc Bloch (Berlin), SOCIUM (UniBremen), and the COST-Action CA 11819 – “Who Cares in Europe?”. We plan to have 2/3 panels dealing with: 

1) Transformative Impacts of War: State Policy and Social Actors;

2) National and Transnational Dimensions of Total Warfare and Social Change;

3) Warfare-to-Welfare Theory Between History and Social Sciences.

This workshop is conceived as the first stage of a collective reflection on the theme "Warfare, Welfare and Transformations of European Society in the 20th Century" and should be followed by a second one in 2022. Based on theon the contributions received, the scientific outputs will be a special issue on warfare-to-welfare in a peer-reviewed journal, or an edited volume for an international publisher. We will discuss at a later stage which journal/series may act as the most suitable outlet. 

Proposals in the form of a short presentation (500-1.000 words) with a title and a short CV (2 pages maximum) should be sent by 25thof June 2021 to the following two e-mail addresses:

Michele Mioni:

Fabien Théofilakis:

They can explain their inclusion in one or other of the panels envisaged. We will respond to your submission within 3rd of July 2021.

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