Review of Frank and Hadler (eds.). "Disputed Territories and Shared Pasts. Overlapping National Histories in Modern Europe" by Adam Hudek for geschichte.transnational and H-Soz-u-Kult

Frank, Tibor; Hadler, Frank (Hrsg.): Disputed Territories and Shared
Pasts. Overlapping National Histories in Modern Europe (= Writing the
Nation 6). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2011. ISBN 978-0-230-50008-2;
430 S.; GBP 65.00.

Rezensiert für geschichte.transnational und H-Soz-u-Kult von:
Adam Hudek, Institut der Geschichte, Slowakische Akademie der

A publication concerning the overlapping national histories in modern
Europe is one of the outcomes of a five year research project, focused
on the structures of national histories and the diversity of national
narratives in Europe. The exceptional density of various state and
regional borders makes Europe a perfect environment for borderlands and
transitional zones, as "important areas of a nation struggle for a
national identity" (p. 4). It is not surprising that (with a few
important exceptions) the most numerous and most disputed of these
overlapping territories are in Central and Eastern Europe. A well
written and comprehensible introduction by the editors defines the most
important concepts. It declares that from the seven defined types of
overlapping perceptions, the volume focuses only on the territorial
borders. These overlaps are grouped into three types. However, despite
the mentioned clarity of the first study, it is too brief, especially in
the methodology part - it doesn't really prepare the reader for the
diversity of approaches used in the following texts.

Due to the limited length of this review, the main focus is given to the
already mentioned three main chapters. The first two texts of the first
chapter "Overlaps Alongside State Borders" are dealing with the problems
of "peculiar overlap" (phrase present in both articles) (p. 17, p. 35)
namely the Union of Sweden and Norway (Ragnar Björk) and the
Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (Tibor Frank). A common feature of both
articles is the absence of "the overlapping discussion", although for
different reasons. In the first case, it is because of the objective
asymmetry in the Norwegian and Swedish interest in the Union. The
problem with Tibor Frank's article seems to be its chronological form,
analyzing the opinions of the most important Hungarian historians of
their generation on the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. However, such an
approach omits both discussions within one generation of historians as
well as the views of other national historiographies (Austrian, Czech).
Both of these aspects are very well incorporated in the case study of
Werner Suppanz about the Habsburg Monarchy in Austrian historiography,
demonstrating the developing opinions concerning the treatment of
multi-ethnic/national and multilingual zones (p. 91). Regarding their
scope and focus, the articles on German-Polish (Jörg Hackmann) and
Polish-Russian (Rafal Stobiecki) overlaps, create the highlights of the
chapter. These texts are followed by the study on the "Great Netherlands
Controversy" (Niek van Sas), dealing with the persisting problem of
conceptualization of the "Belgian nation" and the challenging Flemish
movement connecting itself to the Dutch narrative.

Part II, "Overlaps in Historical Regions Between States", consists of
five case studies. Uffe Østergård's survey on Schleswig and Holstein in
Danish and German historiography is a thorough analysis of discussions
over disputed provinces. Part of the text, which would deserve more
space, is the observation that the fear from being labeled as a
nationalist (p. 219), effectively eradicated all the "disputed
territories" discussions after 1945. From the political point of view,
the ignorance of problems could be beneficiary, but the similar
"well-meaning tendencies" (p. 219) in history could cause doubts about
its status as a science. The outstanding article by Ilkka Liikanen,
demonstrates the practical absurdity of many "overlapping discussions".
Study is about the origins of the Finnish Eastern border as one of the
key parts of the Finnish master narrative construction. Liikanen's great
ironic conclusions to the whole grand controversy of 19th and 20th
centuries are the newest assertions that the document it was based on
probably never existed (p. 199).

The last two articles are dealing with the cases of well known disputed
regions, Alsace-Lorraine (Christopher Fischer) and Transylvania (Andrew
Ludanyi). The reasonable decision to put these two texts together
enables the reader to better realize the different developmental stages
of "Western" and post communist historiographies regarding the
overlapping regions. The France-German "historical wars" over
Alsace-Lorraine are more or less over and the whole case is presented as
"a ray of hope for the future of a unified Europe, in which such border
regions bind nations together rather than drive them apart" (p. 246). In
the case of Transylvania, Ludanyi can only hope for a rational
discussion between Rumanian and Hungarian historians (and politicians),
who can see the need to "understand history from the other side" (p.
270). This hope is connected with the membership in the EU and its
"denationalizing influence". This stance is typical for part of the
elites in the new member states; although there are many examples that
success with such a process is by far not granted.

The third part of the book is devoted to the ethnic, national and
religious overlaps within the states. These are those of the most
complicated cases of overlaps, especially when connected with recent or
still existing strong political cleavages, accompanied with armed
struggles or terrorism. This is the case of Bosnia-Hercegovina (Robin
Okey) and Israel (Jacob Barnai). The Bosnian example demonstrates the
grave dangers of emotional primordial perspectives offering no
possibility to incorporate any "anomaly" in the national narrative.
However, the potential role of the "Slav grand narrative" for providing
overarching loyalties could be a very elusive project regarding the past
conflicts. In this case, the civic multiculturalism, also mentioned in
the text, with the systematic influence from the EU, could be a better
direction. Similar to the Israel-Palestinian case, it is quite clear
that the "19th century style" national narratives have to be abandoned
if historians should contribute to the solution of disputed territories
in question. At least partial success of such a process is described in
the articles dealing with "Sudetenland" (Milan Repa) and the formation
of the Irish historical profession (Ciaran Brady). An important part of
this chapter is a case study about real and imagined overlaps in the
Iberian Peninsula (Xosé-Manoel Núñez). The only questionable point is
why there is so much space devoted to the rather marginal question of
Olivença/Olivenza, when it could be used for more important overlaps,
also mentioned in the text.

The general remark involves maps of Central Europe, namely the problem
in the transcription of town names. There is no good reason why towns in
the Bohemian Kingdom should have only German names (p. 38, p. 248). To
make the whole situation more absurd, the most important cities are
written using English transcription (Prague, Vienna, Cracow). Secondly,
in different maps depicting the borders from the same era, the same
cities have different names (Lviv vs. Lemberg) (p. 38, p. 94), which
also contributes to the general confusion.

In general, the book consists of high quality texts; there is really not
much to criticize. Although many of them have a form of general surveys,
this is not a negative feature. The book as a whole points out
interesting facts: the European historical tradition was (is?)
overwhelmed with borders between "East and West", between "civilization
and barbarity" and the role of "Kulturträger" present in nearly all
national narratives, is closely linked with the claim on certain
territories. A common conclusion could be in a form of assertion that if
the individual historiographies have ambitions to solve the questions of
disputed territories and overlaps, they have to abandon nationalist,
primordial stances. The successful Western example is, without doubt,
greatly influencing the positive development in the rest of the

Diese Rezension wurde redaktionell betreut von:
Katja Naumann

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