21 22 nov 2019 Socialist networks and the remaking of European international policy after 1945: power, solidarity and normative regimes in transnational perspective Institute of Commonwealth Studies, London



With the support of the Institut universitaire de France


From the post-war debates on institutionalised cooperation in Western Europe to the current dynamics of the European Union in the post-Cold War era, this conference will investigate the impact of socialist networks on European construction and integration, as well as the role of European socialism in international (dis-)orders.  Focusing on policy-making and international theory, and on their interplay, debates will assess how socialist networks were influenced by relations with socialist parties and groups outside Europe (from America and Latin America to Asia, Africa and the Pacific) as well as with communist parties, and with parties on the right.

In recent years, the study of international policy has been largely renewed in three ways. First, scholars have turned their attention to the connected evaluation of decolonisation and globalisation processes, considering the internationalisation of colonial issues and transnational anti-colonial mobilisation but also the expansion of new international norms during colonial retreat (Thomas and Thompson). Historians of European construction and global financial networks have demonstrated that the history of the European Union is intrinsically linked to decolonisation processes (Bossuat & Bitsch; Dimier; Hansen and Jonson; Schenk), and that the ends of the colonial empires have had a tangible impact on the former imperial powers of the current EU (Buettner). Second, histories of European socialist parties have been revised by locating the analysis in alternative spaces (such as Kirk’s work on labour movements in the British world or Marynower’s study of the French SFIO in Algeria), in multilateral bodies such as the Socialist International (Devin) and by connecting anti-colonial activity across the empires and ex-empires (Oliveira). Equally important has been the mapping out of socialist activism in Africa after empire and in Latin America, with the actions of individuals and non-governmental groups shedding light on the shifting conceptions of social democracy and democratic socialism, fairness and equality, as well as reform and revolution as a means to achieve individual and collective emancipation and freedom (Simon). Third, the study of European integration has benefited from new work into processes of cross-border and transnational socialisation, focusing on non-state actors with a wide range of humanitarian, business and other motives (Kaiser et al.). Useful case studies have therefore investigated how Robert Frank’s seminal distinction between European identity, awareness/consciousness and feeling operates in policy-making and why on a number of international issues (including, for instance, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Nehring) European relations have not resulted in greater European cohesion or cooperation.

By focusing on relations between European socialist parties and groups in an international context, and tracing the impact of these connections on political thought and on policy practices, this conference will reflect on the successes and failures of trans-border and transnational processes of socialisation. Of particular relevance are four main areas of investigation:

–                    the extent to which ideals of European cooperation have trickled down into more daily, routine and domestic politics and, in turn, the extent to which power and welfare politics at home have shaped European policies amongst socialists

–                    the shifting definitions of political elites and popular understandings of Europe. Of particular interest here is the influence of people of extra-European descent on the transformation of socialist thought, policies and practices in the European (ex-) imperial powers and their agency in connecting socialist groups across national boundaries

–                    the extent to which European socialists attempted to propose a post-colonial, post-imperial agenda for Europe and to grasp the nexus between ends of empire and new international orders. This involves re-assessing the importance of campaigns of international solidarity (for Chile and Nicaragua for instance) but also the ways in which the later ends of the European colonial empires (notably in Southern Africa) affected both socialist and European identities and politics

–                    the extent to which European institutions were used, with what ends and with what results, by European socialists and their contacts.

Re-assessing the tensions between internationalist and Europeanist outlooks across the defence, diplomacy and development agendas of parties and groups that define themselves as socialist, the work of this conference will consider the role of socialists in imagining alternative forms of European cooperation and institutions, shedding light on the legacies of empire in contemporary international policies (and on EU politics). Also important in this respect are attitudes to the rule of law and the role of legal regimes, national, regional and international.

Returning to the connections between defence, diplomacy and development, and to the tensions between warfare and welfare in external and domestic politics, this conference will investigate the extent to which socialist networks of power and solidarity influenced international policy-making in Europe and, more broadly, the recasting of Europe’s global place since 1945. Connections beyond the state, both above (through supranational, transnational and global frameworks) and below (with grassroots movements acting in parallel, support or defiance of official institutions) will be of particular importance to analyse the drivers and limits of socialist and European identities. While this conference does not intend to centre on Britain or debates over “Brexit”, investigating patterns of transnational socialisation in Europe in the wider context of decolonisation and the Cold War / post-Cold War, might shed light on contemporary dynamics and suggest some ways forward.

Papers are therefore invited on the history of socialism in Europe, its links to imperial and post-colonial history and related theories of International Relations. Papers reflecting on the role of language and national cultures (in framing either research questions or policy exchanges) are also welcome.

Please send an abstract (max. 400 words) and a short biography to Mélanie Torrent (melanietorrent@hotmail.com) and Andrew Williams (ajw30@st-andrews.ac.uk), no later than 22 July 2019.


Advisory committee

Lucian Ashworth (Memorial University, Newfoundland and Labrador)

Yann Béliard (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle)

Françoise Blum (CNRS, Centre d’histoire sociale du XXème siècle / Institut des mondes africains)

Martin Evans (University of Sussex)

Amelia Hadfield (University of Surrey)

Konstantinos Katsakioris (Universität Bayreuth)

Philip Murphy (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)

Pedro Aires Oliveira (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)

Charlotte Riley (University of Southampton)

Pauline Schnapper (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle)



Bossuat, Gérard and Marie-Thérèse Bitsch (ed), De l’idée d’Eurafrique à la convention de Lomé I, histoire d’une relation ambigüe, Bruxelles, Bruylant, 2005.

Buettner, Elizabeth, Europe after Empire. Decolonization, Society and Culture, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Dimier, Véronique, The Invention of a European Development Aid Bureaucracy: Recycling Empire, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2014.

Devin, Guillaume, L’internationale socialiste: histoire et sociologie du socialisme international, 1945-1990, Paris, Les Presses de Sciences Po, 1993.

Frank, Robert, “Une histoire problématique: une histoire du temps present”, Vingtième Siècle, Revue d’histoire, 71, 2001.

Hansen, Peo and Stefan Jonson, Eurafrica: the Untold History of European Integration and Colonialism, London, Bloomsbury, 2015.

Hall, Ian (ed), Radicals and Reactionaries in Twentieth Century International Thought, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Kaiser, W. and J.H. Meyer (ed), European Integration, Polity-Building and Policy-Making, 1958-1992, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2013.

Kirk, Neville, Labour and the Politics of Empire: Britain and Australia, 1900 to the Present, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2011.

Marynower, Claire, L’Algérie à gauche, 1900-1962, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 2018.

Nehring, Holger, “National internationalists: British and West German Protests against Nuclear Weapons, the Politics of Transnational Communications and the Social History of the Cold War, 1957-1964”, Contemporary European History, vol. 14, n°4, 2005.

Oliveira, Pedro Aires, Os Despojos da Aliança. A Grã-Bretanha e a Questão Colonial Portuguesa, 1945-1975, Lisbon, Tinta da China, 2007.

Schenk, Catherine, The Decline of Sterling. Managing the Retreat of an International Currency, 1945-1992, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Simon, Catherine, Algérie, les années pieds-rouges, Paris, La Découverte, 2009.

Thomas, Martin and Andrew Thompson, “Empire and Globalisation: from ‘High Imperialism’ to Decolonisation”, The International History Review, vol. 36, n°1, 2014.





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