Modernizing the unmodern: Europe’s imperial monarchies and their path to modernity in the 19th and 20th centuries

Modernizing the unmodern: Europe’s imperial monarchies and their path to modernity in the 19th and 20th centuries

Heidi Hein Kircher, Herder-Institut Marburg; Frederik Frank Sterkenburgh, University of Utrecht; Carolina Armenteros, University of Cambridge
Vom - Bis
01.10.2019 -
Frederik Frank Sterkenburgh, Department of History and Art History, Utrecht University

Call for contributions: Modernizing the unmodern: Europe’s imperial monarchies and their path to modernity in the 19th and 20th centuries

In the past decade, historians (e.g. Sellin 2011) have established the manifold strategies with which monarchs across Europe sought to generate popular political legitimacy for their exalted positions in the long century between the French Revolution and the First World War. In so doing, monarchs hoped to address the challenges posed by political mobilization, the rise of mass printed media, industrialization and urbanization. Claims to a divine origin of their reign no longer sufficed and monarchs, which could still be seen as the vestiges of reaction, now had to present themselves as agents of modernity by partaking in state-formation processes, legislation and serve as promotors of social, cultural and economic improvement. This happened at a time when their polities also saw an ever-increasing expansion and intensification of state and state-related activities in nearly all spheres of public and private life. Monarchs had to include themselves in this in order to remain politically and socially relevant and contribute to the formation of the state and state identity (Langewiesche 2013). Arguably, these problems were particularly pressing for Europe’s imperial monarchies, those which had imperial aspirations or were founded as a result of the breaking down of imperial monarchies and state destruction, such as in central and south-east Europe. As multi-ethnic, multi-national, multi-lingual and multi-religious polities, these states had to keep a constant eye on the modernization processes in the centres and peripheries of their realms in order to ensure its coherence and survival.

Under the influence of Samuel Eisenstadt’s ‘multiple modernities’ (2002), scholars now define modernization as a bundle of social and cultural processes that profoundly affect political, administrative, economic, cultural and social formations. Thus, scholars no longer draw on the normative understanding that was the result of taking industrialization as the role model (Schwinn 2009, Bohnacker/Reckwitz 2007, van der Loo/Reijen. 1990), but instead contend that modernization could also take place without industrialization (Gebhardt 2006). Modernity consequently results from a negotiation within and between societies and their self-description and goals, rather than indicators of backwardness or delayed modernity. It is developed through social and political discourse, allowing political elites – including monarchs and their representatives – to influence these through participation and intervention. Seen in this manner, all of Europe’s imperial monarchies could follow their own path to modernization, even if similarities remained.

This volume wants to investigate how Europe’s various imperial monarchies and their rulers responded to the challenges of modernity. It will draw papers presented at the ‘Monarchy and Modernity’-conference held at the University of Cambridge in January 2019 and seek to illuminate the conference’s central theme by looking at case studies the British, German, Habsburg and Russian Empires during the 19th and 20th centuries. Authors are offered the chance to further develop their papers and turn these into English-language contributions of ca. 9.000 words, including endnotes and bibliography. The volume’s editors, Heidi Hein-Kircher (Herder Institute) and Frederik Frank Sterkenburgh (Utrecht University), specialists in the Habsburg and German monarchies respectively, will co-author the volume’s introduction and afterword. Publication of the volume is envisaged in Palgrave Macmillan’s series Studies in modern monarchy. Authors are requested to submit a one-page summary of their proposed chapter to the volume editors by 1 October 2019, submit the first drafts of their chapter 31 December 2019 and the definitive versions by 28 February 2020. Publication of the volume is envisaged for early 2021.

Chapter length: 9.000 words, including endnotes and bibliography
Language: English
Deadline chapter outline: 1 October 2019
Deadline contributions: First drafts 31 December 2019; definitive versions 28 February 2020
Volume editors: Heidi Hein-Kircher (Herder-Institute) and Frederik Frank Sterkenburgh (Utrecht University). Associate editor: Carolina Armenteros (University of Cambridge)
Volume title: Modernizing the unmodern: Europe’s imperial monarchies and their path to modernity

Heidi Hein Kircher:; Frederik Frank Sterkenburgh:; Carolina Armenteros:



Frederik Frank Sterkenburgh

Drift 6
3512 BS, Utrecht

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