No Self-Determination Without Justification

Thursday, 5 November 2015, 6:00pm - 7:30pm, IWM library


Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk signing the Declaration of Independence

André Liebich’s project deals with self-determination in the long 19th century. His last case study concerns the discursive argument on behalf of Czechoslovak independence during the Great War. What made it possible to “think Czechoslovakia,” previously utterly unimagined but within four years a recognized sovereign state? I consider agency, notably, the part played by Masaryk and English advocates, particularly Wickham Steed, foreign editor of The Times and R.W. Seton-Watson. I sketch their portrayal of the Czechs as a nation of Protestant spirit that contrasts with Austria-Hungary as a decadent, Catholic, dynastic estate, moreover, complicit in Pan-German aims as encapsulated in the slogan “Berlin-Bagdad.” Most brilliantly, one of the few original Entente war aims, the restoration of small nations, was reinterpreted to mean the creation of Czechoslovakia.

André Liebich is Honorary Professor of International History and Politics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva where he taught from 1989 to 2013. Previously he was  professor of political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
He has worked on the politics and history of Central and Eastern Europe as well as on the history of ideas there and elsewhere. His first book, based on his Harvard thesis and prompted by his interest in Hegel, dealt with the political thinker and activist, August Cieszkowski, himself a Young Hegelian and a Polish messianist. Entitled Between Ideology and Utopia, it led to his translation of some of Cieszkowski’s writings from German, French and Polish into English (Cambridge University Press). His subsequent major work was a monograph on the Russian Mensheviks in exile after the Russian Revolution entitled From the Other Shore (1997, Harvard University Press) and that is also available in Romanian (2009). He has also done a two volume scholarly edition of Menshevik documents in Russian (Rosspen). Since the early 1990s his interest in the question of minorities in e-Communist Europe has led to a monograph Les minorités nationales et Europe centrale et orientale (1997) as well as to writings on the contemporary Roma Question and on other minority issues.

André Liebich is completing a biography of the English journalist and publicist, Henry Wickham Steed, editor of The Times in the early 1920s, previously Times correspondent in Vienna and instrumental in bringing about the “New Europe” that came into being in the aftermath of World War I. This biography is itself a byproduct of his main project entitled “Must Nations Become States? The Birth of Self-Determination” which has brought him to IWM and a chapter of which he will be presenting in his lecture.

Currently he is a Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

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