André Liebich


Honorary Professor of International History and Politics, Graduate Institute, Geneva

Visiting Fellow
(October – December 2015)


Must Nations Become States? The Birth of Self-Determination

This project examines the nexus between nationhood and statehood in a historical perspective. The argument is that this nexus acquired currency later than most scholars maintain and was not as a result of the French Revolution, as it is generally assumed. The central part of the project consists of three case studies – Polish exiles after 1830; Mazzini and Italian unity; Masaryk’s campaign for Czechoslovak independence during World War I – considered as both illustrative and paradigmatic.


No Self-Determination Without Justification. The Case for Czechoslovak Independence in the First World War

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.
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Central Europe and the Refugees

West European elites carry the burden of a bad conscience with respect to people from the South. There is nothing of the sort in the East where people are unanimous in recalling their own suffering and their historical innocence, and in affirming that “we are not responsible for the miseries of the world.”
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