The volume is available in hardback and in open access online
Were European empires ‘prisons of nations’? Did minority questions exist exclusively in eastern Europe during the interwar years? How did ordinary people in minority regions navigate conflicting forms of national identification? How did minority representatives mobilise support for minority rights transnationally? In fourteen chapters, Sovereignty, Nationalism and the Quest for Homogeneity in Interwar Europe answers these and other questions.
Proposing an unusual juxtaposition, the first part of the volume examines three empires (Austria-Hungary, the United Kingdom, and the Ottoman Empire) that, although on different scales, experienced crisis and partition at the end of the Great War. Pieter Judson shows how imperial forms of governance in the Austrian part of the Habsburg Empire gave more space to people to speak their preferred language and to embrace a wider array of self-understandings than the nation-states that followed. The United Kingdom is often examined as a nation-state rather than a union state. By contrast, Alvin Jackson considers it as a composite monarchy and dissects the centrifugal and centripetal forces that led to Britain’s partial break-up, but also to its survival after the First World War. Erol Ülker closes this first part of the volume by examining majority-minority relations in the Ottoman Empire from 1908 to 1923. He concludes that Turkish policies toward non-Turkish minorities were more complex and varied than recognised by traditional accounts.
The second part of the book studies comparatively minority policies in interwar Europe. It demonstrates that minority questions were debated throughout the continent and that the allegedly ‘civilised’ West did not treat minorities more liberally than the supposedly ‘backward’ East. Volker Prott compares violence in Alsace-Lorraine and Asia Minor. He highlights how a temptation to coercively homogenise populations was inherent in the post-war international order, but also identifies factors that restrained large-scale violence. Then, Mona and Emmanuel consider Belgium, Italy, and Spain as nationalising states. They show how these countries adopted homogenising policies with varying degrees of coercion and thus debunk some lingering myths of populations’ homogeneity in interwar western Europe. Marina Germane examines minority policies and mobilisation in Latvia, Poland, and Romania. Following German and Jewish representatives, she investigates the limits of domestic mobilisation and how disillusion pushed activists to move their activities from domestic arenas to the transnational sphere. In the last chapter of this part of the book, Sabine Dullin dissects the USSR’s double-edged nationality policy. She argues that the Soviets promoted national cultures throughout the Union, but also saw minorities as dangerous fifth columns and targets of collective punishment and forced displacement.
Part three of the book examines from the bottom-up processes of identification in different European contexts. It builds upon, but also challenges the national indifference framework. The chapter in this part emphasise how the space for indifference shrank in an increasingly nationalising interwar Europe. Olga Linkiewicz zooms in on rural conflicts in eastern Poland during the 1924 language plebiscite. She shows how peasants behaved in accordance with the principles of a vernacular cosmology that defies easy categorisation as either national indifference or full Polish nationalisation. Brian Hughes explores strategies of everyday resistance among loyalists during and after the Irish Revolution. He dissects the meaning of loyalism, as well as dynamics of integration and assimilation within an increasingly Catholic and Gaelic Irish Republic. Alison Carrol closes this part of the book revisiting Alsace’s return to France. She explores how different groups within Alsatian society pushed the state to adopt flexible policies of integration that created unexpected spaces for alternative understandings of identity.
Part four of the volume follows minority representatives across borders and gauges their efforts to lobby foreign governments, international organisations and the broader international community in favour of the defence of minority rights. Xosé Manoel Nuñez Seixas and David Smith map transnational networks of minority rights advocacy across Europe. They identify the emergence of a transnational nationality theory that, despite its failure, constituted an alternative to the model of the homogenous nation-state in interwar Europe. Jane Cowan explores the triangular, asymmetric and non-reciprocal relation between the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Bulgarian and Macedonian female activists and the male-dominated League of Nations. She shows how, in their interactions, these actors navigated hierarchies of gender, class, race, and civilisation.
Omer Bartov closes the book with a broad-ranging coda on the ‘conundrum of national indifference’. National indifference, he argues, rightly reminds us to be sceptical of the arguments of nationalist zealots. The history of the 20th century, as well as the recent Russian aggression of Ukraine, equally reminds us that we downplay the power of nationalism at our own peril. As Bartov and many other contributors suggest, although nationhood was not the only form of identification in interwar Europe, or the most important, the space for indifference shrank considerably between the two World Wars, in Poland and Romania, but also in Italy, France and Ireland.
The volume is available in open access at: https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350263413
It can also be ordered in hardback at: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/sovereignty-nationalism-and-the-quest-for-homogeneity-in-interwar-europe-9781350263383/?utm_content=1683885624&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter
Here is the table of contents: