A series of blog posts in partnership with H-Nationalism
On the 100th anniversary of the Versailles Treaty, this series of blog posts will explore historical and contemporary issues relating to one of the main conundrums that democracies have had to confront since the establishment of self-determination and majority rule as the main principles of political legitimacy: the presence of minorities.
Starting in spring 2019, the series will explore a theme a month through the publication of posts by scholars from different disciplinary perspectives, followed by comments from the readers. It will appear simultaneously on this website and H-Nationalism.
Feel free to contact us if you would like to join the conversation.
Minority Protection and Assimilation in Western Europe, 1919-1939
‘The response of West European political and administrative elites to the issue of national and linguistic heterogeneity has for long been simply to ignore it’ – John Coakley
“The Myth of Homogeneity: Minority Protection and Assimilation in Western Europe, 1919–1939” is a Swiss National Science-funded research project hosted at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. The aim of this research is to acquire a clear and in-depth picture of the history of the relationships between national minorities and majorities in Western Europe during the interwar years through the analysis of patterns of minority protection and/or assimilation. The project entails a multi-layered and multi-archival inquiry focusing on three case-study countries: Belgium, Italy and Spain.
revolves around three levels of analysis: government legislation concerning
minority protection and/or assimilation and its enforcement; sub-state national
minority mobilisation, or lack thereof; transnational and international
interactions between state and non-state actors dealing with the issue of
national minorities. It is multi-archival because it relies on a wide range of
government, international organisations, and diplomatic archives as well as
regional, international and transnational repositories. Moreover, despite
including an analysis of the minority regime built around the League of Nations
in the interwar years, the research will not be limited to that international
organisation. This would be a gross mistake as Western minorities did not fall
under the jurisdiction of the League’s Minorities Section and, in any case, the
League ultimately enjoyed very limited latitude without the support of the Great
Powers. For these reasons, other actors and repositories will be taken into
account at different levels: government and civil society, centre and
periphery, domestic and international.
The objective is to contribute to the existing literature revising the widely held assumption of national homogeneity in Western Europe during the period under study, an assumption furthered by the then prevalent tendency of Western governments to ignore their own minority issues while, at the same time, imposing legislative constraints concerning the protection of national minorities on the new states emerging from the dissolution of the Central and Eastern European empires. The goal is not at all to suggest that minority issues in Western Europe were the same as those in the Eastern part of the continent. It is rather to inquire into the specificities of minority-majority relations in Western European countries in order to provide material for a better-informed and scientifically grounded comparison with the situation in Eastern Europe. The relevance of the project goes beyond the academic need to fill a lacuna in the existing literature. At a time when Western Europe is confronted with strong separatist demands and centrifugal forces, it is necessary to question national homogeneity and to acquire a better understanding of the historical evolution of majority-minority relations.