Fluid Boundaries? A Tandem History of the Rhine and Oder-Neisse Borderlands, 1949-1989

Project presentation given at the ‘Edgy states and boundary crossers: borders and borderlands in the “Short Twentieth Century”‘ workshop at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford.

Workshop description:  From Brexit to Donald Trump’s plans for a southern border wall, international boundaries, and the people and things that cross them, are high on political agendas. The French far-right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, has welcomed what she has called a return to the ‘time of borders.’

The period that Eric Hobsbawm amongst others, famously termed the ‘Short Twentieth Century’, from 1914 to 1991, was bounded temporally by two major phases of border creation – coupled to the end of the First World War and the collapse of Soviet power – while decolonisation produced a third. Violence accompanied partitions in Ireland, South Asia, and the Middle East, hard ideological and systemic political borders were constructed, and new supra-national organisations and trading blocs came into being.

Supported by the University of Oxford History Faculty’s Research Committee and Sanderson Fund, this workshop brings together historians, whose often interdisciplinary work concerns diverse countries and regions of the world, but who share overlapping interests in the interpenetration of national and international history with local, small scale and everyday experience at the edges of the state. With the [re]bordering impulse again seemingly on the march in both Europe and North America, this timely event offers an opportunity to think again about this earlier ‘time of borders’ against the backdrop of contemporary developments.

Workshop agenda