Meeting of the Legal History Research Group (GRR) on 10/02/2017: European Law

On February 10, 2017, the GRR Legal History Research group at Humboldt University  turned its attention toward the history and historiography of European law. Philip Bajon (Frankfurt/M.) presented his research project on the Luxembourg Compromise, asking whether it propelled a change in decision making patterns in the Council of the European Union. He posited that although the Luxembourg Compromise was not necessarily hard law, it established an informal veto culture that shaped the constitutional practice in the years to come. Manuel Müller (Berlin; www.foederalist.eu) discussed why the Maastricht Treaty did not turn into a “constitutional moment” and argued that while the political system became more integrated, the European public sphere did not: The main frame of reference, in which European politics and policies were discussed and legitimized, remained national. Finally, Anna Katharina Mangold (Frankfurt/M.) made a plea from a jurist’s perspective for a critical turn in the historiography of European Law. From her point of view, a teleological narrative of European integration continues to shape the work of legal historians. Therefore, she calls upon them to reveal historical contingencies and path dependencies as well as their own bias in prioritizing a specific narrative or subject matter over another in their research.

The presentations served as a departure point for a more general discussion about (legal) history. While Philip Bajon argued that a historical approach can uncover source material from actors other than official personas and institutions, Anna Katharina Mangold contended that contemporary historians can be too close to the individual whose motivations and actions they want to analyze. To resolve these issues, the participants agreed that both historians and jurists need to contextualize authors and their work by situating them in a specific historical context. A lively discussion followed on the question how researchers should deal with their own positionality and political leanings: While the jurists regarded normativity as essential for a future-oriented research that suggests improvements to today’s legal system from a historical perspective, the historians in the room interjected that a political standpoint – especially if not clearly indicated – can undermine an impartial analysis of belief systems and discourses of the past. This discussion also tapped into the recent public debate on “post-truth politics” and the role of academia within it, raising the question of the meaning of factuality in (deconstructivist) research projects – a concern not just for legal historians.

Review article: The Genesis of Human Rights in the Second World War

Review of:   Hoffmann, Stefan-Ludwig (Hrsg.): Moralpolitik. Geschichte der Menschenrechte im 20. Jahrhundert. Göttingen : Wallstein Verlag 2010; Prost, Antoine; Winter, Jay: René Cassin et les droits de l’homme. Le projet d’une génération. Paris : Libraire Arthème Fayard 2011; Spiering, Menno; Wintle, Michael (Hrsg.): European Identity and the Second World War. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan 2011; Plesch, Dan: America, Hitler and the UN. How the Allies won World War II and forged a Peace. New York : I.B. Tauris 2010; Láníček, Jan; Jordan, James (Hrsg.): Governments-in-Exile and the Jews during the Second World War. Edgware : Vallentine Mitchell 2013; Frei, Norbert; Weinke, Annette (Hrsg.): Toward a New Moral World Order?. Menschenrechtspolitik und Völkerrecht seit 1945. Göttingen : Wallstein Verlag 2013.

Full review (in German) on HSozKult: http://www.hsozkult.de/searching/id/rezbuecher-20869?title=geschichte-der-menschenrechte&q=Eichenberg&sort=&fq=&total=77&recno=2&subType=reb