When the Nazis conquered the continent in 1939/1940, political elites from all over Europe fled to Great Britain, last remaining safe haven of the Allies in reachable distance. Most European governments whose territory was now being occupied by Nazi Germany moved to London. Representatives of France, Poland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Norway and Greece inhabited flats and houses in the British capital, all around Hyde Park and close to the British authorities. A significant number of them had arrived as individual refugees, but once in London, they revived their former contacts to set up the mechanics of national committees and governments-in-exile, but also to continue political collaboration on an international level. The British government and King offered symbolical and political, but also substantial technical and financial support. European cooperation was expected to strengthen the allied cause. Needless to say, this collaboration also entailed conflicts. But, for the time of the war, the European political exiles and their British counterparts were stuck with each other – and most intended to make the best of this unusual geographical proximity and collaborate closely to defeat Nazism and plan a post-war world. Thus, just as Berlin became the capital of fascist Europe, London became the capital of free Europe, the seat of almost all European governments.
The blog “Capital of Europe” will reflect on the work in progress of the research project “The London Moment” and refer to related interesting links, events and literature. It aims to engage with other historians and academics of neighbouring disciplines to discuss questions relevant to the project, such as exile and state power, urban history, diplomatic relations and international law.
Principle Investigator: Dr. Julia Eichenberg
I am a Freigeist Fellow at the Department of History, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and the principal investigator of the research project “The London Moment”, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. I have been awarded a PhD in Modern History by the Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen in 2008. Since then, I have held fellowships at Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and the Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin, and have lectured in Modern European History in TCD and UCD Dublin, Tübingen and HU Berlin.
I have published on paramilitary violence, pacifism, veterans’ welfare, and international collaboration. My first book on Polish veterans of the First World War, their struggle for social benefits and national recognition, was published in 2011. While working in an international research project on paramilitary violence after the First World War in Dublin, led by John Horne and Robert Gerwarth, I edited a CEH Special Issue entitled “Aftershocks. Violence in Dissolving Empires after the First World War” as well as a volume on Veterans’ Internationalism (both with John Paul Newman).
My current research project “The London Moment” explores the transnational collaboration of governments-in-exile in London during the Second World War and its impact on European political communication in the 20th Century.
Student Research Assistant: Marten Steinbömer (joined the team in 2015)
I am a B.A. student at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and research assistant in the project „The London Moment“. My subjects at university are history and philosophy. Since April 2015 I work in the research project „The London Moment“. Currently I am writing my bachelor thesis about the French exile-community in London during the Second World War in the perception of the British newspapers.
PhD Project: Sara Weydner, M.A. (joined the team in 2017)
I am a post-graduate research fellow at the Department of History of Humboldt-University and member of the research project “The London Moment”. I studied history and political science in Freiburg and Montreal as well as North American Studies at Freie University in Berlin, and received a master’s degree in 2015. My master thesis dealt with transnational networks in international family planning and population control after World War II. It was awarded with the Prize of the Department of History and Cultural Studies for Gender Studies and published as an article in Geschichte und Gesellschaft in 2018.
In my Ph.D. project, I follow up on my fascination with internationalism in the twentieth century and focus on the transnational collaboration of émigré jurists in the “London Moment”. I am asking how and why émigré jurists engaged in internationalising criminal law in the 1940s. Different sites of transnational cooperation will serve as case studies to dissect the specific local intellectual and social conditions that shaped the émigré jurists’ work in international criminal law and international criminal law reform. This “social history of ideas” draws from a range of methodological approaches from legal sociology, transnational history, and the history of knowledge. The biographies of individual jurists are employed as a heuristic tool to uncover competing interpretations of international criminal and humanitarian law as well as ways of negotiating a common position among émigré jurists.
PhD Project: Simeon Marty, M.A. (joined the team in 2018)
I am a PhD student at the Department of History of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and member of the research project “The London Moment”. After completing my B.A. in History (major) and Science of Religion (minor) at the Universities Fribourg and Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in 2016, I recently graduated from King’s College London with a master’s degree in World History and Cultures. My M.A. thesis “The mouse that roared: The Anguillan secessionist movement and British policy making in the decolonisation of the Anglophone Caribbean, 1966-1971” explores the interconnection between cultural stereotypes in post-war British administration and policy making in the process of decolonisation.
In my PhD Project, I will explore the transnational networks that have been established between non-Europeans, especially anti-colonial movements, and governments in exile in London during the Second World War. This research hopes to uncover to what extent the “London Moment” with its extraordinarily high concentration of political groupings and international political actors offered new perspectives for anti-colonial activists and intellectuals in the formulation of social and political alternatives. In a broader sense, it will examine how this has contributed to the manifold processes of decolonisation that followed shortly afterwards.