Entangled Transitions: Eastern and Southern European Convergence or Alternative Europes? 1960s–2000s
Contemporary European History
Cambridge University Press (CUP)
© Cambridge University Press 2017
Extract: Ever since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the enthusiasm it inspired about the potential for European unity and democracy, it has become fashionable to see post-war European history in terms of convergence. Historians have researched the integration of the European continent into the global, in the context of the Cold War, decolonisation and economic globalisation. Internally, processes of convergence are seen to link the trajectories of nations on a continent where integration eventually trumped the divisions of nationalism, regionalism and the Iron Curtain. This story of an ‘ever deeper and wider union’ was also reflected in the ways in which the transformations of Southern and Eastern Europe were narrated. The idea of a so-called ‘return to Europe’ inspired histories that connected the fall of right-wing authoritarian regimes in the Southern European states of Portugal, Greece and Spain from the mid-1970s with the end of communism in Eastern Europe from 1989. This dominant account has presented Southern and Eastern European ‘peripheries’ moving towards the (Western) European core and its norms, values and models of liberal democracy. Even though some have raised objections to these teleological and Western-dominated narratives of transition they have remained strikingly potent in histories of post-war Europe. Only very recently have they received historiographical critique. Partly this is due to the enduring appeal of centre-periphery approaches that continue to influence intellectual debates about European identity and history. This is also because research on the transitions in Southern and Eastern Europe has for a long time remained rather insular. Historians have been slow to enter a research field that has been dominated by institutional and political approaches, and they have remained more focused on national histories. Where historians of either Eastern or Southern Europe have addressed the transnational or transregional aspects of transition, this has mainly focused on the appeal of the West or its Atlanticist dimensions.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from CUP via the DOI in this record
Vol. 26 (4), pp. 577-599