Logo Utrecht University

ERC Securing Europe, Fighting its enemies, 1815-1914

About ERC Secure

Securing Europe, Fighting its Enemies. The Making of a Security Culture in Europe and Beyond,  1815-1914

European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant (1 June 2014 – 31 May 2019)

In this ERC-funded project, Professor Beatrice de Graaf (Principal Investigator) and an international team of historians examine the formation of a European security culture as the sum of mutually shared visions on ‘enemies of the states’, ‘vital interests’, and corresponding practices between 1815 and 1914. The project compares seven different security regimes in which Europe engaged globally, stretching across the political and commercial domain, affecting urban and maritime environments, and reaching around the world to the Ottoman Empire and China.

The postulated existence of a shared European security culture in the 19th century may seem counterintuitive. Historians and scholars of international relations generally view the first half of this age through the lenses of ‘balance of power’ and hegemony, and the second half as shaped by bellicose nationalism rather than collective security. European security cooperation and culture is generally situated after 1918, or 1945, as a reaction to the horrors of war and motivated by economic considerations. Nevertheless, after 1815 several concrete transnational security regimes were forged, (partly) designed to deal with ‘enemies of the states’, such as the Commissions on the Rhine and the Danube (to fight smugglers), the European Commissions on Syria and China (to fight colonial rebels), the Anti-Piracy and Anti-Anarchism Campaigns, and others. These security regimes were highly dynamic. Mobilising increasing numbers of professional ‘agents’ from various quarters – including police, judicial authorities and armed forces – they evolved from military interventions into police and judicial regimes and ultimately contributed to the creation of a veritable European security culture.

The hypothesis is that the development of this culture (threat/interest perceptions and practices) was dependent on four determinants. 1) The quality of the epistemic community (agents), 2) their threat/interest demarcations (subject/object), 3) the level of juridification and the use of military/police force (norms), and 4) innovations in the information, communication, and transportation technologies (technology). These determinants explain variance and change, ranging from inclusion to exclusion of groups and interests, and from juridical convergence between the European states/societies regarding the security practices in some cases to a total dissolution in other cases.

Uncovering and introducing new historical sources, the project thus pioneers a new multidisciplinary approach to the combined history of international relations and internal policy, aiming to ‘historicise security’.