Logo Utrecht University

ERC Securing Europe, Fighting its enemies, 1815-1914

USHS Blog

About This Blog

Ghetto HeadlinesSecurity is with us all the time. From when we flick through the daily headlines with a morning cup of coffee (to be consumed with caution!) to our evening commutes, crammed in public transport services rife with CCTV surveillance: security accompanies us through the day. Innovative technologies of reconnaissance and prevention link together with global nodes of communication to create an omnipresence of security concerns that is very much of this particular day and age. The manner in which a threat like that of contemporary terrorism is perceived, felt and experienced cannot be separated from the times in which we live. With a sense of insecurity felt in the present, notions of threats and danger rooted in past experience, and the ideal of being secure projected into the future: security is ultimately bound up with time.

The ways in which security is debated, thought about, and acted out is a product of the particular epoch in which we live. Tied as it is to the everyday, security concerns will always be in flux. To understand these processes of change and to get a sense of security’s relation to a particular time and place, the very manner in which security becomes apparent should be studied as history. Not just in order to enhance our historical knowledge or compare present-day concerns to those of yesterday. But also with the intention to appeal to restraint and resourcefulness in debates of security. After all, policies and practices of security come clad in urgency, necessity and immediacy. History, in this sense, can help us remain vigilant. The past can be brought to show that alternatives to measures and historically different trajectories are always imaginable.

The Utrecht School of Historicizing Security (USHS) takes up this challenge of studying security as history. Centred on the ERC-funded research project ‘Securing Europe, Fighting its Enemies 1815-1914’, housed at Utrecht University, this blog will be an outlet for questions and reflections relating to security as a historical concern. How do current security measures, perceptions and sensibilities relate to the past? Does history echo through the security-tinged news feeds of today? What traces of past security can we still stumble upon in the world we inhabit? Which security practices have been lost in oblivion? Which groups participate in acting out security and whose voices have been silenced in the security debate? To suggest answers to such ponderings, this blog envelopes popular culture and high politics, reflects upon what is lost and what remains, and slides from the abstractions of policy logics to the concrete realities of buildings in landscapes, but always with one aim: to historicize security.