Europäische Zeitgeschichte

“Peripheries at the Centre” – book launch

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Peripheries at the centre. Book by Machteld Venken
C²DH Professor Machteld Venken’s latest monograph: “Peripheries at the Centre. Borderland Schooling in Interwar Europe” (Berghahn Books, 2021) was published in March 2021 in golden open access.

Following the Treaty of Versailles, European nation-states were faced with the challenge of instilling national loyalty in their new borderlands, in which fellow citizens often differed dramatically from one another along religious, linguistic, cultural or ethnic lines. Peripheries at the Centre compares the experiences of schooling in Upper Silesia in Poland and Eupen, Sankt Vith and Malmedy in Belgium — border regions detached from the German Empire after the First World War. It demonstrates how newly configured countries envisioned borderland schools and language learning as tools for realising the imagined peaceful Europe that underscored the political geography of the interwar period.

The book can be downloaded free of charge.


Book reviews

“Peripheries at the Centre shows how the international border settlements after the First World War worked (or did not work) on the ground. We learn how pupils, their parents, and their principals manoeuvered through changing legal and administrative regimes, and how those regimes were often riven by contradictions and failures in their application. Venken’s thought-provoking theses should interest scholars concerned with how international and national dynamics shape the everyday experiences, subjectivities, and scope of action for children in a variety of contested areas.”

Katherine Lebow, Oxford University.

“Peripheries at the Centre is a notable intervention in social history and an innovative contribution to current historiographical debates. It offers a deep comparison of German peripheral regions after 1918 in Poland and Belgium, and it sets up a theoretically sophisticated European analysis of the limits and inadequacies of nationally framed reform pedagogy, giving voice to children’s modernity.”

Steven Seegel, University of Northern Colorado.


Book presentation

On 17 June 2021, the 21th International Migration Conference in Klagenfurt titled ‘Border Thinking’ hosted the keynote lecture of Machteld Venken. The lecture provided a spatiotemporal framework of comparison that facilitates a historical multidimensional and relational analysis of different borderlands. The framework was developed for the comparison of borderland schools in Europe after the First World War presented in the monograph. The framework makes use of insights from human geography, political science and border studies.

Book discussions

On 17 April 2021, the Association for Borderlands Studies Annual Meeting, and on 16 June 2021, the International Standing Conference for the History of Education, both held virtually, hosted scholarly discussions of the monograph. After a brief presentation of the book to an international audience of interdisciplinary border scholars by the author at the ABS Annual Meeting, the book discussion opened the floor to the thoughtful reflections and comments of Associate Professor Peter Polak-Springer (Qatar University), Professor Birte Wassenberg (University of Strasbourg), Postdoctoral Researcher Caroline Mezger (LMU Munich) and the audience. 

The book discussion at the Association for Borderlands Studies (ABS):

At ISCHE, after an introduction offered by Postdoctoral Researcher Lisbeth Matzer (LMU Munich), as well as a brief presentation of the book to an international audience of scholars specialised in the history of education by the author, the book discussion opened the floor to the reflections and comments of Professor Diana Vidal (University of São Paulo) and Senior Researcher Andrea Di Michele (Free University of Bozen).

Book discussion (ISCHE):