Elites: Privileged Vectors of European Construction

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The process of identifying elites has been the subject of theoretical analyses developed in political sociology. Historians have also contributed to the study of the “decision-making groups” at work during the beginnings of European construction.

European elites from a number of states in North-western Europe mobilized around the creation of the first communities. The question of their enlargement led to a degree of divergence upon the accession of Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Later, the impact of the transformations that took place during the 1980s sparked new debates but did not call into question the fundamental role of elites in European construction.

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From the Europe of citizens to European citizenship, 1974-1992

British Passport
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The participation of the people in the construction of Europe has raised questions since the 1970s, when member states sought to revitalize the process of political unification. The election of the European Parliament by universal suffrage was a first step.  The Europe of citizens, which was initiated in 1975 and revitalized in 1985, was meant to bring the peoples of the European Community closer but remained symbolic and lacked major practical impact. The states waited until the Maastricht Treaty to implement genuine European citizenship as part of the political Union, yet it is still a secondary citizenship limited to a few rights, with minor impact and debatable political effectiveness.

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France, the Atlantic Alliance and the Europe of Defence since the end of the Cold War

A map showing European membership of the EU and NATO. Blue, EU members only. Orange, NATO members only. Purple, members of both.
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The Atlantic Alliance was the central part of security in Europe from 1949 to 1989, with France playing its part, then going his own way. Between the seemingly improbable defence of Europe by Europeans and the defence of Europe by NATO, which seems to have won out, France has tried since the end of the Cold War to maintain a form of national independence, strategic autonomy, and privileged contacts, particularly with the British. The Europe of defence based on reinforced cooperation and genuine pooling of resources sill comes up against national choices, for which France does not bear sole responsibility.

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Conférences internationales de La Haye, 1899 et 1907

Une séance plénière lors de la seconde conférence de La Haye, 1907, salle des Chevaliers (Ridderzaal).
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Par-delà leurs effets immédiats, qui restent très limités, les deux conférences de La Haye de 1899 et 1907 jettent les bases d’un nouveau système international fondé sur le droit. Tournant résolument le dos au Concert européen, elles s’ouvrent aux pays d’Amérique et d’Asie et entendent notamment favoriser la pratique de l’arbitrage pour régler les différends et assurer la paix. En faisant place à de nouveaux acteurs et pratiques diplomatiques, elles inaugurent l’ère des grandes conférences internationales et du multilatéralisme institutionnalisé.

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République des lettres (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles) (La)

Simon Fokke, Frontispice pour la revue Republyk der geleerden (« La République des lettrés »), 1745. Rijksmuseum RP-P-201b-1050. Minerve, déesse de la sagesse et du savoir, semble veiller sur la bibliothèque où travaillent et échangent les lettrés, tandis que Mercure, dieu associé à la presse et à l’information, les instruit.
Willem Moreelse, Portrait d’un savant inconnu, 1647, Tolède, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1962.70. L’homme porte la couronne du Laureatus – signe de la reconnaissance du lettré – et présente un livre de botanique portant la mention « cette plante montre la présence de Dieu » en latin, écho de l’imbrication entre les lettres, les sciences et la théologie. Source : Wikimedia Commons https://goo.gl/P8JoxD
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Née en 1417, au sein d’un échange épistolaire en latin entre Francesco Barbaro et Le Pogge, l’expression ne s’impose réellement en Europe qu’à partir du début du xvie siècle : en 1520, Boniface Amerbach, fils du célèbre imprimeur de Bâle, fait alors d’Érasme le « monarque de toute la République des lettres ». La Respublica litteraria est appelée à une grande postérité. Les « lettres » désignent l’ensemble du savoir et les « gens de lettres » rassemblent alors tous ceux qui le cultivent, qu’ils soient qualifiés de littérateurs, érudits, doctes, savants. Dans les faits, la manière dont cet espace utopique est perçu et interprété évolue entre la Renaissance et la Révolution. La République des lettres n’est en rien un objet stable mais varie en fonction des contextes, géographiques et temporels. Pourtant, dans la cartographie des savoirs, la place de ce territoire des lettrés perdure durant toute l’époque moderne.

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Gender of Occupations

Essen, miners in the gallery (1961), photograph by Egon Steiner
“Worker and Kolkhoz Woman,” work created in 1937 by the sculptor Vera Muchina to represent the Soviet Union at the International Exhibition of Paris. The sculpture of a woman wielding a sickle and a man wielding a hammer symbolizes the two branches of the proletariat in the form of peasants and workers, and also represents men and women, the two foundations of society, on equal footing. Source: Wikimedia Commons https://goo.gl/gdrgmv
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The naturalization of feminine and masculine qualities, which was used for the gendered division of occupations, intensified during the nineteenth century. The occupations of men were often based on physical strength, or the exercise of high public office and professions involving knowledge and power, whereas the occupations of women were more connected to dexterity and the fields of care and education. Transgression of the gendered occupational order has led to many professional “firsts” among women since the late nineteenth century, as well as to a few “firsts” among men in the early twenty-first century. Their history is closely connected to recognition of rights granted to women as well as progress towards professional equality, without however leading to equal pay.

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Expulsion of the Germans of Czechoslovakia after the Second World War

The Zentrales Denkmal Flucht und Vertreibung 1945 [Central Memorial for the Flight and Expulsion of 1945], conceived by Joachim Bandau and inaugurated in 1999, Nuremberg.
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The expulsion of the Germans of Czechoslovakia in 1945-1946 brought an end to the centuries-long presence of German-speaking populations in this part of Central Europe. The German-Czech disagreement regarding these expulsions remained strong throughout the second half of the twentieth century. The suffering endured by Czechoslovaks under Nazi domination, as well as that experienced by the German-speaking population upon their expulsion have fuelled strong resentment on both sides since 1945. This rancour on the part of those who were expelled was reinforced by the silence that the communist regime imposed on this thorny subject in Czechoslovakia, leaving West Germany with the task of granting reparations. The initiation of a reconciliation process was almost impossible in these conditions. The discussions initiated since 1989 have nevertheless enabled a return to calmer relations, which are more in step with the evolution of memories of the Second World War in Europe.

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Russeries in the Construction of a European Exoticism

Jean-Baptiste Le Prince, Scène de la vie quotidienne en Russie [Scene from Russian Everyday Life], 1764, oil on canvas, 0.73 x 0.60 m.
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Russeries, which were imagined by Jean-Baptiste Le Prince, were one of the last forms of artistic exoticism conceived in eighteenth century France. The artist went to Saint Petersburg in 1757, and was presented at the court of Elizabeth I of Russia (1741-1762), who entrusted him with official commissions. Over the course of six long years, the painter-engraver steeped himself in the “Russian” atmosphere, and captured local everyday scenes from real life, along with portraits of men and women of the people, offering a partially descriptive study of native populations. Upon his return to France in 1763, he used these works in various artistic domains. While his works won him a certain renown, the fortune of his work suffered when this fashion ran out of steam at the end of the century. Occasionally revived in the field of art objects, the posterity of russeries has been minor, although the ethnographic dimension of Jean-Baptiste Le Prince’s work, which was novel in the register of exoticism, foreshadowed the scientific research of the nineteenth century. 

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Figure of the Chinese in European Art (The)

Christophe Huet, Young Chinese men practicing archery, detail from the paneling in the Chinese salon at the Chateau de Champs-sur-Marne, 1748-1749
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While the discovery of America in 1492 was a cultural and psychological shock for Europe, one that was echoed in Montaigne, the mythical “Cathay” of Asia had always been a part of Western imagination thanks to the Silk Road. The exchange that developed beginning in the seventeenth century established direct contact with this “other,” whose difference was both surprising and captivating, and whose representations primarily express an Orient ( “The East”) dreamt up by Europeans.

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