What is AECH

What is “Applied European Contemporary History”?

History has a crucial role to play in the process of European integration. European societies can only arrive at a common future if a consensus exists as to how they assess their past.

The goal of the network is to provide an innovative contribution to the advancement of a Europe-oriented history. The point of departure of an Applied European Contemporary History, which the Network is based on, approaches the question of a common European history from the perspectives of public history, memory research, and history pedagogy. While Public History can be described as the broad and overarching concept that deals with the uses of the past in public, Applied History, as its subordinate field, explores more specifically how historical knowledge is made; how interpretations of the past impact society; why there is a societal need to deal with the past at all; and finally, what effect these issues have on the scientific methods of historical research.

Applied European Contemporary History takes a comparative view of European historical cultures in order to better understand cases where the narrative of European commonality has succeeded and other cases where it has failed due to negative historical experiences. As a discipline that aspires to have an effect on society, Applied European Contemporary History aims to generate mutual understanding between the historical cultures of respective neighbouring countries, and thus, to contribute to the consolidation of good, neighbourly relations in Europe. This applies to countries in the European Union as well as to countries aiming to access the European Union in the future.

In terms of content, this approach is interested less in retelling the history of European integration but instead engaging the ‘sore points’ of twentieth century European history. First and foremost being the experiences of war and violence at the hands of European neighbours, i.e. memories that present obstacles to developing a positive outlook on a shared European history. As applied scholarship, Applied European Contemporary History is concerned with demonstrating concrete means and approaches for dealing responsibly with such negative historical experiences.

With the current crisis in European integration and the reactivation of historical justifications for negative stereotypes and enemy images of European neighbours, this enterprise is of high political relevance.