Writing a New
History of Europe

Frédéric Clavert - LabEx EHNE


#NCPH2014 / #LabExEHNE



I. General presentation
of the Encyclopaedia

II. Methodology

III. Which editing system



Origins of the Encyclopaedia
for a New History of Europe

The Encyclopaedia and the LabEx EHNE

The 'LabEx'/'Laboratoires d'excellence' (Centre of excellence) are groupings of French research centres that were chosen for funding by the French government after an international peer-review process.

The LabEx Écrire une Histoire Nouvelle de l'Europe (EHNE - Writing a New History of Europe) is the reunion of five research centres from Paris and Nantes, that focus their research on Europe.

Material civilisation / Politics / European Humanism /
Europe and the World / War / Gender / Art

Middle Age to XXth century

Writing a New History of Europe?

An observation

The historiography of European integration is not able
to explain the crisis faced by Europe (EU) today.

Ex: history of oppositions to / resistances to /alternative views of
European integration (Research program 2009-2010 / Strasbourg)

A proposition

Reinserting the history of European integration in the more general European historiography as a way to contribute to today's debate on the European crisis.

The Encyclopaedia for a New History of Europe

One of the main project of the LabEx


Trilingual (French / German / English)

Contributing to the debate about the European crisis

How to write such an encyclopaedia and for whom?

I. General presentation of the Encyclopaedia

One more Encyclopaedia about Europe? (1)

Many Encyclopaedias or Digital Libraries are speaking about Europe

One more Encyclopaedia about Europe? (2)

Digital libraries about European integration or Europe in general

A historical tool
to help us understand the present

Contributing to debates about the crisis faced by Europe and the EU

Thematic, multilingual, proposing inter-disciplinary and broad, transnational approaches to European history, no chronological restrictions.

A historical tool to help us understand the present

The encyclopaedia is aimed at a large audience of

  • university and high-school teachers,
  • the academic community,
  • university students,
  • politicians and decision-makers (and their teams),
  • journalists,
  • ...and all those wishing to consult it.

Organisation of the Encyclopaedia

  • Structured around large articles defining the key questions,

  • the encyclopaedia will also contain shorter, ‘factual’ articles on more precise subjects.

All entries will contain short bibliographies permitting readers to pursue the subject in more detail if they wish.

Who will write the Encyclopaedia?


  • The authors will neither necessarily be members of the LabEx, nor will they necessarily be French
  • In fact, the international aspect of the encyclopaedia is vital


We plan to link our academic colloquiums to the Encyclopaedia. We will include PhD candidates.


  • The coherence of the encyclopaedia will be assured by a general Editing Committee, composed of members of the seven thematic research strands of the LabEx, by the LabEx's General Secretary and by the Communication Officer (well, me).
  • The Editing Committee will ensure that some formal, general guiding lines will be respected
  • The academic control will be ensured within each LabEx's axis through a Peer-Review Committee that will evaluate and validate the academic content of articles.


  • A first version of the encyclopaedia, containing about 100 articles, will be online in early 2015.
  • The entire encyclopaedia will be accessible in 2019.

II. Methodology

Methodological issues

What is Europe?

Definitions of Europe are numerous:

  • Geography
  • Institutions (Europe as European Union, as Council of Europe, as European Court of Human Rights...)
  • History
  • Myth
  • Values/Identities
  • Network


There is an obligation to accept the multiple meanings attached to the notion of Europe...

Debates around the type of entries


Articulation between 'thematic' and 'factual' entries is widely accepted within the LabEx.


But defining them more precisely is difficult:

  • Thematic entries: will they be accepted if they are concerning only some parts of Europe? ('Western Europe' / 'Europe in-between' / 'Eastern Europe' / etc.)
  • Factual entries: biographies? Long French academic debate around biographies (École des Annales / Bourdieu)


Those debates still rage on. They reflect large historiographical debates.

A risk of being rapidly outdated?

As the main objective of the LabEx is to provide an encyclopaedia that will be a historical tool to help us understand the present, there is a risk that entries will be outdated rapidly.

In fact, this risk is very moderate: Debates about Europe (incl. EU) are long-term debates - sometimes decades old, sometimes centuries old.

Debates about monetary policy are at least 200 years old. Strong continuity. Monetary policy as a step to a common political system against common currency as the 'coronation' of an economic and political process.


Writing entries

No academic jargon!

Importance of the editing system

III. Which editing system?

As the Encyclopaedia is aimed at a rather large audience but written by 'experts', the architecture of its editing system is rather important.


  • Ergonomy
  • Multilingualism
  • Multimedia (of course!)
  • Folksonomy: linking all entries together within a coherent keyword system
  • Easy edition of entries
  • Data long-term preservation


For all this, the choice of the global technical architecture is determinant.


From 'everything we have' to a focus on entries


From PCs to smartphones

A large audience implies responsive design


Larger part of the work lies ahead

Interesting to see how this public history project, led in a country where public history does not really exist, questions academic historians / historiography, their methods, and their relation to the society.

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