New international research network investigates on dealing with agressors


All European nations define their character and independence by the way they deal with historical aggressors. Since these are often revered as military heroes in neighboring countries, such historical images have invariably harbored a great deal of potential for conflict. A consortium working on an interdisciplinary basis and with a pan-European perspective analyzes the interpretations both of foreign aggressors and of those from one’s own country.

In almost all countries of Europe, political contemplation of times past remains focused on foreign aggressors and the victims within one’s own nation. In this context, the violence inflicted on other nations by an aggressor from one’s own state is often suppressed. Even in Germany, responsibility for attacks on other countries and for genocide did not immediately become a fundamental narrative in public awareness after the end of the Second World War in 1945.

It was only much later that the warfare of the First World War and the treatment of the colonies entered public awareness. The differing interpretations of the Napoleonic wars are likewise paradigmatic for Europe: In 2015, France prevented the minting of Belgian coins in commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo, which for other nations played an important role in the wars of liberation. The aim of the funded project is to investigate the lasting effects and current depictions of key historical actors in Europe in their bilateral and multilateral perception.

How are aggressors from one’s own and foreign countries interpreted today, and how does this shape national perceptions? One focus of this broad-based research project is on eminent controversial individuals such as Louis XIV, Otto von Bismarck, Josef Stalin and Slobodan Milošević. Different perceptions of history within Europe are to be reviewed on the basis of the figure of the aggressor. A five-member consortium is heading this project, which involves 20 senior scholars from European countries and is providing funding for around ten young scholars as postdocs and doctoral students.

The comparison of competing perceptions of history will take account of the current historiography of the countries concerned. The scientists will then compare this state of research with popular narratives from textbooks, museums, films, music, comics, and gaming. This Ladenburg Research Network will also provide for the generation of a computer game that will use the figure of an aggressor to make conflict potentials of a strongly national character clear to users and at the same time defuse them.

Project management
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Maissen, Heidelberg University
Participating scientists
  • Prof. Dr. Stefan Berger, University of Bochum
  • Prof. Dr. Diana Mishkova, Centre for Advanced Study, Sofia (Bulgaria)
  • Prof. Ilaria Porciani, University of Bologna (Italy)
  • Prof. Dr. Balázs Trencsényi, University of Budapest (Hungary)
Further information




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