Political History PhD Network | Workshop 2019 Report (Jyväskylä)

’Political’ in Political History – Meaning and Understanding of Politics

Workshop Political History PhD Network.
17-19 June 2019, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.


This three-day workshop was an initiative of the Political History PhD Network. It was organized by Zachris Haaparinne, Risto-Matti Matero, Jari Parkkinen, Juho Saksholm, and Joonas Tammela (University of Jyväskylä).

Workshop report

The first session of the fifth annual workshop of the Political History PhD Network took place at the University of Jyväskylä on 17-19 June 2019. Concentrating on the theme of what is “political” in political history, this workshop questioned if and to what extent “political” can be understood in wider terms than merely through parties and parliament. The workshop did indeed demonstrate the wide diversity of perspectives that our field can have towards the political sphere, as young scholars from all over Europe and the world demonstrated their expertise in a variety of subjects related to political history.

In the first day, keynote speaker, Associate Professor William G. Gray (Purdue University) emphasized the importance of managing archive files as well as time use in his lecture titled ‘Shoot first, Ask Questions Later? Organizing Research in an Age of Digital Reproduction’. He demonstrated the importance of good filing system with an example case of German foreign relations to Brazil, discovering new information regarding the relationship of these countries because of good file management.

In the second day, sessions of the workshop began. Session 1 focused on different sides of political life in eastern bloc communist countries. Maria Starun analyzed the comrade courts in Soviet Russia. Jari Parkkinen asked how political can be interpreted in the context of Soviet music, focusing on Beethoven. Pavel Šinkovec presented a paper focused on NGO’s and the emergence of Mass Organizations in the post-WW2 Czechslovakia.

In Session 2, Alexander Isacsson brought forth the approach of looking at early modern Swedish courts in the light of political culture, as places where political influence took place. Juho Haavisto analyzed William Temple’s ideas of proper political measures to control unwanted aspects of human nature in the 17th century. Tomáš Halamka presented a conceptual approach to (re)integrate the ideals of Roman and Athenian Republicanism, pointing out how combining liberal and populist elements of republicanism could be beneficial.

In sessions 3, political movements of the more recent time eras were discussed. Björn Reynir Halldórsson discussed the rise of the Icelandic Women’s Alliance, and how women’s movement challenged the political system in the latter half of the 20th century. Hannah Yoken analyzed the grassroots feminist activism in Norway, Sweden and Finland from the 1970’s to the 1990’s, while paying attention to global political entanglements. Risto-Matti Matero analyzed the changing beliefs of human nature in German green political thought from 1980 to 2002. Camille Chenaux analyzed the development of right-wing populism in
Germany and Italy, using AfD and Lega as case examples.

In session 4, Cyril Cordoba demonstrated how China used “friendship” as a political tool in their international propaganda. Nattanop Palahan discussed the historiography of Thai-Russian relations in the Thai version of Sovietskiy Soyuz magazine.

In day 3, session 5 concentrated on the political in 1910’s-1920’s Europe. Oscar Broughton demonstrated the global integration of the social democratic movement and the National Guilds League through the lens of one case study. Dmitry Savchenko analyzed the use of buffer Belarus state in external policy of Soviet Russia during 1918-1921. Vilius Kubekas concentrated on mapping Catholic modernity in Lithuania, concentrating on nation-building and messianic philosophies in the 1910’s and 1920’s. And finally, in the only paper of session 6, Lauri Niemistö analyzed the uses of historical myths and characters as means of legitimation and critique in British and German cartoonists’ works between 1905–1914, looking most especially at how suffragette movement was presented.

Looking at this state-of-the-art research that was presented by young scholars during the conference, one notices how the sphere of ‘political’ can be understood in many ways and from many angles and perspectives. Without doubt, political history today is a vivid, lively and diverse field of study.

Image: The participants of the 2019 PHPN workshop ‘”Political” in Political History – Meaning and Understanding of Politics’ in Jyväskylä, Finland