Activity: Participating in or organising an event types › Participation in conference
My keynote was entitled 'Victor Hugo, Stronger in Europe?' As one of the nineteenth century's most globally recognised figures, Victor Hugo increasingly used his literary and political celebrity throughout his long career to lobby for what he famously called a future 'United States of Europe', which he believed was a natural consequence of the French Revolution's republican principles. But the French Second Empire's declaration of war on Prussia on 16 July 1870 triggered a double crisis for Hugo's dream of a European federation. Not only did the war defy the transnational cooperation that had characterised his political hopes, but the ensuing Paris Commune prompted appalling domestic conflict between the capital and the Versailles government while uncannily repeating the sequence of continental conflict followed by vicious civil war seen nearly a century earlier in the aftermath of 1789. In this talk, I asked: how did Hugo process this crisis, and how might we in turn challenge the overly idealistic terms in which his goal of a European union has so often been categorised and appropriated?