The reading room of the Historical Archives of the European Union was buzzing with activity last week, as a group of approximately 15 students carried out archival research for papers on topics ranging from the history of the Erasmus programme to European feminist movements to the EU’s integration policy for the (former) German Democratic Republic.
The students on site, from the Università degli Studi di Milano and the University of Warsaw, were part of a joint MA-PhD winter course on the history and politics of European cooperation, organised by four member universities of the EU-funded 4EU+Alliance.
Peers from Sorbonne Université and the University of Copenhagen attended remotely, given unexpected travel restrictions in France and Denmark due to the pandemic.
Teaching history, teaching skills
The team-taught seminar is run by five academics from the participating universities: Piero Graglia and Paola Mattei from the University of Milan ‘La Statale’, Dobrochna Kałwa from the University of Warsaw, Morten Rasmussen from the University of Copenhagen, and Laurent Warlouzet from the Sorbonne Université.
Professor Warlouzet explained that the course aims to train graduate students to use historical archives, giving them the chance to see and handle real historical documents and “enjoy the feeling of unexpected discoveries.”
They decided to hold the winter school at the Historical Archives of the European Union at the EUI not only because of its extensive holdings from the European institutions and private sources, but also because of the “efficiency” of its staff and its proximity to the EUI’s Department of History.
Indeed, as highlighted in talks delivered by Archives Director Dieter Schlenker and EUI Professor of History Federico Romero, the EUI itself has a unique and long-standing role in the historiography of Europe. From the outset, the EUI’s Department of History was tasked with studying the processes of European integration. In addition, the EUI’s connection to the HAEU and the establishment of the Alcide de Gasperi Centre has ensured a constant influx of scholars interested in these and related themes.
Delving into the research
In the opening to the winter school, Professor Graglia encouraged researchers to “focus and select,” as well as to “ask for help, suggestions and opinions.”
Stanisław Grabarczyk, a first year MA student in history at the University of Warsaw, said he found the experience “fantastic”.
“I found a lot of inspiration in these documents,” he said. “The information concerning accession negotiations with former Soviet bloc countries is really fascinating, and could be developed into a bigger project after I finish my MA”.
Giulia Corbo, an MA student in international relations at the University of Milan, also found her foray into the Archives useful. She appreciated learning how to actually use an Archives, and also found “a lot of interesting information” for her comparative project on EU peacekeeping actions in Bosnia and Palestine.
Professor Kałwa, who was present in the reading room for the entire week, offered a favourable impression of how the international group of students worked and networked during the course and especially during their stay in Florence. “I saw communication and cooperation,” she remarked. “It is an inspiring approach to teaching and to historical research.”