The Spectre of Hegemony from the Centre

online event
Wednesday 14 October 2020 (12:00-14:00)

To register for this event, please contact Dr Klaus Richter (


The Institute for German and European Studies (IGES) welcomes Jacco Pekelder (Utrecht) to discuss “The Spectre of Hegemony from the Centre: Germany’s Neighbours and the Process of National Unification between Vormärz and Reichsgründung, 1830-1871”

In 2021, a century and a half will have passed since Bismarck’s “Reichsgründung” fundamentally changed the European balance of power. It marked the end of a quest for German unity that had lasted at least four decades, and had, since the early 1830s, at times, been the central theme of European politics.

In research, with most historians of international relations focused on the road from 1871 to the First World War, this era of emergent German power has so far received relatively little attention. This has obscured the fact that the rise of Germany around the middle of the nineteenth century not only triggered anxiety and fear from among Germany’s neighbours, but feelings of sympathy and hope as well. Representatives of a broad variety of neighbouring nations such as Britain and France, Poland and Italy, as well as Denmark and the Netherlands, at times, also thought German unity was a necessary step on the path of progress. Many even felt peace and prosperity of their own peoples and of Europe as a whole might benefit from the realization of a unified Germany of some sort.

To help us understand these unexpected dynamics and the openness of the historical process Dutch historian Jacco Pekelder, of Utrecht University’s section of international relations in historical perspective, will present his current book project. How did Germany’s neighbours react to the long process of unification and how did politicians and publicists from outside the German Confederation anticipate a continent with a unified, strong German state at its centre? Did the spectre of hegemony from Europe’s centre haunt them as much as it did later generations?

Prof. Dr. Jacco Pekelder (b. 1967) is associate professor in the history of international relations at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, and honorary professor of Contemporary History of Western Europe at Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany. His publications deal with the dynamics of political violence, especially around left-wing terrorism in West Germany in the 1970s, and the history of Germany’s position in Europe since 1815. He is currently writing a book about the German question in the nineteenth century, which looks at how, from 1830, six of Germany’s neighbouring nations reacted to the emergence of a German nation-state and the spectre of hegemony from Europe’s centre.

Recent publications include the articles “Germany and Europe after 1989: The spectre of the German question and the resilience of self-restraint”, in: Eleni Braat and Pepijn Corduwener (eds.), 1989 and the West. Western Europe since the End of the Cold War (Routledge, 2020), 17-26, and, with Joost Augusteijn (Leiden University), “Terrorist Constituencies in Terrorist-State Conflicts: The Debate on the Use of Violence Among Irish Nationalist and West Germany’s Radical Left in the Mid-1970s”, in: Joost Augusteijn, Constant Hijzen and Mark Leon de Vries (eds.), Historical Perspectives on Democracies and Their Adversaries (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019) 101-136.

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