Upcoming events

Previous Events

27 June 2017

History Teachers Network


Following a successful first meeting late last year, the History Teachers Network will convene again on 27 June at 6pm in Room 541, Malet Street, Birkbeck College, WC1E 7HX to discuss developments and plans for the academic year ahead. The evening will provide an opportunity to meet over a glass of wine, discuss plans for the network and enable the project team to learn more about teaching pressures, experiences and resources.

In addition, we are currently working with a web development team to create a new website for teaching the history of internationalism. This will include nine ‘chapters’ providing a historical overview, descriptions of key terms, links to further resources, podcasts and image galleries for use in teaching. We hope to present a selection of these resources and gather feedback at the meeting.

To register your interest in attending, or for any further information regarding the network, please email reluctant.internationalists@gmail.com

9 June 2017

Between Fact and Fiction: Refugee Narratives in Children’s Literature

Workshop at Birkbeck College, University of London

This one-day inter-disciplinary workshop on the theme of refugee narratives in children’s literature, will bring together a number of children’s authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers and academics to think about the role of children’s literature as a vehicle for refugee stories and voices. The day will comprise of three sessions grouped around the different perspectives of people creating, selling and using children’s books. Throughout, the workshop will consider possible collaborations between academic researchers (including historians) and fiction writers and illustrators.

The event is free and open to all but spaces are limited and booking is essential. Please reserve a place here. Further details of the workshop programme are available here.

24-26 May 2017

Languages of Internationalism

Conference at Birkbeck College, University of London

Scholars have in recent years re-energized the study of how peoples, cultures, and economies came, over time, to be linked and entangled across all manner of borders. Transnationalism and internationalism continue to be the watchwords of much humanities and social sciences scholarship. Yet insufficient attention has been paid to the crucial politics of language in historical scenarios of internationalism as a lived or imagined human enterprise. Organised by the Reluctant Internationalists research group at Birkbeck College London in collaboration with Dr. Brigid O’Keeffe from Brooklyn College, CUNY, this conference will bring together historians, anthropologists, literary scholars, linguists, and scholars in related fields, to debate the languages of internationalism.

The goal of the conference is to shed light on the centrality of language to people’s past pursuit and experience of internationalism. Historians must better understand the linguistic realities that their subjects confronted in their various global networks and endeavors. For any agents of internationalism, language presented a wide variety of challenges and opportunities. It imposed obstacles and provided avenues to mutual understanding and collaboration among diverse peoples. The relative successes and failures of past internationalist projects in large measure owed to participants’ ability to effectively communicate across not just linguistic, but also political, cultural, economic, and professional boundaries. This fundamental and literal question of (mis)communication has dramatically shaped the lives of peoples variously confronting the global realities or pretensions of their milieus.

Conference participants will consider the frustrations and triumphs of human beings, in a wide variety of historical contexts, as they deployed language in their efforts to communicate across borders. In this way, the conference seeks better historical appreciation and understanding of language as a linchpin of transnational and international histories.

View the conference programme here. The conference is free and open to all, however spaces are limited and booking is required. Please reserve a place here.

3 March 2017

Refugees and Children: Writing, Exhibiting and Depicting Refugee Stories for Children

Workshop at Birkbeck College, University of London

This one-day inter-disciplinary workshop, hosted by the Reluctant Internationalists project at Birkbeck College, examines how both historical and contemporary stories of refugees can be told to and interpreted for children.

The workshop will bring together children’s authors, illustrators, publishers, museum professionals and academics to consider the ways in which different disciplines depict the stories of refugees for children. Throughout, the workshop will think about how refugee narratives are written, exhibited and delivered to children.

Three sessions will engage with particular media (chiefly, books and museum exhibits). The final part of the workshop will give children’s authors and illustrators the opportunity to present current projects and receive ideas and feedback from the range of professionals participating in the workshop.

Introductions 10:00 – 10:30am

Session 1: The Role of Illustration in Refugee Narratives 10.30 – 11.15am

– Francesca Sanna, Children’s illustrator and author of The Journey

Session 2: Co-production of Migration Stories with Child Refugees through Film, Social Media and Public Events in Museums 11.30am – 12.15pm

– Eithne Nightingale, ‘Children, Migration & Diaspora’ PhD student in collaboration with the V&A Museum of Childhood and QMUL

Session 3: Learning Lessons from Historico-Political Narratives for Young Readers 12.15 – 1.00pm

– Kiera Vaclavik, Professor of Children’s Literature & Childhood Culture, Queen Mary, University of London

Workshop: Children’s Authors/Illustrators and a Publishing Perspective 2.00 – 4.00pm

– Harriet Birkinshaw, Senior Commissioning Editor, NoBrow Ltd/Flying Eye Books

3 February 2017

Socialist Internationalism

Conference at Birkbeck College, University of London

Research on the global history of socialism has been growing, but the majority of narratives and frameworks for approaching the history of the so-called ‘socialist world’ are still focused on the relationship of the United States and the Soviet Union. The aim of this day of discussion is to take stock of recent historical contributions that shift focus away from the superpowers and from Washington and Moscow, and instead consider the circulation of ideas, goods, people, and practices within and beyond the socialist and communist worlds on their own terms. Which conventional Cold War concepts does taking a global approach to the history of socialism and communist reinforce, and which does it contest? What are the conceptual and methodological challenges of constructing an alternative history of internationalism from a global socialist perspective? Was there such a phenomenon as ‘socialist globalisation’ and what did it entail in the context of the Cold War and decolonisation? How do we understand the global boundaries and exchanges between the communist world in the East and the institutions of (non-communist) socialist internationalism in the West? How does shifting perspectives away from the US-Soviet binary change our understanding of socialist networks? To what extent can we leave the view from the West behind?

Conference Programme

Introductions: 9.30am

Johanna Conterio (Birkbeck)

Panel 1: Culture within and beyond the Socialist World 9.45 – 11.15am

Chair: Ana Antic (Exeter)
Kristin Roth-Ey (UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies)
Paul Betts (Oxford)
Simon Huxtable (Brunel)
Katarina Lichvarova (Courtauld Institute of Art)
Dina Fainberg (City, University of London)

Panel 2: Trade and Exchange within and beyond the Socialist World 11.30am – 1.00pm

Chair: Johanna Conterio (Birkbeck)
Alessandro Iandolo (Oxford)
Kristy Ironside (Manchester)
Katarzyna Jezowska (Oxford)
Yakov Feygin (U Pennsylvania)

Panel 3: Medicine, Urban Planning, and Environment 1.45 – 3.15pm

Chair: Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck)
Katherine Lebow (Oxford)
Timothy Nunan (Freie U, Berlin)
Robert Balogh (Budapest)
Jo Laycock (Sheffield Hallam)
Dora Vargha (Exeter)

Panel 4: Global Socialism 3.30-5.00pm

Chair: Dora Vargha (Exeter)
James Mark (Exeter)
Rowena Razak (Oxford)
Tobias Rupprecht (Exeter)
Ana Antic (Exeter)

25 November 2016

International London: Walking Tours

Part of Being Human festival

London can sometimes seem like it’s the centre of the world. In three historical walking tours we explore the city as the home of international projects.

Tour 1: Wartime London (25 November, 11am): Many governments-in-exile were based in London during WWII. This walk through Belgravia and Westminster explores the physical proximity of exile and British politicians. This tour will meet outside 43 Eaton Square, London, SW1W 9BD.

Tour 2: Epidemic London (25 November, 1pm): This tour through Bloomsbury explores responses to global epidemics, which in turn shaped international epidemic management. This tour will meet outside the entrance of The Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE.

Tour 3: Communist London (25 November, 3pm): London was far more important than Moscow in the international socialist and communist movement before 1917. This walk through Soho explores the base of leading activists and highlights London’s links with continental Europe. This tour will meet outside Queen’s Theatre, 51 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 6BA.

This event is part of the University of London’s hub programme entitled ‘Ministry of Hope and Fear’ for Being Human 2016, a UK-wide festival of the Humanities.

22 November 2016

History Teachers Network

First meeting

The Reluctant Internationalists project is seeking to provide support for history teachers through the establishment of a History Teachers Network, to be based at Birkbeck College. This network is designed to provide an informal, social forum for secondary school teachers who are currently studying at Birkbeck or are alumni of the college.

The first meeting of the network will take place on Tuesday, 22 November at 6pm in the Dreyfus Room, 28 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ. This introductory meeting will provide an opportunity to meet over a glass of wine, discuss plans for the network and enable the project team to find out about your teaching, pressures, experiences, resources and any means by which we can make your studies more relevant to your professional lives.

To register your interest in attending, or for any further information regarding the network, please email reluctant.internationalists@gmail.com

28-29 October 2016

Writing ‘Outsiders’ into the History of International Public Health:

A Working Symposium


Introductions 09.30 – 10.00am

Panel 1: Giving and Taking 10.00 – 11.30am

Jessica Reinisch, The ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’: the political geography of UNRRA’s donating and receiving countries
Lion Murard, Ironies of Technical Assistance: Greece, Eastern Europe and Health Internationalism in the interwar period
Davide Rodogno & Thomas David, Fellows and Fellowships in Public Health: an overview and a focus on the case of China

Panel 2: Neither Centre nor Periphery: Soviet Russia in the inter-war years 12.00 – 1.30pm

Susan Gross Solomon, Making the case: the USSR in Geneva and New York
Johanna Conterio, Socialist Design around the Black Sea
Sarah Marks, Czechoslovakia as insider and outsider in early Cold War era

Panel 3: Public Health in ‘Outsider’ States 2.30 – 4.00pm

David Brydan, Franco Spain as outsider and insider
Paul Weindling, Germany as an outsider in international health under Nazism
Maria Zarifi, Public health and the construction of Greece


Panel 4: Inclusion and Exclusion in International Health Networks 10.30am – 12.00pm

Jessica Pearson, Colonial Politics of Global Public Health
Dora Vargha, Insiders and outsiders in the WHO
Ana Antic, Communist medicine and psychiatry and its links to the global South

Final Roundtable: Internationalism and Public Health 12.00 – 1.30pm

What difference does adding outsiders make to the way we write the history of public health? How does it change the writing of international history?
Susan Gross Soloman
Peter Jackson
Paul Weindling
Patrick Zylberman

7-8 July 2016

Crossing Borders: The Spanish Civil War and Transnational Mobilisation

In summer 2016, Birkbeck played host to a two-day conference on the international history of the Spanish Civil War. Bringing together over thirty scholars from the UK, Europe, the US and further afield, the conference set out to explore the origins and experiences of transnational mobilisation during the conflict and the immediate post-war period. A full report of the conference can be read here.

Conference Website

3 June 2016

Aid to Armenia: Armenia and Armenians in International History

The centenary of the Armenian Genocide in April 2015 attracted media coverage and prompted a number of academic conferences that focused on the history of Ottoman Armenians. The experience of genocide and its denial have profoundly shaped the history of Armenia and the Armenians. This has frequently led to narrowly national approaches where questions of violence, survival, and denial have isolated the history of Armenia and the Armenians from broader historical contexts. Recent contributions to the field of Armenian history have complicated the previous literature by contextualizing the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath within international and global history.

This workshop builds on these recent developments, focusing on local and international responses to the fate of the Ottoman Armenians between the end of the 19th century and the interwar years. Examining the consequences of Armenian displacement, the variety of humanitarian interventions to aid Armenian refugees, and the changing articulations of Armenian nationhood which followed in their wake, we suggest, provides a vantage point from which to address pivotal themes in modern history such as peace, humanitarianism, reconstruction, and sovereignty. Geographically, we are interested in papers that address or connect the experiences of Armenians in the Caucasus, Anatolia and the Near East and diaspora communities in Europe, the Americas and beyond. This workshop is addressed to historians, as well as anthropologists, sociologists, lawyers, and scholars in comparative literature interested in the history of Armenia and Armenians from a transnational perspective and connecting this contested past to broader themes in modern history.
Possible themes include:

      • Empires, nation-states, and geopolitics
      • Religious and liberal internationalisms
      • Humanitarian interventions, principles and practice
      • Total war and making peace
      • Refugees, diasporas, nations and minorities
      • Collective and individual identities
      • Trauma, resilience, and memory
      • Gender, nationality and reconstruction

The workshop will take place on 3 June 2016 at Birkbeck College, University of London. Abstracts (no more than 300 words) should be sent to francescapiana26@gmail.com by 1 April 2016. Please address any query to Francesca Piana (francescapiana26@gmail.com) or Jo Laycock (J.Laycock@shu.ac.uk).

26-27 May 2016

Conference: After the End of Disease

Click here for Call for Papers

4-5 February 2016

Workshop: Debating the Cold War

9.30am                Introductions
For podcast click here

10 – 11.30am      1. How global was the Cold War?
For podcast click here

Research on the Cold War as a global phenomenon has been growing, but the majority of narratives and frameworks are still focused on the relationship of the United States and the Soviet Union. The aim of this panel is to take stock of the contributions of global history to Cold War historiography. What conventional Cold War concepts does a global approach reinforce, which ones does it contest? What are the conceptual and methodological challenges of constructing a global history of the Cold War? How does shifting perspectives away from the US-Soviet binary change our understanding of the Cold War, its stakes and the relationship of the two superpowers? To what extent can we leave the binary behind at all?

Julia Lovell (Birkbeck)
Anne Deighton (Oxford)
Jussi Hanhimaki (Geneva)
Oscar Sanchez-Sibony (Macau)
Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck), chair

11.45am – 1pm  2. Did ideology matter?
For podcast click here
This panel explores the common juxtaposition between the supposed waning significance of ‘ideology’ in the West with the overly rigid ideological regimentation of the East; the notion that while ideology permeated every aspect of private and public lives in the East, the Western private self was shielded from ideological influences, or that there was no dominant political ideology in the West. It also revisits other, partially contradictory themes from established Cold War narratives: the rejection of Marxism in Eastern Europe (esp. among intellectuals) after the major disappointments of 1956 or 1968; the idea that Marxism was never genuinely adopted except by a small number of brainwashed party cadres. It probes into the roles played by dissidents to maintain and amplify this binary.

Polly Jones (Oxford)

Anita Prazmowska (LSE)

Diana Goegescu (SSEES)

Dina Fainberg (Amsterdam)

Anatoly Pinsky (St Petersburg/ Helsinki)

Ana Antic (Birkbeck), chair

2 – 3.30pm         3. Was there a Welfare State in the East as well as the West?
For podcast click here

This panel explores the thesis, proposed by Jan Gross, Timothy Garton Ash and others, that Communism was based predominantly on repression, the abuse of political power, and a lack of popular legitimacy and ‘freedom’. The panel examines potential points of comparisons between Western and Eastern states and their responsibilities for their citizens, including interpretations of social security, education, welfare, health care, social mobility, and taxation, and asks about effects and consequences of similarities and differences. As part of this comparative perspective, the panel looks at how Communism was experienced and lived in Eastern Europe, and asks questions about legitimacy and dissent in both East and West.

Sandrine Kott (Geneva)
Dean Vuletic (EUI)
Kristy Ironside (Manchester)
Bela Tomka (Szeged)
Peter Romijn (Amsterdam)
Johanna Conterio (Birkbeck), chair

3.45 – 5.15pm    4. What was Cold War Science?
For podcast click here

Histories of Cold War science and medicine have focused on Big Science, nuclear and atomic science, and space exploration. But science in the two blocks has featured in the historiography in very different terms: on one side stand accounts of Western science funding, the relationships of science and the military, and health effects of nuclear programmes and accidents; on the other, studies of a terrain where science was led astray and corrupted by politics, and marked by crippling shortages of materials and expertise. A “declensionist narrative” of decline, desiccation and degradation (borrowing a term from the environmental historian Diana K. Davis) can be found in accounts of Eastern, but rarely of Western, approaches to knowledge and science. This panel will seek to identify possible ways of comparison, and consider the significance of collaborative projects, shared research agendas and other contact points between scientists from both sides of the Iron Curtain. Can we talk about ‘Cold War science’?

Alma Steingart (Harvard)
Jonathan Oldfield (Birmingham)
Jon Agar (UCL)
Iris Borowy (Shanghai)
Sarah Marks (Cambridge)
Lukasz Stanek (Manchester)
Waqar Zaidi (Lums)
Dora Vargha (Birkbeck), chair

5.15 – 7pm          5. The Cold War that never ended, and the Cold War in the
For podcast click here

Piers Ludlow (LSE)
Elidor Mehilli (Hunter College, NY)
Barbara Warnock (Birkbeck/ Wiener Library)
Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck), chair

1-2 July 2015

Thinking about Health and Welfare
in (Eastern) Europe and Beyond

Joint Network Meeting

Birkbeck College, University of London

Co-organised by the German Research Foundation Network ‘Social Welfare and Health Care in Eastern and Southeastern Europe during the Long 20th Century’ (Regensburg University, Germany) and ‘The Reluctant Internationalists’ (Birkbeck, University of London)

(Image: “Hungarian Children in Abbázia,” in: Az Érdekes Ujság, Vol. 6, Nr. 33, August 22, 1918, p.41.)


Wednesday, July 1st

Location: Birkbeck College, Russell Square 30, Room 407

4-4.30             Welcome Note (Jessica Reinisch/ Friederike Kind-Kovács)  & Introduction of all participants

4.30-6 p.m.     Public keynote lecture: Prof. Paul Lerner (University of Southern California, USC): War Trauma and the Historiography of Psychiatry (Chair: Heike Karge)

Thursday, July 2nd

9.30-11.00 a.m. Roundtable I: Disease and Illness

Chair: Friederike Kind-Kovacs (Regensburg University)

    • Indira Duraković (University of Teacher Education Styria/University of Graz): Marginalisation and Public Health in 19th century
    • Johanna Conterio (Birkbeck College, London): Was there a distinctly socialist approach to natural healing? Examining the transnational roots of Soviet health resort medicine in the 1920s.
    • Heike Karge (Regensburg University): Socialist Psychiatry? War trauma in post-World War Two Yugoslavia
    • Dora Vargha (Birkbeck College, London): Live Polio Vaccine Development: A Project of Socialism?
    • Esther Wahlen (EUI Florence): Alcoholism and the complexities of inner life in late socialism

11-11.30         Coffee Break

11.30-1.15 p.m. Roundtable II: Family and Childhood

Chair: Heike Karge (Regensburg University)

    • Fanny Le Bonhomme (Potsdam/Rennes University): Politics and family conflicts in the GDR (1960-1968). Psychiatric records as a source for social history
    • Ana Antic (Birkbeck College, London): Getting rid of ‘little Stalins’: The politics of children’s mental health in Cold War Yugoslavia and Europe
    • Eszter Varsa (Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, Regensburg): The prevention of “unwanted birth”: Racism and the politics of reproduction in Hungary, 1960s-1980s
    • Friederike Kind-Kovács (Regensburg University): The Body of the Starving Infant: An Object of Biopolitical Surveillance
    • Francesca Piana (Birkbeck College, London): ‘A Pioneer in the Euphrates Valley’: Ruth A. Parmelee and the Armenian Genocide
    • Sara Bernasconi (Zurich University): A Letter for Antonia Savić – Women’s Networks around a Midwife during WW1 in Bosnia-Herzegovina

13.15-2 p.m.   Lunch Break at Birkbeck

2.00-3.30 p.m. Roundtable III: Scale

Chair: Eszter Varsa (IOS Regensburg)

    • Maria Zarifi (Hellenic Open University, Greece/ Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg): The role of the “Medical Committee” in controlling, professionalizing and standardizing the medical profession and public health in Greece, 1834-1924
    • Angelika Strobel (Zurich University): Sanitary Statistic and Hygiene Education: Public Health in Late Imperial Russia
    • Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck College, London): Relief after the Second World War: the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and beyond
    • Tamara Scheer (Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute, Vienna): What is typical Habsburg? Medical service and illness in the WWI diaries of k.u.k. soldiers

3.30-4.00 p.m. Coffee Break

4.00-5.30 p.m. Continuation of Roundtable III: Scale

Chair: Esther Wahlen (EUI Florence)

    • Justyna Turkowska (Herder Institute, Marburg): In the battlefield of modernity: discourse controversies on medical modernization in the Prussian Province of Posen between 1900 and 1918
    • Katrin Steffen (North-East Institute, Lüneburg): Who belongs to the healthy body of the nation? An anthropological examination in Poland in the 1920ies
    • David Bryan (Birkbeck College, London): Franco’s internationalists: humanitarianism and international health under the Spanish dictatorship, 1939-1975
    • André Thiemann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale): Bureaucratic Erring: Struggles over Social Policy in contemporary Serbian Welfare-State Relations

5.30-6.00 p.m. Round-up

Friday, July 3rd

LOCATION: Birkbeck College, 27 Russell Square, (entrance through 26-28 Russell Square), Second Floor, Dreyfus room (2.02) (PLEASE NOTE NEW LOCATION)

10-11.30 am Keynote Lecture and Discussion: Prof. Marius Turda (Oxford Brookes University): Health and Social Welfare in Southeastern-and Eastern Europe: A Troubled Relationship

24-25 April 2015

Homecomings: Experiences and Narratives of WWII resistance veterans and the construction of postwar Europe

Birkbeck College, University of London

While historians of European resistance have primarily addressed the theme in isolated national contexts, this conference will explore the striking commonalities in veterans’ experiences across the divided European continent: why was it that resistance soldiers and veterans in so many different political settings, and both East and West of the Iron Curtain, reported a similar feeling of neglect, misunderstanding and betrayal? How can we explain the similarities in the way in which different European countries dealt with their resisters and veterans, and appropriated the narratives and memories of the resistance?

6-7 February 2015

The Black Sea in the Socialist World 

Birkbeck College, University of London

This workshop brings together historians studying the Black Sea or whose work involves the Black Sea from a variety of perspectives and both historians of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. The objective of the workshop is to develop the idea of the Black Sea littoral as an international meeting place of the socialist world.

19-20 June 2014

Agents of Internationalism

Birkbeck College, University of London
Co-hosted by Contemporary European History

This workshop is the first in a series of events organised under the umbrella of The Reluctant Internationalists, a four-year project which examines the development and institutionalisation of international collaboration in twentieth-century Europe.