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Supported by the Danish Research Council for Culture and Communication, the Department of Culture and Society hosts two research projects that explore issues in transnational history.

This project home page will be updated regularly.

There are two different projects. 

Project A

Institutions of democracy in transition. Transnational fields in politics, administration and law in Denmark and Western Europe after 1945” is a collective research project under the management of associate professor Ann-Christina L. Knudsen. The project runs from 1 February 2010 to 31 January 2013.

Short general description

Research into international political history typically departs from a pre-defined understanding of the national vis-à-vis the international. It is true that post-1945 Western Europe was characterised by both the consolidation of democracies, and the creation of international organisations and institutions such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Community and European Union. One result of these developments is nevertheless a political and administrative landscape with partially overlapping national and supranational parliamentary assemblies, administrations and legal orders. The project explores how the interfaces of democracy’s institutions have been affected after politicians and civil servants have begun to act in these new transnational spaces. The core of the project is new historical research. In order identify the “transnational”, the project departs in the metaphor of transnational fields, and explorations into the way in which transnational fields are constituted. The aim of the project is moreover to contribute to the continuous development of theoretical and methodological approaches used in history, also with the aim of opening a dialogue with bordering disciplines in the study international and global phenomena.

The participants in the project are:

Ann-Christina L. Knudsen , associate professor (Aarhus University):

”Double-agents at work in the European Parliament, 1952-1979. Exploring changing patterns of parliamentary behaviour.”

Until June 1979, all members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were also national parliamentarians. Who they were, how they were selected, how they administered their dual mandates, and how they positioned themselves in the emerging transnational political fields in Europe from 1958 to 1979 and reshaped the their home parliaments, are questions that we know very little about. In my new research project, I will explore these questions.

Kristine Midtgaard , associate professor, (University of Southern Denmark):

“Bodil Begtrup – woman in a world society. Positioning in an emerging field of international political rights”

Bodil Begtrup (1903-87) was a Danish activist and diplomat during the interwar years and until the 1980s. She was multi-positioned in various multilateral, bilateral and national institutions: the League of Nations, the UN and the Council of Europe. She was Denmark’s first female ambassador – to Iceland, Switzerland and Portugal, and she was Head of Office in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Her primary interest was women’s rights. In Denmark she was actively engaged in women’s and children’s conditions, notably in the Danish Women’s National Council. The purpose of the project is to take Begtrup as a starting point for analysing transnational processes and networks in the emerging international political rights field after 1945. How did one agent enter and position herself in this field? Which ideas and interest did she promote, and how? What was her perception of the field over time? What impact did a ‘national interest’ have on the degree and the ways in which Begtrup could act freely to promote certain ideas and policies? How and by which factors and agents can ‘transnational processes’ be defined?

Morten Johannes Winstrup Hansen , Ph.D.-candidate (Aarhus Universitet):

Do the careers and behaviour of Danish parliamentarians in European, parliamentarian organisations point to the existence of one or more European, transnational, political spaces – and if so, what properties do these exhibit?

The project focuses on Danish politicians in European, transnational, parliamentarian assemblies such as the European Parliament, the Nordic Council, and the parliamentary assemblies of NATO and the Council of Europe. What politicians choose a career that effectively takes them away from their national constituency, since foreign policy is rarely an effective re-election issue? Is there in fact a transnational, parliamentarian career track centred on these European assemblies? Are these positions awarded on the basis of long national party service? Or are personal interests the main driving force? Since no systematic mapping of the Danish members of transnational parliamentary organisations has been carried out, such a mapping will be the point of departure for my project. This mapping will cover the period 1947-2009.

Jan-Henrik Meyer

Post.Doc (from 1. august 2010):

“When Europe went green. How transnational networks between democratic institutions and civil society advanced the new European environmental policy in the 1970s”

This research project seeks to describe and explain the emergence of the new environmental policy at the level of the European Communities in the 1970s. This policy had not originally been foreseen in the Treaty of Rome, and was only formally enshrined into the treaties in 1985 with the Single European Act. The guiding hypothesis is that the establishment of environmental policy-making can be attributed to a nascent transnational network of actors from across the European institutions, national governments, experts and non-governmental organisations at the national, but increasingly also at the European and global level. Their collaboration was essential to turning the growing popular concern about environmental degradation into European legislation.

The project focuses on the early years of European environmental policy, examining the emergence of a policy network in the context of the First and Second Environmental Action Programmes of 1973 and 1977. Two contrasting case studies provide for more concrete examples. In the case of the birds directive of 1979, transnational NGOs collaborated with the European Parliament to put bird protection on the European agenda. The bathing water directive of 1975 highlights the role of expertise in decision making. The research is based on sources from European, national and NGO archives and oral history interviews. The goal is to map and analyse the emerging policy network, conceptually informed by policy network approaches from the social sciences. For the first time, the findings provide in-depth knowledge about the origins of EC/EU environmental policy. Moreover, this research makes an important contribution to the issue of changing institutions of democracy across and beyond the nation state. In particular, it provides new insights about the important role of the European Parliament in transnational cooperation with civil society even before the first direct elections. Furthermore, the project addresses the emergence of patterns of governance which continue to shape EU policy making.

This research project builds upon the research undertaken in the course of a two-year Marie Curie fellowship. The post.doc year at Aarhus University will allow me to turn the manuscript into a monograph.

In addition, two ”4+4”-stipends [indsæt weblink: ] will be attached to the project from the summer 2010, financed by the Faculty of the Humanities at Aarhus University. Applications are due by 15 March 2010, and potential candidates for these scholarships are welcome to contact Ann-Christina L. Knudsen before applying.

Project B

Transnationalising Diplomats – Changing Patterns of Diplomatic Practice in the Danish Foreign Service 1945-1991”is a two-year individual postdoctoral research project conducted by PhD Karen Gram-Skjoldager. The first year of the project (September 2009-August 2010) is funded by the European University Institute, Florence, where Karen Gram-Skjoldager is affiliated with the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies as a Jean Monnet Fellow . During the academic year of 2010-11, the project will be hosted by the Institute for History and Area Studies, Aarhus University.

Short description

It is the aim of this project to explore how the growing international economic, political and legal integration since the Second World War has affected the institution of national diplomacy. Traditionally, national diplomatic services have served as the gatekeepers between the international and national political and legal spheres. However, using the Danish diplomatic service as an exemplary case, this project aims to show how this has changed. It will demonstrate how national diplomats have gained a new and potentially important role as ‘transformers’ or ’boundary spanners’ with insights into and the possibility to circulate and mediate between national, international and transnational ideals, models and interests. Drawing theoretical inspirations from sociology and political science, and using oral history as an integral part of its method, the project will scrutinize the key groups of diplomats within the Danish foreign service who actively nurtured this transformation and explore their networks, collective identities, interests and, not least, their influence on Danish foreign policy.