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Matthijs Lok, University of Amsterdam
“Counter-Revolution, Enlightenment and the Making of the European Past”
In this lecture I will explore the writing of European history by counter-revolutionary authors in the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth century. I will argue that these counter-revolutionaries ‘invented’ the idea of modern European history as well as the notion of Europe as a historical continent for their own political agendas. On the one hand, these self-proclaimed opponents of the French Revolution built on enlightened narratives of European history that had come into being in the eighteenth-century. On the other hand, they also drew on the historical writings of the contemporary enemies of the philosophes, the eighteenth-century antiphilosophes. In particular, these counter-revolutionary scholars championed a ‘pluralist’ interpretation of the European past, emphasizing ‘unity in diversity’ as uniquely characteristic of the European past.
Annelien de Dijn, Utrecht University
"A reappraisal of more than two thousand years of thinking about freedom"
We tend to think of freedom as something that is best protected by carefully circumscribing the boundaries of legitimate state activity. But who came up with this understanding of freedom, and for what purposes? In a reappraisal of more than two thousand years of thinking about freedom in the West, Annelien de Dijn argues that we owe our view of freedom not to the liberty lovers of the Age of Revolution but to the enemies of democracy. The conception of freedom most prevalent today—that it depends on the limitation of state power—is a deliberate and dramatic rupture with long-established ways of thinking about liberty.