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An Interview with Professor Davide Lombardo
Assia Dzhaparidze, NYU Florence student
La Pietra Dialogues
October 3, 2014


Professor Lombardo, on Wednesday you will be giving an introductory workshop on the History of EU. First of all, let me ask you the following question as a historian: The history of EU, what is it? How would you define it? What is special about it?

I would say that, from a beginner’s perspective, the history of the EU is a mixture of something dry and boring, such as the evolution of institutions and regulations, with something extremely exciting, which is the coming together in the same project of nations and populations that have fought each other during thousands of years.

I see! Do you consider the history of the EU to be a well-studied and researched matter, or do you think this subject should be looked into and reviewed more carefully?

It is a subject new in itself. The EU is very recent. This topic hasn’t been researched by many historians, however it has been studied by political scientists in the light of the subject of their interest. There is still a lot of work to be done in this field.

I can imagine! And would you say that there is a general approach to the study of the history of EU, or do completely divergent approaches exist?

The most common danger one can detect when reading literature devoted to the subject is that there exists a general tendency to write a teleological, in other words progressive, history of the EU. It is time historians started producing different versions and weren’t afraid to complicate the picture.

Indeed… But if you were in their shoes and were to write the history of the EU, what would you write about? Which particular interest do you have regarding the topic? (interest in a particular time frame, problem, ambiguity, event, important figures and players?)

The History of the EU is exciting because it allows us to explore the way in which the solid identities of the 20th century – nation, class, party – are becoming, as we say, liquid… The EU is a formation in which national identity makes a transition into post-national identity: apart from the national identity, now there is a European identity to be acquired and developed.

It is very exciting! Are you planning on discussing these issues on Wednesday? Or which other themes would you like to uncover?

First of all, in my workshop, I will try to frame the complex issue of the evolution of the EU. In a few words, there are 2 possible ways to interpret EU history: one is to go from an internal perspective, which focuses on the growth of the number of member-states of the EU, on the accumulation of treaties, and so forth; whereas the other one is to look from an external perspective, which links the ups and downs of the institutions in Brussels to the complicated and unsettling history of Europe in the 20th century…

Well, I am looking forward to the development of this thought! In conclusion, a more personal question, if I may. Is the history of the EU close to the area of your personal interest and study? What is your personal attitude towards the subject and do you consider it to be of great importance to discover, to know and to discuss?

I have been teaching the History of the EU for 6 years now. I found this topic fascinating, I’ve never regretted it ever since. It evokes the most intriguing issues of today’s world and challenges us to respond to them.

I couldn’t agree more! Thank you so much professor Lombardo, now we are more than ready to set off on this exciting journey in time!

 
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