Dr. Jan Vermeiren

  • Posted on: 8 September 2015
  • By: marijke
About the participant: 

Jan Vermeiren studied Modern History, Politics, and German Literature at Humboldt University of Berlin, the Free University of Berlin, and University College London (UCL). He completed a PhD at the UCL Centre for European Studies and has held various awards, including a Marie Curie Doctoral Fellowship and scholarships from the DAAD and the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes. He previously taught at UCL and the University of Essex.

Dr Vermeiren’s research interests cover a number of areas in German and European history in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is particularly interested in the history of German nationalism and geopolitical thought, the First World War, the Habsburg Monarchy, and questions of European integration.

His first book is entitled The First World War and German National Identity: The Dual Alliance at War and is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. It investigates the essence and intensity of the spirit of solidarity between the German Reich and the Habsburg Monarchy, often described in terms of 'Nibelungentreue', and examines the extent to which the war coalition led to a re-evaluation of the 'kleindeutsch' paradigm in Imperial Germany and more openness to different conceptions of the German nation.

Recent publications include ‘Problèmes et perspectives d’une histoire de l’idée européenne de la Révolution française au Printemps des peuples (1789-1848/49)’, Canadian Journal of History / Annales canadiennes d'histoire, 50/1 (2015), 68-85 and The First World War and German National Identity: The Dual Alliance at War (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press).

Title of lecture: 
Habsburg Collapse and German Responsibility: A Re-Assessment of the Dual Alliance at War

The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War has led to a veritable explosion of publications on the origins of the war and the question of war guilt. Beyond this, however, and in comparison to numerous studies on the social and cultural history of the war, diplomatic relations and alliance politics have been largely neglected. With regard to the military coalition between Imperial Germany and the Habsburg Monarchy, for instance, academic research has progressed only little since the last major study was published by Gary W. Shanafelt in 1985. Focusing on the various disagreements and conflicts about joint warfare and strategic planning, the occupation of Poland and Romania, or the Mitteleuropa project, most scholars argue that Austria-Hungary gradually fell into the position of Berlin’s junior partner. In this context, Shanafelt described Imperial Germany as Vienna’s ‘secret enemy’ and contended that the alliance ultimately proved ‘fatal’ for the Habsburg Monarchy. This paper, however, will challenge the notion that Austria-Hungary was subordinate to the German Reich. Based on a wide range of archival sources and a critical engagement with the secondary literature, I will argue that Berlin was neither responsible for Vienna’s entry into the war nor for its ultimate demise: it did not coerce its Austro-Hungarian ally to continue the war, prevent the federalisation of the Monarchy, or actively work towards its fragmentation and the Anschluss of its German-speaking lands.