Focus on key dates

The central idea was to focus on a relatively small number of years in the 19th and 20th century's history

  • which are taught in most European history syllabi
  • and which represent significant turning points for the development of contemporary Europe.

Clearly there were issues about the starting point (1789? 1815? 1848?) and also the end-point for such a project (1968? 1989? 1991?). The project finally considered the period, 1848 - 1989. And within that period, there are a number of key years when important events occurred, significant decisions were taken, regimes emerged or disappeared, borders changed, peoples migrated, and social and economic conditions changed, all in ways that had long term consequences and helped to shape the Europe we live in today.

Dates chosen

The project finally settled on five of these turning points, which were selected because of their political significance. It was nevertheless crucial within the project to focus not just on important political events, crises and conflicts, the key political actors and the significant political outcomes, but also on:

  • how ordinary people 'perceived' and experienced these events and developments and their impact on different ethnic, national, religious and linguistic groups;
  • the inter-relationships between economic, technological and political developments;
  • the involvement of political, ideological and social movements in these events and developments;
  • how cultural and artistic movements reflected, influenced and interpreted these events and developments.

A topical Symposium was organised for each of the key dates chosen for the project. They all followed a similar structure. They began with a keynote lecture from an international expert which provided a comparative and historiographical overview. This was then followed by a number of presentations by academic historians which provided a regional and/or national perspective. The participants and presenters then explored emerging issues in working group sessions.

Finally, the participants attended workshops where they developed some material for inclusion on the project database. This material was usually designed to examine aspects of the year in question in both a comparative and multiperspectival way. These contributions can be found in the final publications of the project.

At conferences, presentations were also given by the Multimedia Team responsible for developing the Database and prototype CD-ROMs for the project.

Five conferences around the turning point years


Teacher training activities

In 2005 also, a number of teacher training activities were organised within the framework of the Project.

The first four, jointly organised with EUROCLIO through the MATRA programme, were held in Romania and Bulgaria in May and June respectively. They focused on the teaching of national history from 1945 to the present.

A fifth seminar, organized with the Czech Ministry of Education in Prague, was held from 10-14 October on the theme: “At the crossroads between east and west: Czechoslovakia in the short 20th century”.

Additional dates initially envisaged

  • 1871: the year in which, in David Thomson’s graphic phrase, “loosened several pieces in the kaleidoscope of European affairs and allowed them to drop into a new pattern”. The culmination of the Franco-Prussian War, the virtual completion of the unification of Italy and Germany, the undermining of the Vienna Settlement of 1815 and the re-emergence of war as an instrument of national policy and political reconstruction
  • 1929: the Great Crash, the implications for Europe of its growing economic dependence on the United State's economy, Europe in the Depression, the political and social ramifications