Call for papers: «The Forty Years» Crisis: Refugees in Europe, 1919-1959

Posted on 2009/11/15


15-17 September 2010, Birkbeck, University of London

Organisers: Dr Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck) and Dr Matthew Frank (Leeds)

When the United Nations launched the first ever ‘World Refugee Year’ in
June 1959, it came at the end of a tumultuous half century of military
and diplomatic conflict and a succession of refugee crises originating
in Europe. The publicity and events surrounding World Refugee Year were
designed not just to raise funds for the cash-strapped U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees and heighten awareness of international
efforts in the support of refugees, but also to draw a line under the
European refugee problem by resettling the remaining core of wartime
displaced still languishing in refugee camps.

Fifty years on, the organisers of this conference consider it timely to
take stock of the ‘short’ twentieth century of European refugees and
refugee policy which World Refugee Year supposedly brought to a close.
Scholarship on some aspects of European migration and migrants has grown
enormously in recent years, particularly on the lives and post-1945
experiences of some groups of Displaced Persons. But in spite of growing
academic interest in both world wars and post-war periods there is to
date still no consistent historiography that places the many different
kinds of refugees, migrants and uprooted people within a common
framework, or situates the often conflicting national and international
priorities in the management of the refugee threat within their wider
historical context.

This conference will offer a uniquely comprehensive perspective on
European refugees, refugee crises and responses within their
international and global context. It aims to bring together the latest
research on the development of approaches to the management of refugees
in twentieth-century Europe, with particular reference to the
initiatives and work conducted by the United Nations, its precursor
organizations and other international bodies. In the European context
these refugee crises were always conceived of as a temporary problem
with various piecemeal, largely technical and ad hoc solutions. The
conference will re-assess the development of national and increasingly
international responses to the problem of refugees, and will examine the
parameters, consequences and implications of policies, from the First
World War until 1959/1960.

The conference is concerned both with the responses to refugee crises
and their political and historiographical afterlives. We invite papers
on national and international responses to refugees and migrants in
Europe, and we welcome proposals on how refugees were defined and
categorised, on matching organisational divisions and responsibilities,
on policies concerning the reception of refugees, humanitarian relief
programmes, and on resettlement and repatriation initiatives. We
particularly encourage papers which make national and international
comparisons, or examine case studies within a wider European framework.
We are also especially interested in the roles and historical
assessments of international refugee bodies in the development of
refugee policy.

The conference will adopt a pan-European perspective, which locates the
European refugees, refugee crises and responses in an international and
global context. It will thereby reflect on the role played by the
problem of European crises in the new international structures of 1919,
and how this had changed by 1959. When, why and how did the focus shift
from the identification of an apparently European refugee problem to a
global one?

To apply, please send a 250 word abstract of the proposed paper,
together with a short CV, to by 1
February 2010.

Dr Matthew Frank
School of History University of Leeds Leeds LS2 9JT

Dr Jessica Reinisch
Department of History, Classics and Archaeology Birkbeck College,
University of London London WC1E 7HX