At a time when the idea of ‘Europe’ and the project of European integration are being questioned by some and defended by others, what is the role of historians in writing about Europe? What kind of historical accounts do they have to offer? Should they point out the complexity of European societies and histories as reasons for the difficulties in creating a ‘European identity’, or should they emphasize the degree to which European integration has successfully taken place on different levels?
These questions are difficult to answer but useful to ask because they alert us to the possibilities and challenges historical research on Europe currently faces. European history has developed remarkably over the past two or three decades, not only within Europe but also in many other parts of the world where Europe has become an increasingly interesting object of investigation since it suggests itself to comparisons and presents an important hub in a connected world. A new generation of historians is writing histories that leave behind narrow dichotomies like East and West, North and South while at the same time problematizing such notions and their historical and historiographical legacies.
Each volume of the series will start with an introduction by the editors of the volume, followed by one or two chapters on the state of the art and the specific perspective the volume takes on its subject. The main body of the volume consists of twelve to twenty chapters in which the authors discuss the various facets of the volume’s topic. The final element is a conclusion in which the editors provide an outlook on ongoing investigations and further research based on the research questions raised in the contributions. A rather short bibliography in the volume will be complemented by a ‘living’, continuously edited bibliography on the website of the handbook series. This allows the editors to react to new developments in research and to keep the handbooks up to date with the international discussions.