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Decades of Reconstruction


The study of war and warfare through the centuries has generated increasing scholarly attention over the last fifteen years. In the resulting literature, historians have tended to focus on pre-war settings, war experiences, and the influence of war memories on national identities. Despite the vibrancy of comparative and transnational history, it is only recently that scholars have discovered the study of post-war epochs and times of reconstruction as rewarding fields of historical inquiry.  While considerable work has been done on the American Civil War and the post-1945 period, other settings and other periods are still neglected. Thus, in this book, five historical epochs are envisioned for special attention: the immediate aftermath of wars that ended in 1763, 1814/1815, 1861/1865/1866/1871, 1918, and 1945 respectively.

Wars between nation-states are accompanied or followed by internal conflict, social disruption, or even civil war. Thus post-war settings can be viewed as times of transition. States strive for economic reconstruction and social integration, but they also face struggles over the reallocation of domestic power and the redistribution of international influence. The chapters of this book consider domestic politics and foreign policy together by examining attempts to overcome internal conflict and devastation in the light of parallel efforts to (re)enter the international arena and reassess European and global power relations. Its premise is that distinct types of warfare, on the one hand, and diverging strategies for reconstruction and reconciliation, on the other, have together had immense impact on the shape of postwar societies. Examining postwar decades of reconstruction from the Seven Years War to the 1950s in Europe and North America, the articles will also consider whether, and to what extent, postwar politics were influenced by losing or winning the previous war. Combining thematic and chronological approaches, the chapters of this book facilitate a genuinely comparative analysis and will generate new insights in regional, national, and global contexts. Besides economic reconstruction and diplomatic realignment, the themes of civil war, regionalism, nationalism, state-building, social stability, and reconciliation run through the geographical frames and historical eras to be considered.


Ute Planert/James Retallack (eds.), Decades of Reconstruction: Postwar Societies, State-Building, and International Relations from the Seven Years' War to the Cold War, Cambridge University Press 2017.