Beatrice de Graaf receives Arenberg Prize for European History
Faculty professor Beatrice de Graaf recently received the Arenberg European Prize for the Best Book in European History 2020-2022 for her book Fighting Terror after Napoleon: How Europe Became Secure after 1815, “a Gesamtkunstwerk”.
A distinctive ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’
Back in July 2022, it was announced that Beatrice de Graaf had won the Arenberg Prize for European History. The award ceremony took place on 21 March 2023 at the Palais des Académies in Brussels. De Graaf received the award from the hands of Professor Thomas Weber. He praised her thorough research, interesting subject matter, and smooth writing style, describing Fighting Terror after Napoleon as a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’.
As the book focuses on the reconstruction after Waterloo, rather than on the conflict itself, De Graaf distinguishes herself and provides an important contribution to history, Weber said. She shows that security does not necessarily has to be something scary, but rather how it brings colour to a dark world. And “the story of repair is equally exciting as the story of how things blew up.”
The award ceremony was followed by the international symposium A New European Security Architecture, that features lectures by De Graaf and Professor Sir Richard Evans. In her ‘The Birth of a New Security Architecture for Europe, 1815 and 2022’, De Graaf took the audience back to the terrible battlefields op Europe, the drawing board where a more secure and stable European future was drafted, and the carriage of Louisa Adams, who found a devastated, modernising, and changing Europe during her journey.
Sir Evans’ lecture ‘How Dangerous are Conspiracy Theories – in the 1820s and 2020s?’ involved a comparison between the present and the troubled times of the nineteenth century. He described a Europe traumatised after the Napoleonic Wars and fearful of destabilisation and a relapse into chaos. He historicised various threats and conspiracy theories: “We live in an information society wherein information fights information. Let’s hope the battle can be won.”
The Arenberg European Prize for the Best Book in European History is awarded biennially by the Arenberg Foundation. The foundation aims to strengthen Europe’s resilience by promoting history research.
The panel discussion left the audience with an important message. The historians agreed that it is important for historians to refute historical falsehoods and to speak out against Holocaust denial, for example, to protect truth and democracy. This works best as a collective effort, was the consensus, as it is not something that countries and societies can and should do alone.
The war in Ukraine was not left unaddressed in this regard. “Europe’s security is shattered. Now we have to pick up the biggest pieces and start anew,” De Graaf said.