13 October 2020

BOOK: Boris BARTH and Rolf HOBSON, Civilizing Missions in the Twentieth Century (Leiden-New York: Brill, 2020). ISBN 978-90-04-43695-4, 126.00 EUR

(Source: Brill)

Brill is publishing an edited collection on civilizing missions in the 20th century.


The civilizing mission associated with nineteenth-century colonialism became harder to justify after the First World War. In an increasingly anti-imperialist culture, elites reformulated schemes for the “improvement” of “inferior” societies. Nation building, social engineering, humanitarianism, modernization or the spread of democracy were used to justify outside interventions and the top-down transformation of non-western, international or even domestic societies. 

The contributions in Civilizing Missions in the Twentieth Century discuss how these justifications influenced Polish nation building, Scandinavian disarmament proposals and technocratic social policies in the interwar years. Treatment of the second half of the century covers the changing cultural context of European humanitarianism, as well as the influence of American social science on US foreign policy, more particularly democracy promotion. 


Prof. Dr. Boris Barth is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the Charles University, Prague. He has published monographs and many articles on financial imperialism, the stab-in-the-back legend, genocide, and on the crisis of the European democracies in the inter-war years. 

Rolf Hobson is Professor of History at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies and the University of Bergen. He has published studies of modern European political history, war and society and German military history.


Notes on Contributors 

Civilizing Missions from the 19th to the 21st Centuries, or from Uplifting to Democratization 
  Boris Barth and Rolf Hobson 

The Cultural Transformation of America’s Civilizing Mission in the Twentieth Century 
  Frank Ninkovich 

Nation-Building, Concepts of Space and Civilizing Mission in the Early Second Republic of Poland 
  Bianka Pietrow-Ennker 

Ambiguities of the Domestic Civilizing Mission: Technocratic Elites and Social Engineering in Interwar Europe 
  Boris Barth 

Lilliputians for Peace: Scandinavian Internationalism and International Disarmament c. 1880–1940 
  Karen Gram-Skjoldager 

Questioning the Civilizing Mission: Humanitarianism and the Arab World in the 20th Century 
  Esther Moeller 

The Democratic Peace Controversy in Retrospect as a “Civilizing Mission”? a Theory Revisited 
  Jost Dülffer 

American Nationalism and Regime Change: How the Neocons Tried to Speed Up the Inevitable 
  Rolf Hobson 

Epilogue: from Civilizing Missions to the Defence of Civility 
  Jürgen Osterhammel 



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