Constructing a Europe of Nations: National Historical Bibliographies

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In the “Atlas of European Historiography”, 2010  

Bibliographies are reference works made of compilations of books, journal articles, thesis, about an argument, a language, a period, a geographical area, etc.. After WWII, they started also to include new media like sound recordings, motion pictures, photographs, later videos, CD-ROM/DVD, software’s and databases; more recently even single websites.

Being an overview of different media publications connected to a particular category of knowledge, a bibliography could be strictly descriptive and analytical of the listed materials divided in categories or could,instead, present critically the literature.
National Historical Bibliographiesare following identical criteria’s of organization in their conception, but are focusing on the selection of the historiography  based on the history of single Nation-States. Mainly serials publications, less single book editions,they are listing titles and notoffering a history of the historiography in the field: the titles listed arerarely critically presented.
Starting in 1926, the International bibliography of historical sciences (published alternatively in five different languages each year) was edited by the International Committee of the Historical Sciences. It listed all kind of historical bibliographies published as books or inside academic journals. The same International Committee published theWorld List of historical periodical and bibliographiesedited by Pierre Caron and Marc Jaryc (Oxford, 1939). Therepertorium is made of bibliographies in the field of history; again, not an interpretative history of the historiography with abstract of titles. When looking at these bibliographies of historical bibliographies, we understand that few national historical bibliographies were already published during the last quarter of the 19th century.
            National Historical Bibliographies are reference works for historians, but they represent alsoa kind of national “memory place although Pierre Nora did not chose French Historical Bibliographies like he, instead, selected Ernest Lavisse Histoire de France depuis les origines jusqu’à la Révolution written in 1901, as one of the “topoi” of the national identity. National bibliographies help to maintain and preserve, collecting history titles, the history of a Nation-Statebuilding process. In this case, even the chronological or geographical sub-categories adopted in each national bibliographies are telling their reader with bibliographical records listed under geographical and chronological categories –not only using topical ones-,  about the historiographical construction of a single nation’s history.
       Many European countries (also the USA) adopted these reference instruments between the end of the 19th century and the late twenties of the 20th century, mainly after WWI
Belgium became a National state in 1831. In this case, historical bibliographies are telling us about the new Nation’s past andthey collectthe historiography which is referring to the construction of a Belgian nation “existing” before the official date of its birth.In 1893, the famous Belgian historian Henri Pirenne editeda bibliography for the history of Belgium up to 1830. Heused both geographical and topical categories in a bibliography starting from the year 1598 with the reign of Albert and Isabel. And,like Belgium during the Spanish domination, the bibliography included the historiography published for the Austrian, French and Dutch regimes. (Henri Pirenne: Bibliographie de l’Histoire de Belgique. Catalogue methodique et chronologique des sources et des ouvrages principaux relatifs a l’histoire de tous les Pays-Bas jusqu’en 1598 et a l’histoire de Belgique jusqu’en 1830. Bruxelles, Lamertin, 1893.)
The French historian and archivist Pierre Caron (1875-1952), which founded the Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine in 1899, edited many bibliographies and, together with Henri Stein, the first systematic French National Historical Bibliography. The Répertoire bibliographique de l’histoire de France, (Paris, A.Picard, 1923-1938)started in 1923.Other bibliographies on French History were integrated within the Auxiliary Sciences Section of such a current bibliography. During the ‘30, a Bibliographie critique des principaux travaux parus sur l’histoire de 1600 à 1914. Travaux de langue française ou relatifs à l’histoire de France, (Paris, Maison du livre français,1935-1937) was also published in 3 volumes.
For Germany, between 1853 and 1887,Ernst Zuchold and others edited a general historical bibliography like it was the case in other countries during the 19th century.(Bibliotheca historico geographica oder systematisch geordnete Uebersicht der in Deutschland und dem Auslande auf dem Gebiete der gesammten Geschichte und Geographie neu erschienenen Bücher, Göttingen).TheBibliotheca historico geographica  waslisting the scientific output of history in Germany andwas not focusing on the history of Germany as a single Nation-State. From 1873, the Berlin Historical Society published the Mittheilungen aus der historischen Litteratur, but, specific historical writings on German History, were listed in the Dresden journal,Historische Viertelsjahrschrift, only from 1890.
In Switzerland, the Bibliographie der Schweizergeschichte started to be published in German in 1913, edited by the Schweizerische Landesbibliothek in Bern and the Allgemeine Geschichtsforschende Gesellschaft der Schweiz.

In Italy, the Annuario bibliografico della storia d’Italia was published in Pisa between 1902 and 1909. Buthistorians had to wait for the publication, in 1942, during the fascist regime, of the first volume of the Bibliografia Storica Nazionale, dedicated to the history publications for the year 1939. The BSN is still active today but includes also historical titles published in Italy not about Italy itself. Other European countries followed the same pattern of publication. Čeněk Zíbrt published the Bibliografie české historie in Prague, during the years 1900 to 1912, the same period Italians thought, for the first time, to reflect to the historiography dedicated to their young nation. 

Today, National Historical Bibliographies are offered as online databases with advanced searching capacities. The European project European Historical Bibliographies is implementing in Berlin, a digital portal for accessing all National European Bibliographies. This unified reference instrument is an essential companion to the historical profession. And this is true even today that the use of bibliographies is decreasing heavily. Such an important online tool is also underlining an historical shift to another historical and geographical construction: “Europeanness” where Europe was and still remains the sum of national states histories.
Updated version of the article published in Ilaria Porciani and Lutz Raphael (eds.): Atlas of European historiography: the making of a profession 1800-2005., Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan/European Science Foundation, 2010, p.36.

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