Institutional Inventions and Innovations in Post-World War Two Politics
Before 1945, wars did not often end with trials. But this is precisely what happened at the end of World War Two, with international tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo, and national trials across much of Europe. In my dissertation, I focus on the political paths that led to trials of wartime leaders in two very different contexts: pre-communist Romania and post-Vichy France.
My research explores how policy-makers in Romania and France managed the uncertainty of these political transitions, while also working to gain power and to design new state institutions in deeply uncertain contexts. The structural shifts these individuals were facing can hardly be understated: in France, they began governing after the Allied liberation of the country, while in Romania they came to power through a coup against a fascist, pro-Axis government. In this context of political upheaval, extensive social disrepair caused by a bloody war, and rising tensions that would come to be known as the Cold War, politicians of all stripes began competing for control over their countries’ present and future.
My dissertation is therefore an unprecedented and intimate look at how individuals in positions of power manage uncertainty while struggling to maintain power. Systematic studies of uncertainty are rare, and secret, high-level government deliberations of this sort are typically classified. By accessing archives that have been classified until very recently, or are indeed still classified, this work provides fresh insights for understanding the mechanisms that underwrote political and social change in Europe, and the role of trials in managing this turbulent time.
I’m writing a three paper dissertation — below, I’ll post more details on each paper as they become available.
Imagination, from futures to failures
Paper 1, on how policymakers failed to imagine new political structures
“Probably tomorrow I’ll become a war criminal”