Pepijn Corduwener

Winner Dissertation Prize 2018

The problem of democracy in Europe. Conflicting and converging conceptions of democracy in France, West Germany and Italy, 1945-1989.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. I. de Haan
Nomination: Utrecht University, Faculty of Humanities

Report by the selection committee

This research into conceptions of democracy after World War II in three countries – Italy, France and West Germany – is of clear international relevance. The strength and originality of the book lies in this new comparative perspective. Although a lot of research has been carried out in each country, little or no systematic comparative research on this scale has been conducted up to now. Corduwener had the courage to take on this task, and, in the eyes of the jury, did so very successfully.

The author is the first to show that conceptions of democracy in the three countries differed starkly immediately after the war, despite the fact that all three seemed to advocate more or less the same thing. He therefore adjusts the classic image of post-war democracy in an extremely clear manner. Many current concerns turn out to have deep roots, and that makes this book so relevant today.

Corduwener’s knowledge of the sources is impressive. Moreover, this is a very clear and readable book, even for non-specialists. It does of course cover a vast array of details, but the thread of the discourse remains crystal clear throughout, and no links in the argumentation are overlooked or irrelevant facts introduced. Thanks to strong analyses and a sure sense of main and side issues, this has resulted in a fine and mature historical narrative.