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Histoire de l'Europe, séance 3



From laissez-faire to supranational planning: The economic debate within Federal Union (1938-1945)

According to several early accounts, European integration was driven by ‘the federal idea’ and its successful spread across Europe [see H. Brugmans, L’idée européenne, 1918-1965 (1965); W. Lipgens, Die Anfänge der europäischen Einigungspolitik, 1945-1950 (1977)].
Subsequent generations of scholars pointed out that this approach overlooks the strictly diplomatic dimension of integration, where intergovernmental bargains usually got – and arguably still get – the upper hand. A second weakness, however, almost passed unnoticed: idealist interpretations tend to frame «federalism» as a self-standing body of thought that, despite some minor differences and disagreements among its proponents, holds an unabashed commitment to supranationalism.
Evidence from my paper suggests that this ‘federal consensus’ was extremely feeble, if not altogether absent. By focusing on the early years of Federal Union (F.U.), the leading British federalist association launched in 1938, I set out to demonstrate that ongoing disputes about the economic powers of the future Federation heavily contributed the group’s sudden downfall.
By pointing at the tension between the models of ‘Federation Pure and Simple’ and ‘Federation Plus’, the paper highlights the supple and muddled nature of federalism as an ideology, making its impact over British foreign policy negligible in the post-war years.
Besides, it stresses the existence of competing models (or visions) of federalism in the economic sphere that are still lurking beneath current debates about the future of the EU.


Nicolas Delalande, David Do Paço, Gerd-Rainer Horn, Paul Lenormand, Marc Lazar, Thomas Maineult, Jakob Vogel

Organisateur : Jakob Vogel


Tommaso MILANI (London School of Economics)