‘Notre héritage européen,’ suggested Jorge Semprún in 2005, ‘n’a de signification vitale que si nous sommes capable d’en déduire un avenir’.1 Looking perpetually backwards and forwards was central to processes of making sense of Europe in Paris in the post-war period. Yet, for all the validity of Semprún’s maxim, it needs to be reconciled with Frederick Cooper’s critique of ‘doing history backwards’. Cooper takes aim at the enlistment of history to try to shed light on the present at the expense of ‘what one does not see: the paths not taken, the dead ends of historical processes, the alternatives that appeared to people in their time’....
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