In League With Rivals: Parliamentary Networks and Backroom Politics in Interwar Europe
McSpadden III, James Randolph
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CitationMcSpadden III, James Randolph. 2018. In League With Rivals: Parliamentary Networks and Backroom Politics in Interwar Europe. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractEuropean political life during the 1920s and 1930s was chaotic: paramilitary organizations marched through the streets, communists and fascists gained strength, politicians delivered incendiary speeches denouncing opponents, and skepticism about democracy’s future abounded. This dissertation looks beyond the overt political polarization of the period to uncover friendly cooperation in the halls of power. This study comparatively analyzes the robust social and political milieux surrounding European parliaments during the interwar years and advances two key claims: one about the national breadth of informal parliamentary networks, as well as a second argument regarding parliamentarians on the international stage. Although this dissertation proves the existence of a collegial parliamentary world that could turn political opponents into friends, this same culture of cooperation blinded the political elite to the growing polarization in European societies, which contributed to the rise of authoritarianism.
In studying politics between the world wars, historians have gravitated towards analyzing ideologies, street protests, and mass movements, ceding the study of democratic institutions like parliaments to political scientists. For historians, parliaments seem stuck in the nineteenth century: they were created for the bourgeois male elite to foster open discussion, collaborative legislating, and gentlemanly camaraderie. The interwar years, on the other hand, were a period of expanded women’s suffrage, new working-class politicians, and mass politics; parliaments seemingly ran counter to this zeitgeist. By juxtaposing national case studies from Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Czechoslovakia, this dissertation explores the mechanisms that brought parliamentarians into informal cross-party networks. Many of the political outsiders of the belle époque, including women and socialists, were avid participants in this interwar elite political culture. Ultimately, this dissertation demonstrates that behind the scenes interwar parliamentary life was surprisingly collegial which, in turn, shaped political decision-making on a national level.
Furthermore, this project examines the international roles taken up by interwar parliamentarians. Two competing international parliamentary organizations, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Conférence parlementaire internationale du commerce forged lasting relationships between politicians from different countries. Moreover, elected parliamentarians often served as either formal or informal diplomats during the 1920s and 1930s. In the wake of the First World War, parliamentarians—even from the opposition—were appointed to delegations attending the League of Nations and other official conferences. This dissertation explores the rise and fall of the parliamentarian-diplomat through examples from Australia, Germany, and elsewhere. In the end, these global political networks are shown to have brought parliamentarians together across international borders despite party differences, and these cosmopolitan experiences then trickled back into national political life in the decades between the wars.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41121234
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