Research event

Prisoners of the past? Historical narratives as heuristics in international decision-making

A presentation by Mareike Kleine (). This event is part of the European Governance Colloquium.

Drawing on literature in conflict studies and political psychology, this study explores whether narratives about past intentional harm against one’s own group—a victimhood narrative—reduce a group’s willingness to engage in reciprocal behavior, by reducing trust vis-à-vis cooperating partners, no matter if the former perpetrator or not. For that purpose, I conduct two survey experiments on samples of ordinary citizens and EU elites in which the subjects are randomly exposed to narratives of a country’s past victimhood. Preliminary findings suggest that the effect of victimhood narratives on the willingness to engage in reciprocity is likely moderated by past national experiences, with Central and Eastern European citizens being less willing to cooperate when reminded of their past victimhood, and West Europeans showing the exact opposite reaction. More generally, the study suggests that the way that countries talk about their past affects how they behave today.

Mareike Kleine is Professor of Global and European Governance at the for the academic year 2018/2019 and Associate Professor of EU and International Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


If you are interested in attending, please contact Nina Shadrina at shadrina[at]hertie-school[dot]org.