News Release 

What is Europe? Exploring post-war history through the medical lens

Charité secures new ERC Synergy Grant

Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

The notion of Europe as a construct is coming under increasing pressure. So, what is the glue that binds our European community of nations? According to a team of European researchers, the key to answering this question lies in a common and shared concern for people's health. The 'Leviathan' project, coordinated by Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, now hopes to shine a light on European post-war history on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The project has been awarded an ERC Synergy Grant by the European Research Council worth approximately €10 million.

"Until now, European post-war history has mostly been viewed in terms of its ideological, political and economic differences. This has resulted in the arena defined by two world powers being dominated by their divisions," says project coordinator Prof. Dr. Volker Hess, who is the Director of Charité's Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine. "We want to do the opposite and use our research project to identify commonalities; and we believe that a medical history-based approach is key to this." Explaining the project's hypothesis, Prof. Hess adds: "There may have been differences in terms of aims and ideals. However, the health and well-being of citizens was a key objective in both capitalist and socialist Europe."

Alongside historian Prof. Dr. Ulf Schmidt of the University of Kent (UK), jurist Prof. Dr. Judit Sándor of the Central European University (Hungary) and anthropologist Prof. Anelia Kassabova of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (Bulgaria), Prof. Hess will study the development of medicine and health care between 1945 and 1990 in both Eastern and Western Europe. "Our aim is to go beyond the ideological and economic differences in order to explore the tradition of social responsibility and common good politics as a major achievement of the post-war period," says Prof. Hess. "We hope our work will help create a European history which focuses on identity- and community-building, and which rejects both the fear of 'foreign infiltration' and authoritarian tendencies."

The project has secured €10 million in ERC funding over a period of six years, of which Charité will receive approximately €2.7 million. It is the second ERC funding award for Prof. Hess, who had previously secured an ERC Advanced Grant for his project 'Ways of writing. How physicians know, 1550-1950' back in 2012.


ERC Synergy Grants

ERC Synergy Grants provide support to teams comprising between two and four outstanding researchers. Grants are intended to promote projects likely to produce innovative breakthroughs at the boundaries between traditional disciplines, and capable of substantially advancing the frontiers of knowledge. Applications must be able to demonstrate that the proposed research can only be carried out through the collaboration of multiple researchers. Project grants can be up to a total of €10 million and are awarded for a period of six years. Of the applications reviewed this year, 37 were awarded funding.

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