Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Books by SAIS Bologna professors: Perspectives on the world

In an earlier post, Kathryn Knowles of the Bologna Institute for Policy Research mentioned a series of faculty book presentations in the Spring semester.

Yesterday, Mark Gilbert, a history professor at SAIS Bologna, kicked off the presentations by launching his new book, European Integration: A Concise History, at Feltrinelli International, Bologna's top international bookshop.

Prof. Gilbert's was the first of six book presentations by SAIS professors from now through October. The other professors releasing books are John Harper, Karim Mezran, Richard Pomfret, David Unger and David Ellwood. Stay tuned for more details on their presentations.

Before his book launch, I sat down with Prof. Gilbert and asked a few questions.

Professor Gilbert discusses his book
Q: In a few words, what is your book about?
Gilbert: It's the story of how European countries pooled their national sovereignty first in the European Community, and since 1992, in the European Union. It is an attempt to look at the complexities of this historical process as far as possible objectively.

Q: How did the book come about? What inspired you? 
Gilbert: I was curious. This book is a revised and updated edition of an earlier work I published in 2003. At the time I was living in two countries, Italy and the UK, which had very contrasting views on the European Union. Italy was very positive about European unity whereas the UK was not. I wanted to research in more detail to understand what could lead the two nations to have such different views on the European Union.

Q: How does this book differ from your earlier works?
Gilbert: It's more complex and it has a broader scope than my previous books, which concentrated on specific moments of Italian history and politics. This edition of the book is also very different from the first edition. It is more dubious about the European Union's prospects and to some extent can be read as a "revisionist" account of the EU's history.

Q: Who would read your book?
Gilbert: This book will mostly interest students of European politics and contemporary European history. That said, I think it's a book for anyone who wants to learn about the European Union and the policies of integration. I would like school teachers to read it.

Q: Why school teachers?
Gilbert: Too often school teachers come to a halt in 1945 and treat more recent times as current events.

Q: In your introduction you thank a SAIS Bologna alumna. What role did she play?
Gilbert: Marijn Hoijitink, was my research assistant last year. Her diligence and competency were a great contribution to the book. She helped me improve a couple of chapters by finding published sources I hadn't used in the first edition and by updating the chronology at the beginning. She proof-read several chapters.

Q: And finally, what will your next book be?
Gilbert: The next book will be about "Europe in the Cold War." The idea is to give an overview of the main phases of the Cold War as it affected European countries, but to concentrate on the intellectual debates generated by the conflict. It is still in its early stages, however. I have about 60,000 words, and a detailed road map, but have a tendency to go off the route set for me. Still, I usually get to my destination in the end!

Amina Abdiuahab