Held in September 2003, the conference on ‘Unity and diversity in European culture, c. 1800’ was a joint initiative on the part of the British Academy and the German Historical Institute London. It tackled a topic of central importance to the historiography of Europe during the period: the transition from the cosmopolitan culture of the Enlightenment to the self-consciously national cultures of the nineteenth century. The nine papers, when presented at the conference, were divided into three sessions in which attendees discussed topics ranging from art and its publics, the idea of a national opera, the invention of German music, political culture, cosmopolitanism, patriotism, nationalism, the cultural policy of the British state in European perspective from 1780 to 1850, the invention of national languages, representations of the past in Irish vernacular literature from 1650 to 1850, the marked decline in the degree and importance of patronage by the churches and the nobility, the decline of international languages in favour of national vernaculars and the significance of the ‘fine arts’ as being conducive to social harmony, economic prosperity and political stability.
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