Watch clips from our interview with Stephen Blank, first Executive Director of the Council for European Studies (CES), in which he discusses the organization’s founding.
Getting Off the Ground
In 1969, a small group of scholars (including Philip Moseley, Raymond Grew, Donald Blackmer, Leon Lindberg, Nicholas Wahl, Stanley Hoffman, Ernest B. Haas and Joseph LaPalombara) began discussing the possibility of creating a consortium of Western European Studies programs modeled on the Council on Foreign Relations. With the study of Europe on the rise, these men felt that all involved would benefit from greater intellectual exchange and that “an effort to coordinate these growing research and training activities would improve significantly their quality, avoid duplication of effort, and promote collaboration.”
Just a year later, by March 1970, the “Inter-University Council on Western European Studies”–soon renamed simply the Council for European Studies–would be created as a direct result of these discussions.
In addition, 1970 saw the selection of the University of Pittsburgh as the first institutional host for the Council. While the University of Pittsburgh had no formal European Studies program at that time (its European Studies Center was not established until 1984), the University was centrally located amid the initial consortium of eight European Studies programs that joined the nascent Council in June 1970. (Those institutions were: Columbia University, Princeton University, Harvard University, MIT, Michigan State University, the University of Wisconsin, Yale University, and the University of California at Berkeley.) Furthermore, the University of Pittsburgh was eager to build its reputation as a major center for research on Europe, and so officials of the University agreed to donate space and valuable infrastructure to the Council’s early endeavors. Most importantly, Dr. Stephen Blank, then an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Pittsburgh, agreed to serve as the Council’s first Executive Director. Thus, with support from the Ford Foundation, the “Council for European Studies,” or CES for short, was formally established at the University of Pittsburgh in June 1970.
By 1971, the Council was already actively pursuing its mission to promote and coordinate the study of Europe. Perhaps the first major milestone in the Council’s development was the establishment of its long-running Pre-Dissertation Fellowship Program. The program was created as a source of “summer training funding” for graduate students at the member institutions who were seeking to do research in Europe. In the summer of 1971, twenty-three graduate students received awards to do exploratory field research and, in 1972, thirty-nine more were given funding, forging a path that would be followed by more than 600 fellows over the course of the next four decades. Not long after, the Council also began offering German language training at both the University of Pittsburgh (funded, beginning in 1974, by the German Marshall Fund) and abroad at the Goethe-Institut (funded by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), or German Academic Exchange Service).
In addition to pouring resources into its Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship Program, the Council also established several Research Committees quite early on. Later to be called “Research Networks,” these groups focused on broad themes, like “urban problems,” “twentieth-century capitalism,” and “decentralization,” that could unite across disciplines, institutions, and generations. These Research Committees, it was hoped, would develop programs in several fields of study and, along with the Council-organized thematic workshops, provide a valuable place for scholars to interact.
In November 1971, the Council’s Executive Committee further decided to raise money (while also fulfilling the Council’s founding goal of providing research guides and other resources) by selling Council publications. Specifically, in 1972 the Committee commissioned two research reports and directed the staff to begin producing the European Studies Newsletter. The Newsletter, soon a hallmark of the Council’s communications program and a prominent benefit of membership in the Council, included a short essay from the Executive Director on the state of the Council’s affairs, called attention to CES programs, featured updates from partnering or related organizations, and posted notices for external meetings, study programs, new publications, and research resources.
By February 1972, the Committee’s commissioned reports were also bearing fruit and The Fellowship Guide for Western Europe and Western European Newspapers in the Boston-Cambridge Area were both available for purchase. Before the end of 1972, the Council was also responsible for circulating the library acquisition lists of the two biggest Western European Studies programs (at Indiana University and Harvard University) to help scholars keep up with current publications in the field. Buoyed by their publishing success, the Committee made plans for future publications.
Indeed, so dramatic was its early growth that by the end of 1972, the Council’s Executive Committee felt that the Council itself was growing almost too quickly and in broader ways than they had expected. A reorganization of the Council’s original “narrow consortium” structure was proposed and approved by the Ford Foundation, which agreed to continue funding the Council beyond its initial three-year grant. The Executive Committee itself was reorganized to involve more scholars from a wider variety of universities and formal institutional memberships were introduced as a way to support the Council’s ever-growing roster of programs and publications.
Finding a New Home
Ripe with success from these re-organization efforts, the Council continued to breeze through the early 1970s, producing the Newsletter six times a year, promoting and growing various programs, and boasting an ever-increasing roster of institutional members. In the autumn of 1974, the Council held a small research conference called “Twentieth Century Capitalism: State, Economy, and Society” at Harvard University. This gathering was the earliest incarnation of what would become the International Conference of Europeanists (the program’s formal history began with the 1st International Conference of Europeanists in 1979). And while the Harvard meeting was a success, unanticipated changes would soon challenge the young organization. Indeed, in October 1974, Stephen Blank resigned as Executive Director of the Council to accept a fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations. The Executive Committee initially made no effort to replace Blank, but instead decided to do without a director for the immediate future and instead have the Council’s Chairman, Leon N. Lindberg, take a greater role in the day-to-day leadership of CES–helped to a significant degree by administrator Beverly Gaich, who maintained the Council’s Pittsburgh offices.
Predictably, this state of affairs did not last long. With the departure of Blank, who served as a strong link between the Council and its host institution, the University of Pittsburgh, the lack of a European Studies program at Pittsburgh was increasingly felt on both sides. The University was no longer as willing to provide space for the Council as it had been five years earlier and, without a Director based at Pittsburgh, the Council was less keen to keep its offices there. The search was on to find a new home for the Council.
In the summer of 1975, after much negotiation and under increasing pressure to leave Pittsburgh, the Council moved to Columbia University in New York. There, the Council was given two offices in the International Affairs building and a much-desired sense of permanence. With its new, more central location, the Council triumphantly reported 28 institutional members and growing that year. Moreover, a renewed sense of vigor seemed to come over many of its programs. For example, Council publications expanded significantly in the period following the move. Most notably, the Council launched a new line of guides to research resources beginning with its Guide to Archives and Libraries in Germany shortly. This guide was followed in 1978 by a similar book focused on Italy and compiled by Rudolf J. Lewanski (edited by Richard C. Lewanski). Moreover, the series was further expanded in 1979 with a volume on Archives and Libraries in France.
The Council’s “Research Committees” were also formally re-named “Research Planning Groups” in 1976. The Groups supported international work on significant topics of interest to both European and American scholars and promoted trans-Atlantic academic cooperation. The Pre-Dissertation Fellowship program enjoyed its largest number of applicants to date in 1977, with 114 graduate students applying for funding. And to crown its first and extraordinarily fruitful decade, in March 1979 the Council held its 1st International Conference of Europeanists in Washington, D.C. on the topic “Institutional Change or Institutional Decay? Transitional Epochs in Europe.” Over 600 scholars attended from both sides of the Atlantic, making the Council’s first effort at a large-scale academic conference a rousing success. (The Council would continue to host the International Conference of Europeanists every other year until 2010, at which time the Executive Committee voted to change from a biennial to an annual conference format.)
Towards the end of 1979, with work ever-increasing, the Executive Committee finally decided that it was time to hire new full-time leadership for the Council. So, in October of that year, Dr. Ioannis Sinanoglou was hired as the Council’s Executive Secretary. Soon rising from Executive Secretary to the position of Executive Director (1984), Ioannis Sinanoglou remained in that post until his retirement in 1999, and was both the public face and chief administrative officer of the Council for twenty years.
Consolidation and Challenge
In the year Sinanoglou was hired, the Council boasted 50 institutional members, 500 individual members, and over 1,300 subscribers to the Newsletter. Just 10 years into its history, the Council was booming.
However, the 1980s would prove a challenging decade. Despite the continuing success of the International Conference of Europeanists (held every two years in Washington throughout the decade), finding funding for the Pre-Dissertation Fellowship program proved a challenge. The program was discontinued briefly at the end of the 1970s and again in 1983, before relatively stable funding was secured from the Ford Foundation and the program reconstituted. Additionally, a space-crunch at Columbia University in 1987 forced the Council out of the International Affairs building and into limbo at the Casa Italiana for a full year. Failing to get any institutional support for the idea of establishing a “Casa Europa” for all European Studies organizations housed at Columbia, the Council eventually left the Casa Italiana and relocated its offices to Schermerhorn Hall, across Amsterdam Avenue.
Nonetheless, the Council continued to work hard to fulfill its mission and meet the challenges of a changing Europe. By the end of the decade (1989), the Council was publishing the seventh edition of its Fellowship Guide to Western Europe, one of its most popular resource guides. Moreover, with the fall of the Berlin wall the Council opted to broaden its focus by including all of Europe (not just the West) under it purview and programming. Impressively, in 1991 the Newsletter celebrated its 20th year of publication by reporting a record-high circulation of 1,400 subscribers.
Throughout the 1990s, the Council worked hard to maintain its extensive network of programs. The International Conference of Europeanists shifted from Washington, D.C., to Chicago, with the first non-Washingtonian conference held at the Palmer House in Chicago in 1992. This 8th International Conference of Europeanists also had another first: it was the first CES Conference to emphasize the study of Eastern Europe. Moreover, Palmer House proved popular and the Council continued to hold its conferences there for the remainder of the decade.
Also, the popularity of the Council’s long-running Pre-Dissertation Fellowship program continued to grow. In 1993, the program enjoyed its largest number of applicants since 1977. Moreover, the Council proved its commitment to the program in 1994 when the Ford Foundation, after fourteen years of support, opted not to continue funding the program. Rather than discontinue the support many graduate students relied upon, the Council instead decided to fund the fellowships itself with income raised through membership dues, book sales, and registration fees at the conference. By 1995, new funding had been secured for this valuable program and, in 1997, the first ever Pre-Dissertation Fellowship co-sponsored by the Council and the Society for the Anthropology of Europe was awarded.
Also in 1995, after an exile of seven years, the Council returned to the International Affairs Building at Columbia. There, it shared space with the Western European Institute (now the Blinken European Institute), a much more fitting neighbor than the “natural sciences” departments found in Schermerhorn Hall.
The Council had further cause to celebrate throughout 1995 and 1996—the 25th Anniversary of the Council had arrived. As part of the celebrations, the Council produced a special issue of the European Studies Newsletterfeaturing historical essays about the Council and its programs, as well as a commissioned report by Peter Hall on The State of European Studies. CES also decided to launch its first website in conjunction with the anniversary. Thus, in autumn 1996 the Council’s annual report noted that by the end of the year “the Council will be accessible via the World Wide Web (WWW).” The new site was called EuropaNet.org, and it was designed to serve as a transatlantic resource in European Studies, a bulletin board for making scholarly connections, and an archive of information about the Council and the study of Europe.
The end of the 1990s was a period of great change for the organization as Ioannis Sinanoglou, who had served as head of the Council since 1979, left and was replaced by John K. Glenn in May 2000. Given Ioannis Sinanoglou’s many contributions to CES, it was definitely a melancholy change. However, John Glenn was a worthy successor and during his five-year term as Executive Director, also oversaw the expansion and strengthening of a number of important programs. Most notably, it was in the early 2000s that the Council received a long-term grant from the Andrew G. Mellon Foundation to secure the Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship against dissolution. Also, at this time CES won new or renewed grants from the Society for the Anthropology of Europe (SAE), the Luso-American Foundation (FLAD), and the Florence Gould Foundation, and also further strengthened and expanded the Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship. Likewise, a new website (much more sophisticated than Europanet.org) was developed to provide better information services.