Guest editors:

Corneliu Pintilescu (George Baritiu Institute of History) and Cosmin Sebastian Cercel (Lazarski University in Warsaw)


The interwar era is constantly represented as a period under the aegis of crisis. Starting with the revolutions and civil wars following the end of the First World War, carrying on through the rise of the far-right, and the normalization of political violence, the financial crisis of 1929, the upsurge of authoritarian regimes and dictatorships, the interwar period is marked by social turmoil, radical politics and a ‘sense-making crisis’[1]. The interwar was also the battleground witnessing the struggle between state authority and various forms of left-wing and right wing contestation of the political and social status quo.[2] The October 1917 Revolution has undoubtedly marked the heyday of new forms of politics, and radicalized the left, fuelled revolutionary movements and civil war in various European countries.[3] According to Enzo Traverso the period 1914–1945 could be seen as the period of a “European Civil War” and the interwar period just a interlude between two periods of mass killing in the name of ideologies.[4] However, this period is not only one of the “European Civil War” or the experiments carried out by various modern dictatorships, but it is also one when emergency powers became an everyday reality in European societies. Of course, First World War plaid a key role since, as Giorgio Agamben rightly points out, the first world conflagration led to a situation when both states and societies got used with emergency powers. One could safely say that emergency powers became a key ingredient of the laboratories of authoritarianism during interwar and Second World periods.

At the core of the mechanisms used by European states to deal with the economic and political crises, particularly with the moments of social turmoil and various radical political movements (both far right and far left), we find the politico-legal category of emergency powers. With origins in the French legal institution of the state of siege (for most countries in the Civil Law tradition)[5], or within the concept of martial law or royal prerogative (for the common law tradition)[6], emergency powers mark a political and legal threshold suspending temporary the regular functioning of state institutions. As the experience of the infamous Article 48 (concerning emergency decrees) of the Weimar Constitution proves, the constant use of the state of siege could actually be a transformative experience, opening the way towards the establishment of a dictatorship. Moreover during the postwar period, emergency powers were one of the main components of various dictatorships in Europe. Emergency powers could be found as useful tools in the hands of transitional governments to “popular democracies” in Eastern Europe of the late 1940s and early 1950s or as key methods of fighting the opposition in the postwar dictatorships from Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal and Greece).

Starting from these general trends in interwar and postwar Europe, in this special issue we are interested in exploring the nexus between emergency powers and authoritarian drives/regimes in from interwar to postwar period. We welcome contributions from historians, legal historians, as well as political scientists and cognate fields that engage interdisciplinary with a wide range of issues related to the encounter between various forms of authoritarianism and emergency powers. We are especially interested in studies exploring:

  • The nexus between social unrest, revolution and counterrevolution, and the authoritarian drive in interwar Europe.
  • The role played by emergency powers in the dismantling of the liberal order and in the installing of fascist, communist or military dictatorships in interwar and postwar Europe.
  • Continuities and discontinuities between in conceptualizing and implementing emergency powers in interwar and post war periods, with a focus on the authoritarian drive in different European countries.
  •  The relation between emergency powers and political violence, either exerted by state or by radical political movements.


The articles will be published in the 2023 special issue of History of Communism in Europe, indexed by CEEOL: The special issue is edited by Corneliu Pintilescu (George Baritiu Institute of History Cluj-Napoca) and Cosmin Sebastian Cercel (Lazarski University in Warsaw).


The length of each research article is limited to 7200 words (including endnotes) and are

expected by July 31, 2023. Contributors are kindly asked to submit article proposals including: a title, 5 keywords, a short academic biography, and an abstract (in English or French) that do not exceed 300 words.


Deadline for submitting proposals: February 15, 2023.


You may submit your proposals at:,


Selected authors will be notified by February 28, 2023.

[1] Gerald M. Platt, ‘An Alternative Theory,’ in International Fascism: Theories, Causes and the New Consensus, ed. Roger Griffin (London: Arnold, 1998 [1980]), 208.

[2] Mark Mazower (ed.), The Policing of Politics in the Twentieth Century: Historical Perspectives (Oxford: Berghahn 1997).

[3] See Robert Gerwarth, War in Peace: Paramilitary Violence in Europe After the Great War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

[4] Enzo Traverso, Fire and Blood: The European Civil War, 1914–1945, London, Verso, 2016.

[5] Clinton Rossiter, Constitutional dictatorship (Oxford University Press, 1948), 79.

[6] Oren Gross and Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Law in Times of Crisis: Emergency Powers in Theory and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2006), 26-30.