DFG-Project: "'Active Promotion of the European ideal?' – European References in German-British Town Twinning"

Project Description

The project examines the European dimension of town twinning links, which characteristically consisted of a wide array of political, economic, diplomatic and cultural processes and interests. Therefore, the project addresses a research gap in European contemporary history, which has – up to now – predominantly focussed on the ‘institutional Europe’ and omitted Europe’s wider societal perception, negotiation and performance.

On the basis of the links between Kiel and Coventry and Frankfurt and Birmingham, the project pursues the following questions: When was town twinning brought into a European context; which definition(s) of “Europe” dominated; and how did cities contribute to these shifting definitions? Among other things, the Europe Prize, established by the Council of Europe in 1955, will be used as a probe to tackle these questions.

Based on the key assumption that cities possess an intrinsic logic, this project examines how individual twinning links were formed and expanded upon through negotiation processes between the local, regional, national and international level. To highlight the foreign-policy dimension of town twinning, the project will also include the British cities’ twinning links with East Germany: while the GDR tried to use town twinning as a quasi-diplomatic tool, the links – and expectations connected with them – proved challenging in return.

Within the scope of the project, particular attention is given to the material dimension of town twinning since the forging of these partnerships was characteristically accompanied by the exchange of gifts and the placement of signs within the urban space. Frequently emphasizing the entirety of a city’s partners, these material markers thus hinted at a larger idea behind the ensemble of cities.

Call for Private Sources

The participation of committed citizens lies at the heart of town twinning. The partnerships are filled with life through student exchanges, youth- and sports club trips and collaborations between artists. However, these documents rarely find their way into municipal archives and into the hands of historians. Therefore, the project is looking for citizens who have been active in twinning partnerships and who would like to share their experiences with us, ideally with documents from their active time. If you are interested, please contact town.twinning@uni-due.de.  

Which documents are of interest regarding the project?

The project investigates the twinning links Kiel-Coventry, Dresden-Coventry, Frankfurt-Birmingham, Leipzig-Birmingham and Chemnitz-Manchester. Therefore, all documents produced within the framework of one of these partnerships are of interest. They might come from local politicians, schools, cultural institutions, sports clubs and many more. Documents from participants (pupils, university students, athletes) are just as important as documents from organisers.

Do the documents have to be handed in permanently?

No. Copies of the documents, whether as a paper copy, photograph or scan are sufficient for the project. You can send us the copies directly. Alternatively, we will make copies to and return the original documents as soon as possible.

Do you also conduct interviews?

Yes. Interviews are important to establish the historical context of the documents. Furthermore, not everything is kept in writing, so additional information can be obtained through interviews.

How will my personal data be handled?

No personal data that could lead to the identification of private individuals will be passed on or published.  Should you agree to participate in the project, any use of your personal data will be documented in a data protection declaration.

 I have documents concerning other twinning schemes, are they also of interest?

Yes and no. The project must necessarily focus on a selection of twinning links and cannot consider documents from other twin towns systematically. However, we try to highlight interesting developments and memorabilia from other twinning links on our social media sites. If you would like to make your documents available for historical research, municipal archives might be interested.


Head: Prof. Dr. Ute Schneider, Chair of Social and Economic History.

Editor: Nina Szidat.

The project is funded by the German Research Foundation and runs until 07/2023.