Tag Archives: European Union

Waste Not, Want Not: Scrap Paper in the Archive

Many documents within the Mitrinović collection were written on scrap paper, which enriches the archive in sometimes surprising ways. I’m reminded of a medieval palimpsest, where a piece of parchment has been scraped and reused in such a way as the original text remains legible, or an early modern book binding where the spine has been padded with pieces of an earlier manuscript. Scrap paper can almost feel like a two-for-the-price-of-one deal!

I’ve chosen a few bits that show some of what can be gleaned from the scraps used by Dimitrije Mitrinović and his circle, usually to record lecture notes. The scraps include pieces of letterhead, as in this example from the shadowy and apparently short-lived Balkan-British Corporation.NAF1-6-2-12-8 Balkan-British Corporation Logo

Letterheads make a useful resource for historians and archivists generally, as they show changes of an organisation’s official name, addresses, often logos, sometimes (as here) names of significant people involved or dates of establishment.

NAF1-6-2-12-15 New Europe Group Membership Form

This New Europe Group membership form again shows the value of scrap as historical record, hinting at the financial constraints of the organisation. The form states that the N.E.G. would welcome donations, in addition to the membership fee. The position of President had changed hands, from Sir Patrick Geddes to Arthur Kitson, and rather than run up a bill printing more forms, the Group has frugally annotated each form by hand. The reuse of the forms themselves as scrap paper also shows this ‘waste not, want not’ approach.

My final scrap is even more informative. This is a programme for three lectures given on behalf of the New Europe Group and the Le Play Society by Sir Patrick Geddes on the topic of “The World Crisis. What Factors? What Treatments?”

NAF1-6-2-12-15 New Europe Group and Le Play Society, Patrick Geddes Lectures

The New Europe Group was established by Dimitrije Mitrinović in 1931 to create a Europe reformed under the guiding, mirrored, principles of devolution and federation. It was to be one of his longest lasting projects, even outlasting him. The N.E.G. held its last meeting in 1957, several years after Mitrinović’s death.

Many of Mitrinović’s groups (including the Eleventh Hour Flying Clubs for which this blog is named), were short-lived affairs leaving little trace in the archives. These scraps, then, become key historical records, helping us to establish which of the many groups mentioned in his notes came to fruition and sometimes what activities they engaged in.

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Designs for a Flag

NAF1-2-5 Design for a Flag - Collage

Most of the files in the Mitrinović collection are full of documents, typewritten, printed or manuscript, covering all sorts of interesting subjects but not necessarily the most visual of items. So finding a file of colourful little paintings and collages was a treat! These bright designs are seemingly for a new Yugoslavian flag for the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, as the new country was officially called from its foundation in 1918 until 1929, when the name ‘Kingdom of Yugoslavia’ was officially adopted. A note accompanying the designs shows how Dimitrije Mitrinović incorporated colours associated with Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia and Bulgaria.

NAF1-2-5 Design for Flag DM's Notes    NAF1-2-5 Design for a Flag 1

Mitrinović felt strongly that peace could be achieved through Yugoslavian, European and, ultimately, world federation.  We might speculate that for him the flag designs symbolised a peaceful, self-governing country embracing its diversity and free of the yoke of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires with their ‘divide and conquer’ approach to the Balkans. Tragically, as we know, the united Yugoslavia was not to solve the region’s problems, although perhaps the European Union may have met with some approval from Mitrinović. He might have seen it as a positive force for peace in the Balkans, as in the rest of the continent, fostering positive co-existence. Certainly Mitrinović viewed a federated Europe as highly desirable and the first step to a united world.

For those interested in finding out more, Serbian academic Dušan Pajin of the University of Art, Belgrade, wrote an article for the journal Serbian Studies, Dimitrije Mitrinović and the European Union Project’ published in 2008 comparing Mitrinović’s ideas of a united Europe with the reality of the E.U. in 1998. (Available to download free here). No doubt as I catalogue his papers here at Bradford, more of Mitrinović’s thoughts on the subject will be accessible and will repay further study.
As many people are trying to assess the value and purposes of the E.U., to reform it or leave it altogether, it seems timely to revisit the kind of thinking that led to its creation in the first place. For many like Dimitrije Mitrinović, seeing how imperial ambitions and simmering ethnic tensions could divide peoples and erupt into violence, a unitary authority founded on co-operation seemed the only way to ensure peace and prosperity. These cheerful little flags seem to me to capture some of that optimism and belief that change was possible.
NAF1-2-5 Design for Flag 2

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