Visiting the Historical Archives of the European Union

The UACES Network |



Cleo Davies, University of Edinburgh

Thanks to the UACES scholarship to visit the Historical Archives of the European Union (HAEU) in Florence, I spent ten days in June 2018 working in the archives to consult both EU institutions’ holdings and individuals’ holdings. As I approach the end of my PhD thesis, this opportunity turned out to be a key step for designing the follow-up from my PhD thesis. The visit provided the grounds for developing a postdoctoral project on the Commission’s uses of ad hoc expert groups in financial services integration and was a great skills-enhancing experience.

My PhD is in political science and focuses on the European Commission’s proposal to create European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) of financial activities in 2009-2010. The research is an analysis of processes of legitimation in decision making and reforms post Global Financial Crisis. Though archival work did not feature as one of the data sources, I did do background research on financial supervision in the history of European integration in financial services for my PhD. I became particularly interested in the Commission’s recurring use of ad hoc independent expert group reports to shape the political and policy trajectories for financial services and monetary integration.

The funding to visit the HAEU was an opportunity to empirically explore this historical perspective on financial supervision. I focused on the period around the Single Market creation and hoped to uncover information on the Second Banking Directive in 1987 and 1988 by exploring the archives that had opened on the 1st of January 2018.  I also wanted to explore the build-up to the establishment of the Delors report on monetary integration and the discussions inside the Commission between the Single Market White Paper to the Delors report published in 1989.

The European Commission holding was most valuable; and the Peter Sutherland Papers and the Tommaso Padoa Schioppa holdings were excellent sources. Both presented a wealth of data on the internal workings of the European Commission and the links between experts and the European Commission in the discussions on financial services integration.

These findings provided a solid basis for an initial mapping of the network of experts involved in ad hoc expert group reports and their relations with the European Commission. They also provide an insight into the detailed substance of the discussions inside the Commission in the second half of the 1980s in relation to financial services integration more generally.

Not only did the visit yield some interesting findings in terms of substance, I was able to acquire and consolidate the skills to do archival work. Thanks to the excellent website of the HAEU, I drew up a detailed list of holdings and specific archives I wanted to consult before going to Florence. However, even with forward planning, archival work is labour intensive and requires a different approach from other forms of data collection.

For instance, interviews in qualitative research yield some form of immediate results. But with archives, a lot of time can be spent sifting through documents that have little or no apparent significance for the research.

But gradually, as I read through more and more documents, deciphering annotated pages, a whole world emerged from the papers. Every day added more information, names and relationships to an emerging picture. Conversely, as I progressed through the archives, specific gaps in the picture also became more and more apparent, calling for more archival research in the future.

To conclude, the UACES funding to visit the HAEU gave me the opportunity to develop specific research skills and explore original data that I have used to develop a proposal for future research. Based on the work I did, I presented a draft postdoctoral research project at the European Union Institute history graduate conference in September 2018 on the Commission’s uses of ad hoc expert groups over time in relation to financial services integration. I now look forward to presenting how the work has developed at the 2019 UACES annual conference in Lisbon.

This research trip was co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union

After working for five years in European affairs in Brussels, Cleo Davies started a PhD in Politics at the University of Edinburgh in September 2015. Her project investigates the processes of legitimation in decision making and reforms post Global Financial Crisis inside the European Commission and focuses on the proposal to create European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) of financial activities.



Interested in applying for a UACES Funded Research Trip to the Historical Archives of the European Union? Learn more here.