The role of the French and Spanish Socialist parties in building the Single Market and Economic and Monetary Union: a Q&A with Virginia Crespi de Valldaura

Virginia Crespi de Valldaura is a PhD student in the European Institute

What I have most valued has been the liveliness of my department

Virginia Crespi de Valldaura

Virginia Crespi de Valldaura

What are you currently researching?

I’m researching the role of the French and Spanish Socialist parties in building the Single Market and Economic and Monetary Union in the 1980s and early 1990s.

At a time of economic crisis and uncertainty, these parties sacrificed many of their socially-oriented electoral promises to build a more economically integrated Europe. However, the Europe they helped build constrained their leeway to pursue redistributive and employment policies at home. I therefore want to understand what they were hoping to gain from the European project from a social perspective.  

Why did you choose this area of study?

Since my time as a history undergraduate student, I have been fascinated by the history of the post-World War II social democratic consensus, when most Western countries adopted policies aimed at full employment and redistribution as well as highly regulating markets.

Since then, I have been seeking to understand the breakdown of this consensus in the 1980s. The role of social democratic parties in building a market-oriented European Community remains an under-researched, yet critical, part of this story, so I decided to focus on that. 

How will your research improve or have a wider impact on society?

I’m hoping my research will help contextualise some of the key political developments we are currently witnessing. In recent years, social democratic parties have been suffering defeat after defeat in many European countries, and this has been ascribed to their turn to market-liberal economic policies.

Understanding this shift is therefore crucial to assess the current political environment. There is also an ongoing debate about what could be done to build a more “social Europe”, so understanding the history of why social democratic parties fell short of making it more socially oriented in the first place is also of interest. 

What do you hope to do career-wise, long term?

I initially entered the PhD programme with the idea of joining a European policy think tank in the future. However, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen of the academic world so far, so I’m keeping an open mind for the time being.

Can you provide any advice to prospective students about the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

Doing a PhD is very independent work, and you don’t always have a clear perspective on how well you are progressing and whether you are headed in the right direction. It’s therefore crucial to reach out to your supervisors and colleagues whenever you have any doubts.

It’s also very important not to compare yourself to others – every PhD project and path is unique. Finally, your project can change a lot as the PhD advances, so it is important to keep a clear sense of what drove you to a particular topic in the first place and try to stay as true to that as possible. 

What resources are available at LSE to help young researchers and how has this helped you?

LSE has fantastic resources. Beyond obvious things like the incredibly well-stocked library, the School also offers a fantastic range of job opportunities, such as research and teaching assistantships. What I have most valued has been the liveliness of my department, which organises frequent seminars with speakers from a variety of disciplines. It’s a great way to be exposed to a wide variety of academic debates and innovative research. 

In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?

I would say the best thing is the collaborative atmosphere. The European Institute is a very small and very friendly department, so doing a PhD feels more like a shared experience with colleagues.