Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Eyes that Lead: The History of Guide Dogs for the Blind in East Central Europe and Beyond
Reserve Your Seat (CUID Only) Register for Zoom Webinar Watch on YouTube


Location Note

1219 International Affairs Building
420 W 118th Street, 12th floor

This event is in-person for CUID card holders only. In-person attendees must be in compliance with Columbia University’s health protocols for returning to campus. Pre-registration, valid CUID card, and valid green pass are required for admittance. All other attendees may participate virtually on Zoom or YouTube.


Please join the East Central European Center at the Harriman Institute for a lecture by Monika Baár, István Deák Visiting Professor at the Harriman Institute. Moderated by ECEC co-directors Aleksandar Bošković and Christopher Caes.

The lecture explores a hitherto overlooked episode in the history of human-animal relations: the establishment of professional guide dog training after the First World War, which had its origins in Central Europe. Under this scheme, dogs became helpers, and, furthermore, equal partners to disabled soldiers and soon thereafter also to blind civilians. The lecture shows how the resultant cooperation between guide dogs and their owners placed the human–animal bond on a new footing. It also reveals how an idea initiated by veterans of the German and Austro-Hungarian army spread across the world and what adjustments were necessary to make the scheme suitable for different economic, cultural and social settings. In a broader context the lecture seeks to call attention to the potentials of the burgeoning fields of animal studies and disability histories for the study of East Central Europe.


Monika Baár is Professor by Special Appointment in Central European Studies in the Institute for History at Leiden University. Her early career interests included the history of historiography, cultural history and political thought in East-Central Europe. She is author of the monograph Historians and Nationalism: East Central Europe in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2010) and one of the co-authors of the two-volume book Trencsényi et alii, A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe. More recently her interest has shifted to the history of disability and animal studies and she is at present completing the ERC Consolidator Grant Rethinking Disability: the Global Impact of the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) in Historical Perspective, which was also turned into a comics series. Publications in this field include the article “Disability and Civil Courage under State Socialism: the Scandal about the Hungarian Guide Dog School” in Past and Present (2015) and a co-edited special issue “Rethinking Transition in Eastern Europe through the Lens of Disability” that is forthcoming in the journal Problems of Post-Communism.


Event Video