Emile Haag writes English-language Luxembourg history

Published in the Luxemburger Wort, September 24, 2015

By Tali Hunt

The Rise of Luxembourg from Independence to Success, a book published in English, claimed the number one slot on the best-seller's list in Luxembourg in August 2015.

Emile Haag"For a book in English that is not, let's say, an everyday achievement because for most people French is all-pervasive in Luxembourg," said Emile Haag, author of The Rise of Luxembourg from Independence to Success, which was published by Editions Saint-Paul in June 2015.

Emile Haag, a Luxembourgish historian, has been a professor of history at Miami University's Dolibois European Center (MUDEC) in Luxembourg since January 1969.  Haag's first book on the history of Luxembourg, Le Luxembourg - une réussite originale au fil des siècles, was published in 2011.  Haag quoted Thomas Carlyle to explain his key idea for this book is "the history of mankind is but biographies of great men."

He studied history, French, and Latin in Aix-en-Provence and Paris.  Along with teaching at MUDEC and the University of Luxembourg, Haag is a trade unionist, serving as the national president of the confederation of government employees since 1987.  He has also completed research for the National Archive of Luxembourg.

Listening to news of the Korean War on the radio with his grandfather sparked his love for history--for learning about and teaching about important historical events.  Haag said he did things the easy way, because history was easy for him.

Haag, who got his first taste of English through non-compulsory classes in high school, put off his first year as a professor at MUDEC in order to learn more English, which he had not spoken in the five years since he graduated from high school.  He studied from Agatha Christie paperbacks and English language histories of Europe.

"Things got better for me in 1971 when I decided to switch over to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, for two years on the main campus," said Haag.  "When I had these two years behind me, I was keen enough to practice my limited English.

He said when his American students at MUDEC became aware of his book in French, they approached him with the idea of writing a book on Luxembourg's history in English so they could learn more about the country where they were studying.  They also requested he start teaching a class strictly on the history of Luxembourg.  Haag took his students' idea to the company he worked with for Le Luxembourg - une réussite originale au fil des siècles, but was told the market for a book written in English was small.  He would need a sponsorship of 50,000 Euro before they could consider getting his original book translated.  He did not find such a sponsor.

Haag book coverStudents at MUDEC continued to ask for a book in English.  In 2012, members of the Luxembourg business community stepped forward to help, in the belief that the book could help Luxembourg's international relations.  With newfound support, he started writing The Rise of Luxembourg from Independence to Success, in which he chose to focus on how Luxembourg was granted its independence and how it has seen success in a variety of aspects and fields since.

"I worked for two and a half years.  I got support from quite a few people, whom I knew," said Haag.  "Quite a few people helped me by giving me written contributions to the different chapters, which I highly appreciate."  Haag finished the book in late June 2015, which coincidentally is when Luxembourg took over the presidency of the European Union.  He feels this timing was very appropriate because English has become the international language, the language of the European community, the business community and the Internet.

Tali Hunt from Indiana is a junior studying journalism and comparative media studies at Miami University.