Encountering the Global in Early Modern Germany

Encountering the Global in Early Modern Germany

Christina Brauner / Renate Dürr / Philip Hahn / Anne Sophie Overkamp / Simon Siemianowski, Universität Tübingen
digital (Tübingen)
Vom - Bis
01.07.2021 - 02.07.2021
Url der Konferenzwebsite
Julietta Schulze / Manuel Mozer, Seminar für Neuere Geschichte, Universität Tübingen

How does a global history approach change our view on early modern Germany? – This was the starting point of the workshop funded by the “Platform 4: Global Encounters” of Tübingen University’s Excellence initiative. Numerous historians and scholars of various disciplines such as literary studies, religious studies, art history and musicology from all over Europe, the US, Canada and India gathered virtually and engaged in a lively exchange about this and other questions, by discussing different case-studies. To make virtual conferencing more amenable, the workshop consisted of a balanced mixture of presentations and discussions of pre-circulated papers.

In their introductory remarks, CHRISTINA BRAUNER and RENATE DÜRR (both Tübingen) emphasised that until recently, research has underestimated the importance of global encounters and entanglements for early modern German history. They summarised the main questions of the workshop: First, how does our view of the Holy Roman Empire change if we take the global dimensions of early modern German history into account? Second, how can an approach to global history look like if we broaden our understanding of the term “global” beyond a solely geographically definition? Common ground for most of the papers in the workshop was a micro-historical approach, highlighting specific persons or objects in order to uncover connections from and to German-speaking lands that have rarely been considered so far, as well as by applying broader relational and comparative approaches.

Panel I was opened by a presentation by ULINKA RUBLACK (Cambridge) on the marketing practices of the Lutheran merchant Philipp Hainhofer from Augsburg, who acquired artefacts and natural objects worldwide for aristocratic customers of cabinets of art and curiosities. She showed how he employed encyclopaedias, atlases, and travel reports as marketing tools and knowledge brokers to increase the demand for transcontinental objects and as sales goods themselves.

In her pre-circulated paper, JUTTA WIMMLER (Bonn) applied the method of qualitative text analysis (via MAXQDA) to examine the concept of slavery in travel reports. Analysing a German translation of a French report from West Africa, she pointed out that the term slavery was a highly dynamic concept, the meaning of which depended on the context and aim of the respective publication.

RICHARD CALIS (Cambridge) presented a paper on Greek Orthodox Christians who travelled through the territories of the Empire to raise money for their fellow Christians in the Ottoman Empire. Using the record of many such visits in the diary of the Tübingen professor Martin Crusius, Calis uncovered the many layers of their stories, ranging from the alms collectors’ experience in German towns and their adaptation to circumstances across the production and diffusion of narratives of their migration to Crusius’s motivation to trust them.

In her presentation on the Prussian East India Companies, FELICIA GOTTMANN (Newcastle) identified practices of cosmopolitanism among their merchants, who often got their training in the larger European companies before pursuing careers in various smaller merchant companies. They often shifted between them, formed transnational networks and took opportunities for private trade. She pointed out that in these merchants’ networks, social status was more decisive than national allegiance. Besides, Gottmann argued that studying their careers has the potential to merge the separate historiographies of Asian and Atlantic trade.

In Panel II, REBEKKA VON MALLINCKRODT (Bremen) employed a legal-historical perspective on enslaved people who were brought to the Holy Roman Empire by personnel of trading companies, diplomats, and travellers and were retained in their status even though they were baptised. The possession of slaves fell into a legal grey area in the Holy Roman Empire and was interpreted differently by various legal traditions. Although the German lands cannot be addressed as a slave-holding society, Mallinckrodt argued that it can be called a society with slaves.

In her pre-circulated paper, SIGRID G. KÖHLER (Tübingen) examined contemporary concepts of “globality” by focusing on 18th century journals. The rise of discourses about slavery, slave trade and abolition in German journals between 1770 and 1810 as well as the sub-genre of human rights speeches in high literature testify to a global version of the Enlightenment ideal of humanity.

TOBIAS GRAF (Berlin) discussed the phenomenon of Arabic-speaking Catholics from Syria and Palestine who travelled to the Holy Roman Empire and can be traced though travel accounts, periodicals, inventories, and material artefacts. By dressing in typical Arabic clothes, they staged themselves as Arabian princes. The stereotypical appearance of these foreigners, the entertainment value of their stories and the commonality of the Christian faith furthered the Central Europeans’ view of the Mediterranean region or the Middle East. The discussion revealed similar narratives not only to the earlier presentation of Richard Calis, but also to Jewish alms collectors from Jerusalem.

The pre-circulated paper by SUZIE HERMÁN (Princeton) returned to merchants as global players. She focused on how the Hanseatic League attempted to present itself as a player in the globalised market of the early modern period by contributing to Georg Braun’s and Frans Hogenberg’s city atlas Civitatis Orbis Terrarum.

Panel III took up the theme of globally mobile actors and discussed the place of the global in the German lands. JELLE VAN LOTTUM and LODEWIJK PETRAM (both Amsterdam) focused on the labour force of the Dutch East India Company. Using an extensive database, they reconstructed the maritime careers of employees of the Dutch East India Company. They could thus trace a pan-European heterogeneity within the ship crews, illustrating the high spatial mobility within European society. They also showed that a maritime background enhanced career opportunities for individuals, as did the number of successfully completed voyages. The discussion underlined the importance of turning to micro-historical studies in order to reveal the career networks of contemporary seafarers.

The pre-circulated paper by FRANCISCA HOYER (Uppsala) examined the connections of relatives in Europe to their family members who emigrated to the East Indies. Hoyer presented six case studies with the goal of writing a global family history that looks behind the surface of classical role models and hierarchical networks constellations of persons. To achieve this, she consociated different source types from various archives in Europe and Asia. In this way, she was able to show asymmetrical family constellations that questioned the binary opposition between metropolis and colony.

The next four papers shifted the attention to the circulation of goods. KLAUS WEBER (Frankfurt/Oder) concentrated on the rarely explored export of materials and goods from central Europe to different places in the world and showed the continuity of the Trans-Saharan trade route for trade in cheaply produced linens and copper from Central Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries. Some European family businesses like the merchant family Ellermann from northern Germany became important players by taking part in several of these trading sectors.

In their pre-circulated paper, CHRISTINE FERTIG and HENNING BOVENKERK (both Münster) investigated the consumption patterns of five rural communities in North-Western Germany in the Hinterland of Amsterdam, Hamburg, and other smaller ports. Through a quantitative analysis of inventories and toll registers, they showed that transcontinental goods like cotton, coffee and tea appeared in the late 18th century, pointing to the much-discussed “consumer revolution”. Their research also suggests that sumptuary laws might not have hindered the consumption of prohibited products but rather restricted their visibility in the inventories.

The pre-circulated paper by DANIEL MENNING (Tübingen) examined a manuscript recipe collection, proving the presence of colonial goods and knowledge of their usage in a rural Württemberg context at the end of the 18th century. This source genre, which has received little attention so far, could offer new insights into the distribution of transnational goods. Both papers clarified how transcontinental commodity flows can be identified through the study of material culture and how previous assumptions of metropole and hinterland ought to be put into perspective. Discussants unanimously agreed that further research of this kind into other regions could clarify the still understudied role of the Holy Roman Empire and its territories within the so-called consumer or industrious revolution.

In a comparative approach, KIM SIEBENHÜNER (Jena) analysed the transfer of knowledge between India and Europe connected to the production, trade, and consumption of cotton fabrics. She emphasised that on the Indian subcontinent, expert knowledge was mainly spread orally within the family over generations, because paper was just one (perishable) medium among many. Meanwhile in Europe, a broader public profited from the knowledge about these processing methods through printed texts. Her research suggests rethinking the Eurocentric concept of knowledge production in the context of the Great Divergence debate.

The final Panel IV was devoted to religion. REBEKKA VOSS (Frankfurt am Main) presented new insights into the communicative exchange between Jewish rabbis and Christian Pietists in early 18th-century Central Germany, which has so far only been viewed from the Pietists’ side, who had their own missionary goals. In contrast, Voß highlighted Jewish agency. It can be traced in the diaries of Pietists who wrote about their Jewish correspondents’ efforts to reform Jewish religious practice, and in Jewish adaptations of Pietist hymn and prayer books. In the discussion, Voß highlighted the potential of comparing her findings to Jewish-Protestant communication in Europe and beyond.

RENATE DÜRR focused on Protestant baptisms of Muslims and so-called heathens in the Holy Roman Empire. Based on the analysis of over 40 printed baptismal sermons on “Moors” and “Turks”, her paper revealed the invention of a Lutheran ritual for this purpose, the inner-congregational function of such extraordinary baptisms as well as their great value as evidence for discourses on Islam and the regions of the baptisands’ origins on the German parish level. Dürr pointed out the important role such sermons played in the transfer of knowledge about Islam and Africa beyond urban and learned elites.

Three statements kicked off the final discussion. TIM NEU (Wien) insisted on the necessity to use various options in global history, as most papers shared a “globality by circulation” approach. He called for attention to scale-making as part of globalising practices and to hidden global connections such as money flows. EWALD FRIE (Tübingen) reminded participants to reflect on the criteria applied to characterise a place as more (or less) global than others, and proposed a change of perspective, casting the inhabitants of the Empire as “indigenous people” in their own right. In his view, the issue of historical change ought to be considered more prominently, such as which of the differences produced in global encounters turned out to be crucial, or what the consumption of global goods in the hinterland and the latter’s society with slaves meant for the transition to industrialisation. CHRISTINA BRAUNER emphasized that there was no pre-global time in the Holy Roman Empire. She argued that a sophisticated assessment of globality requires relational thinking and the integration of emic and etic perspectives. It also needs to take into account disconnections, absences, and practices of silencing.

The plenary then also discussed issues such as why the early modern German participation in global processes fell into oblivion, and how regional and local approaches to global connectivity of the Holy Roman Empire could contribute not only to transcending national narratives but also to questioning the status of the north western European powers as gold standard of globalisation. Furthermore, discussants saw the need for more comparative approaches to transregional connectivity and their historiographies both within Europe and globally. Comparing the Holy Roman Empire and West Africa, for instance, would reveal a craze for textiles in both areas, and a striking contrast of historiographical approaches: Just as the history of the Old Reich, so the argument went, is still largely analysed with a focus on internal processes, that of West Africa has long been explained mainly with reference to outside influences. In both cases, approaches are changing now. Finally, participants agreed that studying encounters of the global in early modern Germany can and ought to contribute to further provincialise Europe and question persistent centrisms both within European and global history.

Conference overview:

Christina Brauner / Renate Dürr (Tübingen): Introduction

Panel I: Globalizing Practices: Collecting, Translating, Encountering

Chair: Philip Hahn (Tübingen)

Ulinka Rublack (Cambridge): Hainhofer’s Global Worlds

Jutta Wimmler (Bonn): Translating African Slavery: European Travel Accounts for German Audiences (pre-circulated paper), introduction: Eve Rosenhaft (Liverpool)

Richard Calis (Cambridge): Greek Orthodox Christians in the Holy Roman Empire

Felicia Gottmann (Newcastle): Prussia’s East India Companies: A Microcosm of European Expansion

Panel II: Embodying Differences and the Diversity of Global Lives

Chair: Simon Siemianowski (Tübingen)

Rebekka von Mallinckrodt (Bremen): Slavery in the Holy Roman Empire

Sigrid Köhler (Tübingen): Germany’s Share of the Global World: Enslavement and Abolition as Topics in German Popular Literature and Journal Reporting (1770-1790) (pre-circulated paper), introduction: Antje Flüchter (Bielefeld)

Tobias Graf (Berlin): “Poor Persecuted and Beleaguered ... Christians in Syria and Palestine”: Encounters with Christian Alms-Collectors from the Middle East in 18th-Century Germany

Suzie Hermán (Princeton): Hansards as “Global Players”? Reflections on the Hanse, Art, and Architecture in the Early Modern Period (c. 1550-1650) (pre-circulated paper), introduction: Alexander Bevilacqua (Williamstown)

Panel III: Hometowns? Peripheral Spaces of Trade and Appropriation

Chair: Anne Sophie Overkamp (Tübingen)

Jelle van Lottum / Lodewijk Petram (Amsterdam): VOCation: Migrants, Careers and the Dutch East India Company

Francisca Hoyer (Uppsala): Reframing the History of the German “Ostindienfahrer”: Potentials and Limitations of Cross-referencing Archives (pre-circulated paper), introduction: Fabian Fechner (Hagen)

Klaus Weber (Frankfurt/Oder): Heavy Metal and Flimsy Linen: German-Made Products on Markets of the Atlantic World (15th-19th C.)

Christine Fertig / Henning Bovenkerk (Münster): Sweet Coffee and Pretty Fabrics: Global Goods in Rural Households (Northwestern Germany, 17th/18th Centuries) (pre-circulated paper), introduction: Roberto Zaugg (Zürich)

Daniel Menning (Tübingen): Global Food in Southwestern Germany, 1650-1800 (pre-circulated paper), introduction: Hannah Murphy (Cambridge)

Kim Siebenhüner (Jena): Cultures of Paper. Why Europe Merchandised Knowledge and India did not

Panel IV: The Location of Religion: Between Universalism and Appropriation

Chair: Simon Siemianowski (Tübingen)

Rebekka Voß (Frankfurt am Main): Jewish-Pietist Networks: The Pietist Mission to the Jews and Local Mechanisms of Cultural Transfer in 18th-Century Germany

Renate Dürr (Tübingen): Bringing the World to Early Modern Germany: Lutheran Baptisms of Slaves and Muslims

Forum: The Global and the Local – New Narratives and the Politics of Perspective

Chair: Philip Hahn / Anne Sophie Overkamp (Tübingen)

Discussants: Tim Neu (Wien), Ewald Frie (Tübingen), Christina Brauner (Tübingen)