Review: “Classer et nommer les savoirs d’État (1750-1850)”

Workshop organized by the French-German research group “Euroscientia” in Strasbourg, 27-28 November 2013

Over the last years, European history has fruitfully been challenged by historians who analyzed historical formations of science and knowledge in their broader social contexts. A workshop organized in Strasbourg at the end of November 2013 took up these strands and called for an investigation of the classification and categorization of savoir d’État or knowledge relevant for the state. The organizers Isabelle Laboulais and Petra Overath applied the concept to frame the various practical and disciplinary knowledge traditions that developed in the 18th and 19th century to support issues of states and administrations. The participating historians were invited to take a transnational perspective and investigate the entanglements as well as the differences of European areas concerning categorizations and classifications of savoir d’État.

Most of the presentations of the workshop focused on the formation of scientific disciplines of state relevant knowledge. Virginie Martin for instance analyzed the development of a diplomatic science in France during the French Revolution. Pierre-Yves Lacour and Peter Jones held presentations on differentiations in the field of agricultural knowledge around 1800. Similarly, other talks by Hjalmar Fors on the role of mining expertise in 17th century Sweden or by Frédéric Audren on the self-perception of French law as a social science focused on the creation of disciplines. Furthermore, participants described the public classification of savoir d’État in books or journals. Anna Karla’s account on the influence of historical knowledge on the French state during the restoration or Marie-Cécile Thoral’s analysis of the discourses on the applicability of books for the French military were interesting examples. Three contributions took a perspective from within state administrations. Eric Szulman analyzed the knowledge of canal construction in the French administration of inland navigation. André Holenstein focused on the usage of inquiries in the Helvetian Republic in the late 1790s as a tool for the process of state-building. Peter Becker, finally, investigated the 1912 inquiry of the Habsburg state that was supposed to shed light on communication problems between the administration and the Habsburg citizens.

The workshop highlighted classification and ordering processes of savoir d’État in various European states and territories in an interesting way. Yet, the transnational flows and circulations of such knowledge remained underrepresented. Nonetheless, the workshop proved the utility of a concept of savoir d’État that was not limited to scientific disciplines, but embraced also the rather practical spheres of knowledge that were relevant for states. For those who are interested in more detailed comments on the workshop I would like to refer to a larger version of the conference report written by Manuel Manhard and me. French and German versions.

Alexander van Wickeren

Startstipendien / Starter scholarships / Bourses de début de thèse Basel Graduate School of History

The Basel Graduate School of History (BGSH) is offering four 1-year starter scholarships, each worth CHF 25’000 (approx. EUR 20’000, in two tranches with evaluation). Their purpose is to support graduates during the starting phase of their doctorate while the scholars are developing their research project and submitting it to the Swiss National Science Foundation, or other funding institution.

A high level of motivation is expected, with the ability to carry out a research project independently over the course of several years as an active member of the Basel Graduate School of History, and to contribute to academic debates both within and outside the Department of History. The scholarships are intended for graduates who hold a Master’s degree or a Licentiate in History, and who are interested in carrying out research within the fields of study represented at the Department of History. In this application round particular welcome will be given to dissertation proposals focusing on medieval and early modern history and on European history from a transnational perspective, as well as on projects interfacing with the topic of cultural topography.

The start date of the scholarship is the 1st of October 2014.
Deadline for applications: 7 April 2014 (12:00 p.m. – Central European Time).
Please use this link to submit your application.
In addition, please supply the following documents electronically to the coordinator at the Basel Graduate School of History, Dr. Roberto Sala:
1)    Covering letter
2)    CV (including a list of publications, where applicable)
3)    Outline of the dissertation project (max. 3 pages) or, if the exact topic has not yet been established, a motivation letter declaring your intention to develop such a topic within a particular research field (max. 2 pages)
4)    Degree certificate
5)    1-2 text samples (incl. at least 1 academic thesis)
Please submit the documents in two separate pdf files: Documents 1 to 4: one single file with the title >[surname]-bew.pdf<
; Text samples: one single file with the title >[surname]-texte.pdf<
Applications can be submitted in German, French, or English.

Applications of GRAINES members are welcome!

For further information, please contact Dr. Roberto Sala.

GRAINES Summer School 2014: applications welcome!

After the first edition on the French Riviera in 2013, the second Summer School of the GRAINES network will take place in Vienna from 10 – 14 June 2014. This year’s theme will be “The European City in Transformation: from the Early Modern Period to the Present”.

A Call for Papers has been issued, and applications are welcome until 15 March 2014. Please send a project proposal (max 1,000 words) and a one-page CV to Markian Prokopovych.

Download the Call for Papers

In 2015 we hope to host a joint GRAINES – FUTH (Flying University of Transnational Humanities) at St Andrews.

The Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po welcomes Ousmane Seydi

The Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po (Paris) is glad to welcome Ousmane Seydi as visiting PhD scholar. Mr. Seydi has obtained a Master’s degree at the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, where he has worked on the negotial definition of the colonial border between Senegal and Gambia (late 19th – early 20th c.) under the supervision of Prof. Ibrahima Thioub. Thanks to a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship for Foreign Scholars he has recently joined the University of Basel. There he is now doing a PhD thesis, under the supervision of Prof. Patrick Harries, on the production and circulation of knowledge in the context of the Compagnie du Sénégal, focussing specifically on the French botanist Michel Adanson and his Senegal expedition (1748-1754). He will be staying in Paris for two months (January-February), working in different archives and libraries and taking part in the academic activities of the Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po.


GRAINES joins St Andrews Centre for Transnational History on Away Day in the Highlands


A part of the group as summiteers high above Loch Tay


In late January, members of the GRAINES network joined the St Andrews Centre for Transnational History and the Heirs to the Throne research project for an Away Day in the Scottish Highlands.



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The Beauty of Loch Tay

In addition to the three reading groups and discussions on Transnational History, the guests from St Andrews (Jordan Girardin, Tomek Kamusella, Bernhard Struck), Basel (Davina Benkert, Anja Rathmann-Lutz), Cologne (Alexander von Wickeren) and Vienna (Johannes Kontny, Markian Prokopovych) were able to experience Scottish lifestyle while running along Loch Tay, hiking in the Highlands, or visiting a whisky distillery in Aberfeldy.

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The GRAINES Haggis Feast

Dr Struck did not only take the lead in one of the reading groups, but also personally introduced the guests to the art of whisky tasting. Apart from the lively and broad discussions on topics such as Global History or Mapping and Space, the Away Day was an excellent opportunity to discuss the upcoming GRAINES summer school in Vienna and further activities to foster the GRAINES network. The call for papers for the Summer School on Urban History in Vienna (10-14 June 2014) will be released shortly.

Spending time in Vienna

One of the key ideas behind GRAINES is that it allows us to put European and transnational history into practice with a flexible and informal way of exchanges of both staff and students between the partner institutions. Martin Schaller one of the current PhD students based at St Andrews will be spending part of his project time in Vienna. We are grateful that Markian Prokopovych and Philipp Ther have agreed to informally supervise Martin during his time in Vienna.

In order to facilitate exchanges between the partner institutions and in order to help financially, Erasmus agreements between St Andrews and Vienna, as well as between St Andrews and Basel will be set up soon.

Call for Papers: Mapping and Visualising Transnational (Hi)Stories. Connecting History, Space and Digital Tools

Transnational history has been broadly defined as being interested in connections across borders as well as in flows of goods, people, ideas across, through and above nations. As a perspective or way of seeing transnational history has been characterised as being primarily concerned with people as actors that create webs of connections as well as circulations, honeycombs and nodes of interaction across borders.

St Andrews’ Centre for Transnational History, in collaboration with GRAINES, is organising a three-day conference/workshop on the next two themes:

- How to marry transnational and spatial history
- Learning transnational tools and increasing digital skills to serve transnational history

When? 8-10 June 2014
Where? School of History, St Andrews, UK
Convenors: Dr Bernhard Struck, Dr Konrad Lawson

A call for papers and workshops is now open. Proposals (max. 250 words) can be submitted to Dr Bernhard Struck ( by 10 January 2014.

Download Call for Papers