On behalf of all participants, we would like to thank the Science Po team around Jakob Vogel and Thomas Gauchet for organising and hosting our 5th Graines Summer School at the beautiful Sciences Po campus at Reims, 6th to 8th June 2018.
Our summer school on “Global Europe. Connecting European History (17th to 21th Century) brought together some 30 scholars – staff, Master students, PhDs, postdocs – from Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, USA, Turkey, Germany, France, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Italy, the UK, and Switzerland.
For 2.5 days we discussed themes, topics, and readings ranging from colonial encounters in 18th-century Calcutta, to versions of maritime history, early modern European missions and visions of Latin America, to “Eurafrica” and colonial as well as transnational connections to migration history and the globally connected village. Formats ranged from keynotes to reading groups, 5-mins speed-presentations by our PhDs to a sprint-pair-writing session on aspects that had arisen from discussions. The programme can be found here: GRAINES 2018 Programme Summer School.
Following two intense and packed days of keynotes, presentations and project discussions, students were asked to team up in pairs and pick any point of discussion or feedback and co-write for 2×25 mins as a team. The challenge was a multiple one: it was later in the evening, co-writing (with very limited time) is normally not what we do as historians, and English was not the native language for most participants. Yet the reflections were highly inspiring. Here are some tasters:
Celtic Revivalist Movements: From Comparative approaches to Interconnected Methodologies (Martina)
My PhD project seemed well defined before arriving to GRAINES summer school. My intention was to extract differences and similarities between Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Breton revivalist groups participating in Pan-Celtic Congress, and their approach and reasoning about Celtic Identity as label or tool, within the context of their goals. It should have been “classical” comparison, studying each of the groups more or less separately. However, discussions and the whole topic of the venue (Global and Transnational Historical Approaches) made me think not only about the interconnections between these groups, individual actors, but also external influences. I’ve realized that by applying this perspective I will be more likely able to formulate the aspects that influence the social group representation, and to see through the motivations of each of these groups or individuals. Microhistorical and transnational approach in combination with comparison could be a good starting point.
Neither Really Global nor Imperial? – How to Conceptualise Connectivity over Countries, Empires, Continents and Oceans (Tom & Merle)
Global and Imperial History, increasingly seen as overlapping, have been hotly discussed in recent years and its popularity among historians only seems to be growing. As a consequence, more and more attempts are coming up to specify the exact workings of such global and imperial connections. One of them is the article Global History, Imperial History and Connected Histories of Empire by Simon J. Potter and Jonathan Saha. We both think this could revolutionise our understanding of such connections. We will illustrate this with our respective projects.
Imperial violence in the fin de siècle period was ubiquitous and took very similar forms in many different empires, be they British, German, Dutch or otherwise.
This has had historians puzzling where this violence came from. Was it something that arose out of the specific conditions of colonial warfare that colonial troops saw themselves confronted with? For instance, most colonial wars sooner or later took the form of an asymmetric conflict. This might have led to imperial armies coming up with the same kind of solutions in different contexts. In this vein, Dierk Walter has argued that these armies had to ‘re-invent the wheel over and over again’. However, there were also many different forms in which knowledge on specific techniques of colonial violence was passed on. These forms included accounts of colonial wars, specific handbooks for prospective colonial soldiers, but also a mouth-to-mouth conveyance wherein soldiers with colonial experience, either on the spot in the colony, or within certain regiments, could teach persons new to colonial warfare about its specifics.
This transmission was a very transnational complex. Writers on colonial warfare were very interested in learning from the experiences of other colonial powers. When colonial soldiers read these books, they adopted its knowledge and then conveyed it to new contexts. Transfers were thus everywhere. But how to conceptualise those? The field of global or transnational history seems to offer itself here. But both always left me somehow unsatisfied. Global history implies a scale that these transfers did not reach. Imperial powers learned from other imperial powers, not from the world as a whole. Also, knowledge was not always transmitted from nation to nation, but rather from colony to colony. This leaves us in a bit of a quandary. However, Potter and Saha’s article offers here a way out. They recognise that many transfers that historians commonly try to capture under the headers of transnational or global could be better captured under the header of a ‘connected history of empire’. That is first because such a history is more than imperial, but less than global, as they say. This recognises that exchanges did not only take place within one empire (as especially the historiography of the British Empire was prone to assume), but cross the borders of different empires.
Furthermore, it is a history grounded in specific places and certain individuals, contrary to much of Global History, which often seems to ‘float around’ above the globe. This seems especially suited for the history of learning on colonial violence I am trying to write, as this learning was very much centred on other empires (thus connecting the histories of empires!), while at the same time my case studies show how it was also rooted in specific and persons. In each context, extreme violence had different precedents and temporalities, sometimes going back decades, sometimes only a couple of years. All of these colonial wars also show specific individuals as ‘connectors’, bringing with them specific knowledge learned on other theatres. Potter and Saha’s connected history of empires therefore seems excellent to capture the complexity of learning processes on extreme violence in the different colonial contexts.
Potter and Saha’s article on might not be the most obvious choice for my research topic, which deals with the history of knowledge exchange about homosexuality and associated treatment methods between German-speaking regions in Central Europe and the United States of America between the 1930s and the late 1960s. While empires do not play a prominent role in my research, the transnational circulation of ideas, people, and objects does, which may explain why I am nevertheless interested in the methodological approaches presented in the article. My project might be “less than global”, but it is definitely working on a scale that goes beyond traditional national narratives. Fortunately, the article is not just about empires but also includes a general appeal to rethink units of analysis . As the expertise on homosexuality shifts during my selected period of investigation from Central Europe (regional hubs: Berlin and Vienna) to the big cities on the East Coast of the United States, and California (to a lesser extent), I believe it would make sense to build on the existing national historiographies on homosexuality and write a connected, transnational history on this matter.
One way to connect national histories on homosexuality is by putting a spotlight on transnational organizations and publications that connected different groups of local actors on an international level. Two of the main groups interested in exchanging expertise on and experience with homosexuality internationally at the time were medical experts and other practitioners of ‘conversion’ therapies on the one hand, as well as early homosexual rights activist groups. For both groups international meetings, congresses, workshops, journals, newsletters, etc. existed and facilitated exchange, which will provide me with a rich body of very diverse source material for my research. As I am still in a very early stage of my research, the Potter and Ahmed text has encouraged me to look further into methodological approaches going in the same direction, as I believe they may present an interesting perspective to make sense of many of my archival findings.
Even if we have very different time periods, research topics, and geographical areas, it is surprising how fruitful Potter and Saha’s article has proven in challenging and modifying the way we have come to conceptualise our notions of a connectivity reaching over different countries, empires or continents and oceans.
Give up Finland, Hello Atlantic ! The redefinition of Swedish position in the North and Atlantic space (1808-1813) (Thomas)
In the traditional historiography of infrastructures, scales are seldom mobilized to show that the decision and the possibility of building structures (a canal, for example) need sometimes to be explained by putting them into a broader context. It is the also case when looking at the consequences of the building of these infrastructures, which can have an impact on a greater space than the spaces directly crossed or linked by this canal. To better illustrate, let us take a look at the Gota canal, built in Sweden between 1808 and 1832. Between 1800 and 1813, the whole Europe is divided by the Napoleonic wars. New alliances and war in this broader context has consequences on the regional level.
In 1807, the alliance between France and Russia is signed at Tilsit. Sweden, Russia’s traditional foe, is the main target of the Russian expansionism. In order to annex Finland, then part of the Swedish realm, Russia launches an invasion on Sweden. This small war constitutes a big shift in the Nordic region. Looking at the regional context, Sweden loses Finland and its predominance on the Baltic space, leaving the new dominant role to Russia. At a national scale, the domination of the merchant elites of Stockholm both economically and politically is questioned. With the loss of Finland, the Stockholm merchants lose their main source of pitch, tar and timber, essential to the iron industry. Their destitution in economic terms links to their destitution in political terms. But in the town of Gothenburg, on the West coast of Sweden, a new rising class of industrialists and merchants who just managed to take part in the government of the city at the end of the 18th century wishes to empower itself at the national level. Their municipal agenda becomes a national agenda, and their municipal scale becomes a national scale. To succeed, they decide to finance the project of the Gota canal. It was already in the pipes of the Swedish administration since 1807, but the war with Russia froze the project. The state is almost bankrupt, and not able to pay for the project. The Gothenburg’s merchants decide to put large amounts of money in the canal company, in order to gain political power at the national level, by taking part in a national enterprise.
But this is not the only reason for their funding. Indeed, with the implementation of the Continental system in 1806, Gothenburg becomes the loophole of the British and American trade in Europe. So the decision is not only motivated by the national agenda, but also by broader, Atlantic, situation. With the annexation of Guadalupe by Sweden in 1813, the Gothenburg merchants even consider themselves as the new masters of Atlantic, planning to make the new Swedish possession a hub of trade for all the Atlantic space. To sump up, a war generated by the European situation has an impact on a country, Sweden, and more specifically on its merchants in two cities, Stockholm and Gothenburg. The merchants of the last, interested in their local and national agenda, invest massively in a major project for their country. But to combine their interest with the national interest, they use this project as a way to boost their trade links with Northern Europe and the whole Atlantic space.
… so much for some of our reflections and PhD pair-writing.
Thank you once again to all participants, keynote speakers, and presenters. We hope to be hosting our next Graines summer school in Prague in 2019. More will follow later in the autumn.