Global Dimensions of European History: 3rd Cambridge-Tuebingen Workshop

DAAD, Cambridge University, Seminar für Neuere Geschichte, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
26.09.2016 - 27.09.2016
Laura Dierksmeier, Research Group 1662: “Religious Knowledge in Premodern Europe (800–1800),” Universität Tübingen

Medievalists, Early Modernists, Church Historians, Ottomanists and Early Americanists gathered in Tuebingen for the third annual Cambridge-Tuebingen workshop to discuss global dimensions of European history. RENATE DÜRR (Tübingen) opened the workshop with a discussion on the potential global dimensions of early modern history. Knowledge transfer, materiality of religious objects, global trade, entangled histories, comparative perspectives, and “global micro history” were considered against the backdrop of current historiography. With the example of the Lutheran reformation, Dürr demonstrated how sources previously considered ‘provincial’ could be alternatively interpreted with a view to their global dimensions, such as by considering the importance of foreign language translations and the global self-awareness of local actors. ULINKA RUBLACK (Cambridge) complimented the introduction, referencing forthcoming scholarship on the reformation, ‘global catholicisms,’ and questions of entanglement.

Panel 1 dealt with “Ethnography, Cartography and the Transfer of Knowledge”. KATY BOND (Cambridge) studied the Habsburg Empire through the images of the largely overlooked 1548-1549 costume book by Christoph von Sternsee. This visual catalogue covers topics spanning from the clothing of enslaved Anabaptists to corn harvesters in Castile. This text not only records dressing habits, but also subjects as varied as the ships of Charles V’s armada, northern African flora and fauna, and heraldry. Costume books were interpreted by Bond as displays of worldly power to show off to advisors, diplomats, court attendees, foreign visitors, and to keep as a memory for years to come. Bond demonstrated the interconnectedness of Charles V’s Habsburg Empire, and the value of micro history in obtaining global perspectives on cross-cultural encounters.

For the Latin American context, IRINA PAWLOWSKY (Tübingen) examined how missionary activities influenced the production of cartographic knowledge in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Pawlowsky presented maps of Jesuit Samuel Fritz as her example, depicting the Maynas mission (1638-1767) in the upper Amazon basin (current-day Peru and Ecuador) to argue that Jesuit cartography relied on a larger variety of sources than has formerly been acknowledged and that maps were used as propaganda for the political force of missionaries. Jesuit geographical training, contact with indigenous populations, as well as religious and political worldviews all influenced the production of missionary maps. The persuasive and influential power of Jesuit maps in the New World produced both highly specific and highly subjective renderings of geographic knowledge.

The masters of the Royal Navy have been understudied, especially in regard to their involvement in the production of knowledge. In her presentation, LENA MOSER (Tübingen) discussed the multifaceted ways in which masters were essential to seamanship, pilotage, navigation, ship husbandry, and hydrography. Moser demonstrated that masters contributed significantly to eighteenth-century ‘science.’ In their logs, journals, and charts, masters drew on information from empirical observations, written sources, and local actors. Results were disseminated, for example, through the publication of pamphlets, treatises, and handbooks, which were addressed, variously, to fellow navigators, the general public, or to academic audiences. In addition, masters worked as teachers and engaged in learned societies, such as the Royal Society.

FABIAN FECHNER (Hagen) clustered the research in Panel One in four groups: first, the focus on protagonist actors within the histories (e.g. Sternsee, Fritz, and masters of the Royal Navy); second, on the global framework of travel experiences which transformed knowledge; third, on the “archival turn” in which historians used a myriad of sources to piece together cultural entanglements and transfers; and fourth, the study of global contexts as an analytical approach to the never finished, and ever-changing knowledge-building processes taking place in the early modern era.

Panel 2 on “Material Cultures” was opened by ANNE MARISS (Tübingen). She examined the cultural and material history of Jesuit religious objects in colonial Mexico. With a view to the ‘material turn’ and historiography on ‘lived religion,’ Mariss posited how the dynamic negotiations of indigenous people in colonial society changed as they used objects in overlapping contexts, such as for devotion and social prestige. Mariss investigated how objects were used for self-understanding, and how those conceptions may have varied from lay people to friars to local elites. Rosaries, crosses decorated with feathers, shells, musical instruments, and vestments are among the many items which provide insight into the ‘hybrid’ religious practices in Latin America, the emotional power ascribed to objects, and the missionary use of material culture for spiritual goals.

GABRIELE ALEX (Tübingen) presented the complex process of transformation of the former Prussian palace into the modern ethnographic museum, the “Humboldt Forum.” Many have welcomed this modern museum as “Germany’s most important cultural project of the early 21st century”. But the Humboldt Forum is under harsh criticism, as is the role of ethnological museums today in general. This criticism is part of a postcolonial movement – by academics and non-academics alike – which questions the authority of museums to represents “other cultures.” By objectively clustering the disparate voices concerned with the Humboldt project, Alex engaged historians on contemporary questions of historical materiality.

MARY LAVEN (Cambridge) presented her research project on over one thousand early modern Italian ex-votos. Through these small, inexpensively produced memorials, deliberate religious-cultural memories are captured for other parishioners to admire. Laven studied which images could have entangled histories beyond their immediate spheres. From the culturally embedded miracles of St. Nicholas Tolentino to local hilly landscapes and ship wrecks off the Amalfi coast, ex-votos appear at first glance to focus on local events. Nonetheless, depictions of mamluk brass water containers for holy water, and black rosary beads made from Haitian seeds, interweave the global dimensions of local histories.

Ulinka Rublack drew connections between Panel One and Panel Two, considering the question of how people ‘make religion happen’ in their specific contexts. Rublack led a discussion on methodological and historiographical questions concerning material culture, lived religion, registers of emotion, source location, museum work, and the politics of collecting. Rublack and Dürr concluded with further research questions on the global dimensions of local histories, the reception of foreign objects, and the mapping of connected histories in the early modern era.

Panel 3 discussed “Conflict and Cohesion in Early Colonial Societies”. SARAH PEARSALL (Cambridge) presented her research on the religious and political consequences of polygamy in seventeenth-century New France and New Spain, regions of current-day USA. Pearsall described the challenging landscape of severe weather and poor sanitary conditions, where missionaries attempted to convince indigenous people to convert to Christianity. Focusing on the Jesuits, Pearsall presented several case studies on indigenous men who refused to renounce their multiple wives, a symbol of their societal power. Pearsall argued that indigenous rebellions against missionaries often took place as a violent rejection of monogamy. As a marker of gender and rank, polygamy was deeply embedded in indigenous society, making Jesuit missionary work a difficult task.

STEPHANIE MAWSON (Cambridge) examined the history of Spanish colonization in the Philippines. Mawson studied indigenous responses to Christianity and colonization, arguing against past claims of a ‘completed conquest.’ Conflicts and accounts of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy members abound, some of which led to local rebellions. Not only personal encounters but also physical landscapes were altered by missionaries and Spanish colonizers who artificially clustered residents into cities, towns, and missions. These newly created distinctions changed the agricultural prospects, economic sustainability, and formerly worshiped spiritual regions of the Philippines. By bringing to light the intricacies of missionary-indigenous conflicts, Mawson captured the tensions inherent in the conversion process.

Panel 4 on “Relations to the Ottoman Empire” began with THEODOR DUNKELGRÜN’s (Cambridge) presentation. Alongside visual exemplars of the Constantinople 1546 polyglot Bible, he demonstrated intertwined local histories of that Bible's production, translation, printing, revision, reception, and circulation throughout the early modern Mediterranean. Through additional archival sources, interconnections between Venice, Constantinople, Antwerp, Leiden, Paris, and Oxford become apparent. With text in Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, and Persian, the polyglot Bible also served as the basis for the first Persian grammar book (by Louis de Dieu) and the first Arabic dictionary (Lexicon arabicum, Leiden 1613) to come into print. Dunkelgrün positioned the polyglot Pentateuch as a Rosetta Stone for the Mediterranean Republic of Letters in the early modern world.

Presenting his forthcoming Ph.D project, YAHYA NURGAT (Cambridge) provided insight into the multiple layers of significance of the Hajj pilgrimage to Muslims in the early modern Ottoman Empire. Whether it be as a test of faith or symbol of religiosity, every Muslim’s duty to travel to Mecca (for those physically and economically able) was both a communal and individual experience. Communally, all were dressed in two pieces of white cloth, with the same point of destination, in the name of the same faith. But, individually, the travel experiences and motivations varied widely based on rank, gender, ethnicity, and financial means. Through analysis of travel logs, pilgrim guides, chronicles, wills, gift registers, and visual sources, Nurgat presented new research on Muslim experiences on the Hajj pilgrimage.

Created in the 1570s in Istanbul, the Habsburg album interpreted by STEFAN HANSS (Cambridge) depicts a contemporary cultural history of the Ottoman Empire. This visual artifact provides one of the earliest representations of ancient architectural sites, some of which no longer stand today. Hanß interprets the many complex images by studying supplementary archival material, thereby interweaving local histories to present an entangled history of visual and material culture. With reference to corresponding texts, such as a Habsburg costume album and Ottoman manuscripts, Hanß demonstrated ways in which the Habsburg album borrowed from and served as a basis for other sixteenth-century sources. Conclusions were likewise drawn on Ottoman material cultural, knowledge production, and the Habsburg album as a cross-cultural object in motion.

HELEN PFEIFER (Cambridge) summarized common threads from Panel Three and Panel Four, highlighting global histories of religious practice (e.g. Yahya Nurgat; Stefan Hanß), missionary interactions with local residents (e.g. Sarah Pearsall; Stephanie Mawson), and the complexity of analyzing early modern objects in circulation (e.g. Theodor Dunkelgrün). Referencing Frederick Cooper’s article “What is the Concept of Globalization Good for?” in African Affairs (2001), Pfeifer referred to the “lumpiness of globalizing processes” seen throughout the speeches. Pfeifer observed that global history was presented as a forum where concepts could be honed and exchanged, rather than as a concatenation of appropriations from the European experience.

Led by Renate Dürr, the workshop participants discussed the question: “what constitutes global micro history?” In this context, phases and definitions of globalization were also deliberated. Dürr next reflected on the intensified connections of travel, trade, and pilgrimages throughout the early modern era. Logistical, commercial, and religious dimensions of global history were analyzed before the backdrop of the European Republic of Letters, the Habsburg Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and across international waterways. Looking at these different networks, questions arose as to how to define culture, to which extent religion was a part of daily life, and which globalizing processes also presented blockages, in addition to new forms of collaboration.

Conference Overview:

Renate Dürr (Tübingen) and Ulinka Rublack (Cambridge), Introduction

Panel 1: Ethnography, Cartography and the Transfer of Knowledge

Katy Bond (Cambridge), Mapping Customs and Culture in the Habsburg Empire: The Personal Costume Album of Christoph von Sternsee, Charles V’s Captain of the Guard (c. 1548-9)
Irina Pawlowsky (Tübingen), Jesuit Geographic Knowledge and the Construction of the Amazon: Cartography Between Empirical Knowledge, Missionary World Views and Political Claims
Lena Moser (Tübingen), ‘For the unreasonable, I care not a fig for them:’ The Masters of the Royal Navy and the Production and Transfer of Hydrographic Knowledge
Fabian Fechner (Hagen), Commentary

Panel 2: Material Cultures

Anne Mariss (Tübingen), “Por los ojos entre a los indios la fee:” Jesuit Pious Practices in Mexico
Gabriele Alex(Tübingen), Shifting Meanings and Contested Ownership – The Role of Ethnographic Artifacts in the Museum and the Collections of the Humboldt Forum
Mary Laven (Cambridge), Madonnas and Miracles: Between the Micro and the Global
Ulinka Rublack, Commentary

Panel 3: Conflict and Cohesion in Early Colonial Societies

Sarah Pearsall (Cambridge), Missionaries, Marriage, and the Global in North America
Stephanie Mawson (Cambridge), Conflict and Conversion in the Seventeenth Century Philippines

Panel 4: Relations to the Ottoman Empire

Theodor Dunkelgrün (Cambridge), The Pentateuch’s Early Modern Mediterranean
Yahya Nurgat (Cambridge), The Ottoman Hajj: Space, Ritual and Religious Experience
Stefan Hanß (Cambridge), Tübingen – Istanbul – Cambridge: Habsburg-Ottoman Imagery in the Making, 1574/75
Helen Pfeifer (Cambridge), Commentary

General Discussion
Chaired by Renate Dürr

Tagungsbericht: Global Dimensions of European History: 3rd Cambridge-Tuebingen Workshop, 26.09.2016 – 27.09.2016 Tübingen, in: H-Soz-Kult, 24.11.2016, <>.