Kochi 1514. Cross-Cultural Networks between Central Europe, South Asia and Beyond in the early Modern Period

Kochi 1514. Cross-Cultural Networks between Central Europe, South Asia and Beyond in the early Modern Period

Michael Mann, Gregor M. Metzig and Keyvan Djahangiri, Seminar für Südasien-Studien, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Invalidenstraße 118, D-10115 Berlin
From - Until
14.11.2014 - 16.11.2014
Mann, Michael

Europe’s overseas expansion in the early modern period has been recently re-interpreted as the beginning of Globalisation. Through traffic of people, goods, arts, and ideas, the global entanglement reached a new level of intensity and pace. Spanish and Portuguese crown enterprises became leading parts in a competition of worldwide commerce, influence, and empire building in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They were gradually pushed aside by the chartered trading companies of the Netherlands and England. In 1763 the end of the French and Indian War, the Seven Years' War as well as the Carnatic Wars designated with Great Britain’s outplay of France a decisive global moment with regard to the ‘Great Wars for the Empire’. Earlier the Safavid Empire had collapsed in 1722 and the Ottoman Empire’s expansion had come to an end around 1700 whereas the Mughal Empire underwent a process of massive political re-organisation from the 1720s onwards.

The first Central Europeans to come to South Asia not long after Vasco da Gama’s (1469-1524) expedition in 1498 were Germans, Swiss, and Dutch, who served as mercenaries and merchants for the Portuguese. As a concession to their numbers within his multilingual garrisons, the Portuguese governor allowed these ‘German speaking people’ to establish a separate chapel inside the St. Bartholomew Church in Kochi (Cochin) 1514, then the Portuguese stronghold at the South Asian littoral. Thus the year 1514 may be seen as the beginning of a 500 year cross-cultural network-building between Central Europeans and South Asians. What yet remains unasked is the role of the early modern Central European merchants, mercenaries and missionaries as bearer of a regional culture, custom, and commerce with regard to the transformation(s) of local societies abroad and at home.

Central European knowledge and capital became of upmost importance to the Portuguese. Consequently Antwerp in the Habsburg Netherlands was promoted the centre of their overseas goods, while influential merchants like Konrad Rot (d. 1610) or Ferdinand Cron (1554-1637) from Augsburg provided political backings and coordinated a Central and South West European trading and financing network. The Dutch merchant Jan Huygen van Linschoten (1563-1611) from Enkhuizen travelled to India, studied Asia’s markets and its trade and gathered secretly Portuguese information which he published along with his own findings. Linschoten thus quickened the foundation of the Dutch Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie in 1602 just two years after London merchants had founded the English East India Company. More than ever before, luxuries, and artefacts from South Asian producers and markets should found their way to Central European customers and courts.

Since Africa and India companies of the Brandenburg Great Elector in the seventeenth century and of the Austrian Emperor in Oostende came to naught within decades, no consciousness exists with regard to ‘national enterprises’ in Germany, Belgium, Austria and beyond. So far academic research has analysed different types of encounter and (inter-)dependence between Europeans and Asians according to national (Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch, to a lesser extent French and Danish) categories as well as those of traditional mediators at the intersections between Europe and Asia, viz. Venetians, Armenians, and Ottomans whilst the role of Central Europeans in particular has been left disregarded. And the Fuggers and Welsers are mostly remembered as early modern trading houses, their immensely rich, financing kings and emperors whilst their transcontinental connections are seldom referred to and if so, only within the old-established narrative of European expansion into the Atlantic.

How, one may ask in the first place, did early modern trade effect peoples’ fashion and lifestyle both in Europe and Asia? Did the everyday life of ordinary Europeans alter by imports of spices, cotton, silk and dyes like Indigo? As people, goods, arts, and ideas were transferred, in what proportions were they intermingled? Knowledge was produced and copied, reproduced and circulated within early modern networks. Who advanced these exchange processes and by what measures? How exactly did collaboration, cooperation, exchange take place?

In order to bring together and to promote emerging research approaches, the ‘Kochi 1514’ International Conference will examine and discuss these questions in the following panels:
A. Mercenaries, Missionaries and Travellers
B. Merchants, Goods and Companies
C. Art, Artefacts and Science

The Conference is scheduled for November 14-16, 2014. The presentation language is English. As you are cordially invited to submit an abstract (max. 300-500 words) and a brief CV, please be aware of the deadline on February 15, 2014. Responses will occur until March 15, 2014. The coverage of travel and accommodation expenses will be arranged.

For contact and submission via email please use: kochi1514@gmail.com.


Contact (announcement)

Prof. Dr. Michael Mann,
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,
Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften,
Seminar für Südasien-Studien,
Unter den Linden 6,
D-10099 Berlin

eMail: michael.mann@asa.hu-berlin.de

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