„Rethinking Early Modern Europe in a Global Perspective“
11. Conference of the Working Group on the Early Modern Period in the Association of German Historians
From 17th to 19th September 2015 Heidelberg University will be host to the 11th conference of the working group on the early modern period in the Association of German Historians (Verband der Historiker und Historikerinnen Deutschlands). The conference entitled „Globale Verflechtungen – Europa neu denken“ („Rethinking Early Modern Europe in a Global Perspective“) is organized by the Chair for the Early Modern Period of the Department of History in cooperation with the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”.
Europe has consistently been both a subject to and a concept of negotiation processes. However, certain readings predominate in historiography. On the one hand, historical research still often conceptualizes Europe from national perspectives, while on the other hand Europe is regarded as a space of enlightened, but also contested debate and culture, which has brought forth the achievements of a certain modernity.
An essential factor constituting this modernity has been and continues to be the European attempt to structure and periodize it’s past, condensing, naturalizing, and transferring its norms as allegedly universal values – with ongoing geopolitical repercussions. The resulting implicit assumptions about time and history require more thorough historicisation and academic debate, both within Europe and engaging with non-European patterns of periodisation. It is a key aim of the conference to question existing European self-perceptions and narratives, opening them up for debate. Which different interpretations are possible? Which aspects need to be considered, when regarding Europe from a global perspective? Did Europe exist as an idea or a vision, as an identity, as a (geographical, legal, economic,
cultural or religious) sphere? What kind of networks and relationships existed within and beyond these European spheres? How was Europe regarded from an external perspective or constructed by Europeans? How important were the drawings of boundaries? Was there a contemporary concept of peripheries or do these only appear as ex post constructions? Can moments be fixed, in which the notion of Europe was transformed?
Following from all these questions, methodological reflections need to be made. Can approaches to research like, for instance, entangled history, world history, or global history be considered fruitful? Which additional benefit can concepts like „transculturality“ or „third spaces” provide for the research on the early modern period? What are their limits?
The conference would like to present a wide view over current fields of research and question existing narratives. At the same time, the conference wishes to ask for a possible synthesis. Do we need a new master narrative for “Europe in the Early Modern Period”?