Prof. Dr. Madeleine Herren-Oesch

Ongoing Projects
Completed Projects

Department of modern History

Research Projects




A3: Networking the International System
Research project within the Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context

Coordinator: Madeleine Herren-Oesch

Members: Tomoko Akami, Cornelia Knab, Maya Okuda, Takashi Saikawa, Christiane Sibille, Sacha Zala und Lisa-Marie Zoller

The research project "Networking the International System" aims at providing a systematic overview on international organisations in the first half of the twentieth century with a special focus on Asian participation. International organisations are discussed as translators of institutional concepts and ideas for a commonly accepted, but always controversial global ‘language’. The project intends to stimulate a debate on the importance of international organisations and their networking for transcultural bargaining processes and, at the same time, to contribute to scholarly self-reflection on existing master narratives in international history. Research is centred on the League of Nations and its affiliated organisations and associations. The collections and publications of these international organisations, therefore, provide most of the project’s source material.

A database (LONSEA: League of Nations Search Engine), developed in cooperation with global historians and database specialists, will collect detailed information about the international organisations of the interwar period and beyond, in oder to uncover underlying institutional activities and personal networks. Several case studies are designed in close connection to the League of Nations system; PhD projects complement each other to a survey on different forms of global interaction.




A10: Lives Beyond Borders: Toward a Social History of Cosmopolitans and Globalization, 1880-1960
Research project within the Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context

Coordinators: Ines Prodöhl & Madeleine Herren-Oesch

Behind all self-explanatory literature and source material published by busy internationalists between the 1870s and World War II, global history has missed to analyse the border crossing community as a category of a global social history. We have hardly ideas on the conditions people needed to grasp the opportunity of a border crossing life, how they managed the coincidence of nationalism and social identity on one side and the increasing presence of the world by border crossing medias. A workshop at the German Historical Institute in Washington on February 12/13, 2009 has brought together scholars specialised in different types of internationalists and cosmopolitans and prepared the intellectual framework for a book projects. Cluster and GHI shared the costs. (Link zum Konferenzbericht:




C6: Transnational Networks
Research project within the Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context
Pilot Project: Historical Perspectives on Transnational Networks in Environment, Agriculture, Food and Health

Coordinator: Amalia Ribi
Members: Madeleine Herren-Oesch, Cornelia Knab

The project is a cooperation between the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context" (Heidelberg University) and the Modern European History Research Centre (University of Oxford). The central focus is on the examination of border-transgressing networks, risks, and conflicts in the environmental-agrarian sector between the 1880s and the 1960s. In the context of increasingly globalised food chains and worldwide agricultural and industrial modernisation, environmental, agricultural and health questions became closely interlinked and, due to their transboundary character, could no longer be efficiently tackled within national boundaries.
The project centres on how risks and conflict potentials challenged the international system and were dealt with on the basis of formal organisations and informal networks. Transnational bargaining processes somehow had to find a balance between Western and non-Western concepts, practical strategies, scientific debates and problematic power relations, thereby changing the ways in which the “mechanics of internationalism” had hitherto dealt with globally relevant problems. The project's special attention is paid to questions of food policy and safety, the border crossing of diseases, problems of regulating agricultural labour and the related economic consequences. The project wants to offer a multi-faceted assessment of the collaboration mainly between European and Asian actors, thereby challenging conventional presentations of transnational cooperation as either a consistently progressive force or one that was shaped solely by Western hegemony. A workshop hosted by the Modern European History Research Centre was held on June 6, 2009 in Oxford as the starting point of the project. Link auf Konferenzbericht:



C13: Environmental activism
Research project within the Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context

Coordinator: Madeleine Herren-Oesch
Member: Somnath Batabyal

This project presupposes that communication networks and new media forms and technologies are fundamentally altering environmental politics. Multiple actors, both state and non-state network and communicate, negotiate and alter this political terrain through myriad means. This research attempts an inventory of the major actors involved in the environmental discourse and the means, modes and flows of knowledge, of finance, of cooperation and of resistance between them. By situating the self in an NGO in India and a quasi-governmental donor agency in Sweden, the research draws on everyday practices of the actors and those around them to understand global environmental activism, its discourse and its politics. The project pays particular attention to media, both traditional and “new”. It seeks to analyse how media is deployed by the various actors for information dissemination, used for activism and for lobbying and the relationship of these with “what makes news”, that is, the news determinants of environmental politics.



D11: Hidden Grammars of Transculturality – Migrations of Encyclopaedic Knowledge and Power
Research project within the Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context

Coordinator: Madeleine Herren-Oesch & Barbara Mittler
Members: Kaja Müller-Wang, Bindu Bhadana

Encyclopaedia are tools of knowledge administration. While they appear as stable forms reflecting a univalent canon, they may become catalysts of change not just in translation. Idealized self-description calls them ―universal and all-encompassing,‖ but they are knowledge containers constrained by the particular cultural and historical circumstances of their own creation. Probing into questions of readership, production processes and visions of self and other, by studying elements crucial in showing cultural and power asymmetries such as gender, illustrations and biographical writing and their role in travelling and stationary encyclopedia in Europe and Asia, we hope to be able to reconstruct the peculiar «mentalités» which made possible the creation and favourable reception of some encyclopaedia but not others. In analysing encyclopaedia as global source material, and in beginning a dialogue between scholars working on different “national encyclopedia”, helped and supported by the construction of a database which will probe into the histories of a number of key terms related to our research questions, we are hoping in D5/D11 to re-instate encyclopedia not as mere products of book history but as important social agents in the making of historicities between Asia and Europe.
The project takes different approaches to achieve this end:
1. By discussing the characteristics of the genre, we have come to the preliminary conclusion that encyclopaedias are understood as a way of handling and presenting knowledge. The texts discussing this are to be found on this page.
2. By providing bibliographic descriptions of books considered general or specialized encyclopaedias in a given culture.




Jüdischer Friedhof in Harbin (China)
Laufzeit 2008-2011
Koordination: Madeleine Herren-Oesch
Mitglieder in Deutschland: Manja Altenburg, Cornelia Knab, Dr. Ines Prodöhl, Denis Ivashov, Kochavi Givoni
Mitglieder in China: Dan Ben-Canaan, Wang Rui, Qiao Lulu, He Yiqiu, He Jia
Mitglieder in Israel: Dr. Irena Vladimirsky


Das Projekt wurde als Start Up Projekt für mögliche weiterführende Forschungsarbeiten durch Drittmittel einer jüdisch europäischen Stiftung, die aufgrund wohltätiger Grundsätze nicht genannt werden möchte, gefördert.
Der Friedhof wurde 1903 von der dortigen jüdischen Gemeinde, die bis 1960 bestand, angelegt und wegen notwendiger Erweiterungen 1920 verlegt. Auf Ansinnen der chinesischen Regierung fand  1958 abermals eine Verlegung statt. An diesem Ort befinden sich heute noch 480 Grabsteine, von den ehemals 3000 Gräbern. Er bildet die Forschungsgrundlage.
Das Start-Up Projekt umfasst die Inventarisierung und Erforschung des jüdischen Friedhofes in Harbin, China. Eine Datenbank mit Abbildungen und Transkriptionen der Grabinschriften von den 480  Steinen wurde hierfür eingerichtet. Siehe: Ein Forschungsaufenthalt diente der Aufnahme der Steine sowie Archivbesuchen. Dadurch erhältliche Informationen befinden sich auf der Website. Fotografien und Abbildungen von Dokumenten ehemaliger Harbiner Juden werden eingepflegt. Anhand der Grabsteine sollen weitere Forschungen durchgeführt werden, die Rückschlüsse auf die jüdische Gemeinde und das jüdische Leben ermöglichen.




Global Politics on Screen. A Japanese Film on the Lytton Commission in 1932

Coordinator: Madeleine Herren-Oesch & Cornelia Knab

Members: Lisa-Marie Zoller, Inci Bosnak, Sascha Herlings, Felix Nothdurft, Maya Okuda, Julian Wettengel

A Japanese propaganda film of the early 1930s apparently documents the League of Nations' diplomatic efforts in Manchuria, one of the most contested regions of the time.
Students of Heidelberg University’s History Department and scholars of the Cluster Asia-Europe analyse this film by using the opportunities of the film annotations database (originally developed and used for the project). Testing the potential of new technological tools, this project is committed to collaborative research and seeks to combine established models of historical interpretation with new opportunities provided by digital humanities.




Database-Project: Transnational Imperial Biographies: Colonial officers between nationalism and cosmopolitanism
Prosopographic basis' of the German/European colonial history

Coordinator: Susanne Kuss, Madeleine Herren, Dominik J. Schaller u. Kilian Schultes
Members: Caroline Authaler, Konrad Berner, Stefan Geißler, Carolin Liebisch, Isabella Löhr, Patrick Loos, Jun Zhu

See database and project description:



Completed Research Projects

General Knowledge and Society. Encyclopedias as indicators for changes of the social meaning of knowledge, educations and information

Coordinators: Madeleine Herren-Oesch & Paul Michel
Members: François de Capitani, Ines Prodöhl, Nadine Kavanagh, Martin Rüesch, Tobias Zimmermann

2002-2006 funded by the Gebert-Rüf-Stiftung ( und der Universität Zürich.
The project is continued within the framework of research project D11 of the Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Perspective. Abstract:

Review about the book by Ines Prodöhl: Die Politik des Wissen. Allgemeine Enzyklopädien zwischen 1928 und 1956, Berlin, 2010, URL:



Foreign Policy Networks. International congresses and organisations as instruments of Swiss foreign policy 1914-1950
Project within the research program of the Swiss National Fund NFP 42, über “Grundlagen und Möglichkeiten der schweizerischen Aussenpolitik”, 1996–2000

Coordinator: Madeleine Herren-Oesch
Member: Sacha Zala



Foreign Policy Networks describes the shift taking place in international relations from a whole of national foreign policies to a stratified network of multilateral contacts. For governmental foreign policy this process represented a particular challenge meant that governmental participation in this development had to be insured and the instruments of foreign policy had to be adapted to new circumstances. In the case of Switzerland, rich archival material shows an increasing interest of foreign policy in multilateral and transnational contacts as a forgotten but in view of globalisation current characteristic of Swiss foreign policy. Foreign Policy Networks describes Swiss participation in international organisations and analyses official delegation of representatives to international conferences and congresses from 1914 to 1950. This period marked by increasing political, economical and social tensions indicates a growing importance of foreign policy networks. The historical context allows to discuss the solidity and permanence of these foreign policy networks, to analyse the diplomatic reactions to their fascist and national socialist undermining, and to consider their importance during the World Wars and their reassessment within the system of the United Nations.



Ausgezeichnet! Heidelberg und seine Nobelpreisträger
Eine Ausstellung von Studierenden des Historischen Seminars im Universitätsmuseum Heidelberg (22. Juni bis 29. Oktober 2011)

Koordination: Isabella Löhr, Lukas Cladders, Dominik Schaller
Mitarbeiter: Studierende des Historischen Seminars, Arbeitsgruppe „Heidelberger Nobelpreisträger“:
Stefan Baust, Daniela Gress, Sarah Hagmann, Daniela Hettstedt, Timo Holste, Sonja Knittig, Tobias Laible, David Rupp, Steffi Schätzle

Fachliche Beratung: Manja Altenburg und Esther Graf (Altenburg & Graf Agentur für Jüdische Kulturvermittlung) und Luise John (PIKDREI • Agentur für visuelle Kommunikation)

Gefördert durch die Klaus Tschira Stiftung

Im Jubiläumsjahr 2011 feiert die Universität Heidelberg ihre 625-jährige Geschichte wissenschaftlicher Exzellenz. Und wie lässt sich diese besser messen als an der Anzahl der Nobelpreisträger, die die Universität hervorgebracht hat? Dass diese Rechnung ungleich komplizierter ist, als dies auf den ersten Blick erscheinen mag, zeigte eine Ausstellung im Universitätsmuseum vom 22. Juni bis zum 29. Oktober 2011. Welche Rolle der Nobelpreis in der internationalen Wissenschaftslandschaft spielt, wird dabei ebenso beleuchtet wie die persönliche Dimension des Preiserhalts. Nobelpreisträger werden zu Helden und sind doch auch immer Abbild ihrer Zeit – im Guten wie im Schlechten. Anhand historischer Beispiele zeigte, dass Nobelpreisträger wissenschaftspolitisch genutzt wurden und selbst ihre Position zu nutzen wussten. Durch den Ausblick auf aktuelle Nobelpreisträger bietet sich die Möglichkeit, auch die heutige Rolle des Preises für den Wissenschaftsstandort Heidelberg und das Leben und Wirken der Preisträger zu verstehen.


Editor: Authaler
Latest Revision: 2013-06-01
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