Annual Workshop: Borders

Friday 4th May 2018, Senior Parlour, Gonville & Caius College, 1:30-6:30 pm

Supported by the DAAD with funds from the Federal Foreign Office (FFO)

The Cambridge New Habsburg Studies Network Annual Workshop features new approaches to the history of German-speaking Europe. The 2018 workshop on 4 May will be devoted to the theme of ‘borders’, with papers on the lands of the Holy Roman Empire, the Austrian Empire, and Hungary. Our annual lecturer, Professor Beat Kümin, will comment on papers and lead the general discussion.

1.30pm Welcome and Introduction

1.40-2.20pm Laszlo Kontler (Budapest)

Borders and Crossings: Maximilian Hell and Strategies of Accommodation in Doing Science in the Eighteenth Century.

From a humble background in the eastern Habsburg provinces, the Jesuit Maximilian Hell (1720-1792) rose to the position of Imperial Astronomer in Vienna in 1755, built his observatory in the Austrian capital as a nodal place of pursuing knowledge in the field, and made a mark internationally thanks to correspondence, publications, and leading one of the emblematic Transit of Venus expeditions of 1769. Hell’s adult life and career coincided with a flurry of administrative and academic reform in the Habsburg monarchy (including the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773), and it required a great deal of adaptability on his part to succeed in pursuing his projects and aims. The project on which this paper builds attempts to grasp this adaptability by focusing attention on the ‘life worlds’ in which Hell may be said to have existed, simultaneously or in turns, and his creative efforts to test the permeability of the boundaries construed as separating them. The apparent ease with which he moved between these local, metropolitan-imperial and global spaces, accumulating social and cultural capital in each of them and attempting to relocate it where a deficit had arisen, played a crucial part in Hell’s strategies of sustaining the cause of  ‘Jesuit science’ in a changing political and cultural climate.

2.20-3.00pm Richard Morris (Cambridge)

Shifting Borders: Identity, Cultural Transmission, and Encounters across Boundaries in the Court Festivals of the Holy Roman Empire, c.1555-1618 

The paper will discuss the degree of cultural transmission, sharing, and broad cultural (material, musical, theatrical) interaction across boundaries seen at court festivals, which were sites of encounter both within the Empire and between the Empire and various ‘foreign’ peoples, as well as how the firmness of those boundaries could vary, with festivals providing a sufficiently flexible rhetoric to facilitate unified notions of identity in the face of a more stark ‘other’. It will argue that there was a discernible flexibility of where the ‘border’ of who could legitimately lay claim to, or be included in, a ‘German’ identity lay in different contexts.

3.00-3.40pm Sabine Jesner (Graz)

The Habsburg Military Border. Transitions in Strategic Functionality from Military Bulwark to Cordon Sanitaire.

During the eighteenth century the functional concept of the Habsburg Military Border (1535–1881) was expanded from a purely military focused security measure against Ottoman offensives toward economic and sanitary oriented components. In this context the control of border crossings received more attention and became more regulated by the central authorities in Vienna. Exactly 300 hundred years ago, the Treaty of Passarowitz (Požarevac) was signed. This peace contract concluded the Austro-Turkish War (1716–1718). A few days after the peace treaty a Commercial and Shipping Treaty was ratified, which had an enormous impact on prospective trading terms between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. This treaty has to be seen as a significant shift concerning the economic relationship between the empires, that made some modifications necessary. The proposed paper is dedicated to those measures, which were implemented directly in the border zone and were responsible for the transitions in strategic functionality of the Habsburg Military Border.

3.40-4.00pm Coffee break

4.00-4.40pm Attila Magyar (Hannover)

Acting Files, Administering Actors: The New Habsburg Rule in the Border Region of Southern Hungary at the End of the Seventeenth Century

In this presentation, I intend to reconstruct the routes of files which travelled from the new Habsburg-Ottoman border region to Vienna and then back to the border. The files not only shed light on the places and actors of the new administration at the border but are also active constituents of administration processes. The periphery of the various administrations becomes tangible through these files. Thus, this presentation will examine how the actions of the local administration can be analysed on the basis of the existing files of the Vienna court authorities and in what ways the network of local actors can be reconstructed with the files from the Court Chamber (Hofkammer) and the Aulic War Council (Hofkriegsrat).

4.40-5.20pm Antonios Nasis (Paris)

Rethinking Borders in Imperial and National Crossroads: The Case of Spinalonga

This contribution seeks to investigate a case of displacement within a conflictual context in the broader framework of changing inter-communal relations in late Ottoman society. The case of Spinalonga, an islet in north-eastern Crete, shows how some of the island’s inhabitants were impelled to constant displacement even before the mandatory exchange of populations in 1923 between Greece and Turkey.  Spinalonga, a small fort built by the Venetians in the 16th century, went from a military base to hosting a community amounting to more than 1000 people and 227 families in the mid of the 19th century. During a siege by Christian insurgents in 1897, many crops were destroyed, and at the census of 1900, only 272 inhabitants were recorded. In November 1903, an ultimatum from the Cretan state imposed their ultimate departure from the island. Within a few years, many Muslims of Crete were dislodged from their village to the islet, before returning to major cities of Crete, until their final migration to Asia Minor. They thus experienced displacement as refugees twice, and some even three times. Conflict created a community in Spinalonga, as well as made it perish.  The case of Spinalonga and the human mobility it witnessed offers different and shifting meanings of borders. I will first present a linguistic approach that may clarify the various meanings of the notion of borders in an ottoman context. Secondly, I will delve into the way these people perceived “their borders” within their community and in interaction with State structures. This case study will be fitted into the greater narrative of the “Cretan question”.

5.20-6.00pm Benedek Varga (Cambridge)

America in Hungary: German Colonial Narratives in Late Eighteenth Century Transylvania

It might seem curious that a German late-Enlightenment scholar would be especially interested in the medieval history of a small East-Central European territory like Transylvania. Yet, one of the most influential historians of the eighteenth century, August Ludwig Schlözer, university professor in Göttingen, composed the three grand volumes of the Kritische Sammlungen zur Geschichte der Deutschen in Siebenbürgen, (Critical edition of the data on the History of Germans in Transylvania) published in Göttingen between 1795 and 1797. While extant Hungarian historiography focuses on the debates around Schlözer’s work and the author’s negative view of Hungarian history, German scholarship on the matter approaches the work in the context of the decaying Holy Roman Empire and the position of German culture in eighteenth-century Europe more broadly. I seek to advance a new argument about a crucial aspect of his contributions. Writing about the Transylvanian Saxons, Schlözer created a German colonial narrative of Central Europe inspired by North American colonial history and European extra-continental expansion, representing Transylvania as an “ideal” colony.

6.00-6.30pm Round table: Closing discussion

7pm Dinner