Early Modern Central European History. London: David Lederer, National University of Ireland, Maynooth; Angela Schattner, German Historical Institute London, 09.12.2011.
Reviewed by Linnéa Rowlatt
Published on H-Soz-u-Kult (March, 2012)
Early Modern Central European History
The German Historical Institute London witnessed a small but happy rebirth early in December with the return of the workshop on Early Modern Central European History after a year’s absence. The workshop brought together twenty-three early modernists from Germany, Ireland, the United States, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Ten papers exploring new aspects of the history of medicine, cultural history, early modern religious culture, and politics were delivered and discussed at this ninth assembly of scholars. A common theme in many of the papers was communication on a broad, transnational scale and in close readings of historical sources as the repository of communicative processes. As in the eighth workshop held in 2009, the geographical scope of the papers was extended from Germany and Central Europe to embrace a wider European and even extra-European perspective, with some papers exploring relationships between Germany and Italy, Britain, Transylvania, and Constantinople.
After a welcome from organizers David Lederer (Maynooth) and Angela Schattner (London), the first session began with two papers on imperial medicine. ULRICH SCHLEGELMILCH (Würzburg) introduced the impressive project ‘Frühneuzeitliche Ärztebriefe’, a database of all the available letters written or received by early modern physicians in the German-speaking territories from 1500 to 1700 CE. Compiled from archives and libraries all over Europe, the database’s extensive abstracts and keywording provide access to relevant topics discussed by physicians in the ‘pre-journal period’. Schlegelmilch provided some examples in which German-speaking physicians discussed theological questions, personal travel, and, of course, health issues. This database, whose contents cover almost every topic of early modern life, will also allow a full-text search. Coming on-line in 2012, at <http://www.aerztebriefe.de>, the fifteen-year project is a collaboration between the Munich Academy of Sciences and the Würzburg Institute of the History of Medicine.
Demonstrating the richness of historiography soon to become available, HANNAH MURPHY (Berkeley) traced in her paper the progress of internal and external changes in the practice of medicine in that municipality. She illustrated the growing authority of academically educated municipal physicians and, perhaps not coincidentally, a growing consensus among these physicians on the threat posed by ‘bad’ medicine (that is, fraud, quackery, and Paracelsianism). Taking as a starting point the submission by Joachim Camerarius to the Nuremberg Inner Council for the establishment of a Collegium Medicum, Murphy outlined the negotiations this provoked and the nature of medical authority created by the physicians. When the Collegium was established, it privileged its members’ medical practices through legal and social constructions which are conventionally presented as part of the macro-development of public hygiene. At the time, however, creating legal categories of acceptable medical thought and unacceptable medical ‘heresy’ was highly contentious. Formal relationships between patients, physicians, and polity which were established in the process continue to this day, including the sharing of case studies between physicians and the necessity for a ‘second opinion’ in diagnosis. They also contributed substantially to the establishment of a medical elite.
The second session, chaired by Felicity Heal (Oxford), saw a change in focus to exchange and conflicted communication. PETER BURSCHEL (Berlin) explored an encounter between the gift-giving systems of two seventeenth–century empires, the Ottoman and the Austrian, during Habsburg emissary Hans Ludwig von Kuefstein’s visit to Sultan Murad IV in Constantinople in 1628. Before his audience, Kuefstein was urged by the Grand Vizier’s deputy to upgrade the quality of his gifts or risk having them derisively dismissed. Although Kuefstein refused, the audience was successful, but the customary parting gifts were not given to the ambassador, and the Peace of Zsitvatorok, which Kuefstein was in Constantinople to renew, remained unaddressed. In his journal, Kuefstein ascribed the unexpected demand to Ottoman avarice, but from the perspective of historical anthropology, gift-giving is about symbolic power. While different gift-giving systems reflect different social economies, Burschel demonstrated that the demand for ‘gift improvement’ was an attempt on the part of the Ottomans symbolically to transform the Austrians back into tribute-paying vassals. This was a characteristic feature of the Ottoman system of gift-giving, which positioned the quality of the gift as a sign of the strength and power of the recipient (not the giver), and in which the notion of a gift-giving obligation was intended to honour the office (not the person). Kuefstein, perhaps unwittingly, further defined Austria’s independence from the Ottoman Empire by his refusal to meet the Grand Vizier’s gift-giving demands.
Negotiations over definitions of status and identity were also addressed by DANIELA HACKE (Zürich) in her presentation of research conducted for her Habilitationsschrift, in which she analysed confessional encounters in bi-confessional villages of the County of Baden during the early modern period. In Baden’s complex situation, where three out of eight Confederates were Protestant, the remainder Catholic, and members of each confession regularly encountered the other (in, for example, shared churches), confession represented a significant structural principle for distinction at micro-, macro-, and meso-level. Convergence often intensified awareness of difference, leading to confession-based claims of authority which, because personal meetings of the ruling states of the County of Baden were infrequent, were negotiated politically in protracted correspondences. Hacke examined this medium of negotiation supported by a sociological perspective marking the contingency of communication and found that the writings were also a means by which confessional differences were appropriated, articulated, and assigned. Communication itself manufactured differences between Protestants and Catholics, building distinct and contingent confessional identities in daily life and the visual and material cultures of churches.
The third session, chaired by Angela Schattner (GHIL), brought together three papers devoted to cultural representations of religious conviction. In her presentation, BARBARA EICHNER (Oxford) drew attention to the neglected role of music in southern German religious houses between 1550 and 1610. With the aid of case studies from Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries and nunneries, Eichner traced the dynamic between religious conflict and musical practice, with music serving political as well as cultural purposes. Specific compositions travelled between houses of the same confession, with strong connections between the Benedictine houses of southern Germany and northern Italy demonstrating early modern networks of communication and cultural exchange. Eichner also introduced the notion of monastic music as a gendered practice, showing that the enclosed communities of both sexes appreciated music, performed it, and hired external musical instructors, but that the severity of restrictions on instructors of the opposite sex, particularly for nunneries, may have depended on where the house was located (urban or rural, Italy or Germany).
JACOB M. BAUM (Champaign-Urbana/Mainz) portrayed the condemnation of the rosary in the early Protestant Reformation as a rejection of multi-sensory worship practices characteristic of fifteenth century German-speaking territories. Presenting a chapter of his dissertation, he demonstrated the ubiquitous and multi-sensory nature of pre-Reformation rosary use through the records of merchant trading companies, charters for local chapters of the Confraternity of the Rosary, municipal sumptuary laws, rosary prayer books, the use of Bisamapfeln, and visual evidence from family portraiture. While Catholic perceptions of the practice ascribed miraculous power and positioned its use as mediating between human bodies and the Mass, Baum provided explicit Protestant theological condemnations of the rosary, which culminated in its legal prohibition from Zurich in 1522 and Berne in 1528.
BRITTA KÄGLER (Rome) presented the early stages of her postdoctoral project, which unites the disparate fields of economic and cultural history—specifically, interaction between economy and art—by investigating the process of erecting Baroque ecclesiastical structures (Hochstiftische Zentralkirchen) in early modern Bavaria. Noting that the Baroque style resulted from a Papal decision to communicate religious themes artistically, Kägler will research the use of these buildings, and the intentions and pursuits of their patrons through communication and representation. Her sources will include the material remains of historical monuments and archival material, including account books, correspondence, and so forth.
Chaired by Michael Schaich (London), the final session returned to the common theme of communication, its three papers focusing on ‘Religion, Politics, and Communication’. HOLGER ZAUNSTÖCK (Halle) presented a current research project scrutinizing the conceptual structure of Pietist media culture from 1690 to 1750. Examining books, newspapers, periodicals, images, instructions for behaviour, and the architecture of the Halle orphanage, Zaunstöck portrayed Pietism as an attempt to create God’s Kingdom by the communication of ideas, describing the movement as a media creation. Although the organizational centre was near Halle, London was a key hub of exchange for Pietist ideas, and records from the orphanage in Halle and from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge at the University of Cambridge constitute most of the relevant source material. While large-scale networks between individuals and partner institutions established a public sphere characterized by values of care and compassion presenting an attractive alternative to Enlightenment values of criticism and reason, Zaunstöck posits that the media in question were conceptually regarded as an attempt to make the reform movement visible without being labelled explicitly as ‘Pietist’.
The second paper of the session, by HEINRICH LANG (Bamberg), presented his current research project, undertaken with Christian Kuhn, also of the University of Bamberg. They are exploring the changing status and nature of the Catholic bishop-prince at the conclusion of the Seven Years War in the context of the Enlightenment and reform states. Pursuing both central and grassroots perspectives, Land presented a multi-dimensional case study of Franz Ludwig von Erthal of Würzburg-Bamberg as an exemplar of the role, whose impulses towards advanced educational institutions and industrial structure characterized the policies of enlightened princes, while he simultaneously met clearly defined Catholic standards of pastoral care and religious integrity.
The session concluded with VIRGINIA DILLON’s (Oxford) presentation of her Ph.D. project, ‘Transylvania in the German News: György II Rákόczi’s Invasion and Dismissal, 1657’. Her research examines patterns and distinctions in the reported news stories of a closely followed campaign, based on where they originated and in what media they were presented. She uses both quantitative and qualitative methods of textual analysis in order to determine what themes and images recur and whether they coincide with particular story subjects, reporting locations, or type of media. Dillon has found that two narratives are available, depending on whether the municipal source of the report was an interior or a coastal city. She also reported on the broad array of print media available at the time, and on the state of the news industry for that year.
All the papers were followed by discussion, and the workshop itself concluded with a roundtable chaired by Andreas Gestrich (London), in which questions of a fresh ‘master narrative’ for early modern German history, or a new research agenda, were brought up. A point was raised about the role of the internet in expanding research horizons; although methodologies are still in flux, different opportunities and questions are developing from inter-disciplinary perspectives which may point in a new direction. This year’s workshop is scheduled for 26 October.
Welcome: David Lederer (National University of Ireland, Maynooth )/ Angela Schattner (German Historical Institute London)
Session 1: Imperial Medicine
Ulrich Schlegelmilch (Institute for the History of Medicine, Würzburg): Physicians’ correspondence in the Holy Roman Empire
Hannah Murphy (Berkeley, University of California): Medical reformation in sixteenth century Nuremberg
Session 2: Exchange, Communication and Conflict
Peter Burschel (Humboldt University Berlin): Diplomatic Gift-giving from an Intercultural Perspective
Daniela Hacke (University of Zürich): Religious Coexistence and Difference. Confession, Communication and Conflict in the Swiss Confederation (1531-1712)
Session 3: Cultural Representations
Barbara Eichner (Oxford Brookes University): Piety, patronage, politics: monastic music in early-modern Germany
Jacob M. Baum (University of Illinois/Institute for European History, Mainz): The Rosary, Synthaesthesia, and Early German Reformation
Britta Kägler (GHI Rome): Baroque Architecture as a Place of Interaction
Session 4: Religion, Politics and Communications
Holger Zaunstöck (Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle): Making “Pietism”. England, the Halle orphanage and the construction of a transnational communication culture
Heinrich Lang (University of Bamberg): Episcopal States and Reforms in the Late 18th Century. Prince Bishop Franz Ludwig von Erthal of Würzburg-Bamberg and the Catholic Enlightment
Virginia Dillon (Oxford University): Transylvania in the German News: György II Rákóczi's Invasion and Dismissal, 1657-58
Closing Roundtable Discussion
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/.
Linnéa Rowlatt. Review of , Early Modern Central European History.
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