Harvard Report: (dis)entangling globalization

(Dis)Entangling Global Early Modernities, 1300-1800 (24 March 2017)

There are conferences with impressive line-ups, and then there are conferences with very impressive line-ups. The Harvard conference on (Dis)Entangling Global Early Modernities certainly fell in the latter category, as it included several of the most renowned early modernists. Being organized by Michael Tworek (Harvard), Stuart McManus (University of Chicago), Devin Fitzgerald (Harvard) and Anja-Silvia Goeing (University of Zurich), this was indeed one of the most anticipated conferences of the spring semester.

Beyond the scholars involved, the topic itself was considered extremely timely – as is currently the case with many conferences involving global history. Although planning for the conference had started more than a year ago, Professor Tworek explained in his introductory remarks that the political changes in the UK and in the US had already led to arguments about the ‘death’ or ‘demise’ of global history. And if commentators had not yet placed it on its deathbed, then they at least asserted that global historians will need to change their overall approach. In their opinion, too many historians have namely overlooked the costs of (early modern) globalization and ignored those whom it left behind.

In this regard, the conference promised to evaluate the heuristic device of ‘disentanglement’. Explained in brief, this notion is aimed at better understanding the connections within early modern globalization. Again in the view of Professor Tworek, the early modern world pivoted towards integration but contained many incomplete patterns and loose threads. Disentanglement is anticipated to pull at these threads, which in turn would allow us to see where and how they connect with the wider fabric of early modernity. As such, Tworek hoped that the conference would deal with both integration and disintegration, connection and disconnection, and entanglement and disentanglement.

In order to do so, the conference worked around three central topics. The first panel focused on (dis)entangling ideas in early modern globalization and included presentations by Xin Wen (Harvard), Anand Venkatkrishnan (Oxford) and Michael Tworek himself. It also included interventions by Tamar Herzog (Harvard) and Carolien Stolte (Leiden). The second session zoomed in on book history and its relation to globalization with the facilitators here being Ann Blair and Alexander Bevilacqua (both Harvard), and the presenters Holly Shaffer (Darthmouth), Nir Shafir (University of California) and Devin Fitzgerald. Finally, session three discussed scholarly practices and included contributions from Darrin McMahon (Darthmouth), Ananya Chakravarti (Georgetown), Kirsten Windmuller-Luna (Princeton), Stuart McManus and Gregory Afinogenov (Harvard).

Most anticipated was however the concluding roundtable debate, which featured amongst others David Armitage (Harvard) and Roger Cartier (Collège de France). The discussion, held barely two months after the inauguration of President Trump, quickly turned towards the role historians have in analyzing globalization both in the past and in the present. The roundtable also assessed how the increased hostility towards migration and cross-border connections might affect the field itself. Some argued that disentangling globalization will not be enough because it is part of set of familiar historiographies, one that has eventually aided populists to gain power. Others contended that disentanglement is needed because global history has still not been able to escape its originally Eurocentric framework.

To illustrate the dominance of contemporary events even further, during the Q&A session with the roundtable panel, no less than four questions (about one-third of the discussion) pondered directly about the relation between politics and history. In response, virtually all panelists agreed that every history is political, but very few agreed on what that means with regard to the way forward. Some seemed to take the direction that more of the ‘standard’ narratives of global history are needed to oppose populism; others stated that global history should look more towards the ruptures created by globalization itself. Still others felt that historians should pursue first and foremost their own interests, as this more detached research will provide society with a stronger basis to deal with its own past.

Eventually, and despite the political controversies, the conference ended with an appraisal of the notion of disentanglement itself. Most of the participants were in agreement that historians need to look both at what connects and what disconnects. But as a very final question, one senior professor in the audience asked a poignant question: if historians look at what was entangled in the early modern world, does that not automatically mean that they also get a view of what was disentangled? And, in an even more direct question, the same professor asked if the organizers would have selected different participants if the conference had been called simply ‘Entangling Global Early Modernities’?

Beyond the great line-up, this final question was indeed at the core of a greatly inspiring conference: at what point and for what reason do we change the name of what we as historians are doing, and do changes such as going from entanglement to disentanglement really influence the core of our work?

In any case, feel free to judge for yourself: the opening remarks on disentanglement can now be found online and are open for discussion.


Harvard Report: Con-IH 2017

CON-IH 17: Global and International History: Migration, Immigration and Diaspora (9-10 March 2017)

This year, the Harvard Graduate Student Conference on International History (Con-IH) organized its seventeenth edition, opting for the hotly debated topic of ‘Migration, Immigration and Diaspora’.

The goal of the conference was, in the words of the organizers:

‘to discuss cutting-edge studies that take up the subject of migration in international, regional, and global historical context, for any era from Antiquity to the present, and proceeding outward from any world region. Human migration, immigration and diasporas have played a fundamental role in world development and continue to do so. The forced and free movements of people throughout history intersect with some of the most important subjects of urbanization, imperialism, slavery, capitalism and globalization’.

On its promise of geographical and topical variety the conference certainly delivered. The presentations focused, amongst others, on migration from Haiti to Chicago; in and around the Western Sahara; from Japan to wider South-East Asia; between China and Nigeria; and on diasporas in Bagdad and Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, the expectation of temporal breadth could not be met. It is of course more than possible that only a few non-modernists submitted a (relevant) proposal, but it was nevertheless disappointing to see a final line-up that included seven speakers working on the 20th century, with two more on 19th, and only two early modernists and one medievalist. Moreover, the keynote speaker – Professor Paul Kramer – and all of the three panel discussants were also modernists.

The result was a conference that remained firmly centered on the history of migration in the last two centuries, with only a little attention going to the highly creative work in the fields of early modern and medieval migration history.

That being said, the presentations of the three non-modernists provided perfect samples of that creative work.* Pierre-Emmanuel Bachelet (ENS-Lyon) focussed on the role of the Japanese diaspora in early modern globalization. Debunking the idea that the first waves of Japanese migrants to South-East Asia were made up of mercenaries and smugglers while subsequent waves were made up of legal traders, he argued that there actually existed a continuum between these two types. As an added bonus, the focus on this continuum also revealed how problematic the distinction between forced and voluntary migration can be.

Secondly, Alasdair Grant (University of Edinburgh) told the history of Captivity, Ransom, and Letter-Writing in Byzantium and Its Neighbors, c. 1204-1453. Zooming in on the practice of ‘aichmalosia’  or the capturing and ransoming of Christian Byzantines by Muslims (and sometimes by fellow Christians) he painted a detailed picture without overestimating the capacity of the sources available. Grant brought the practice of aichmalosia vividly to the fore, revealing much about the societal structures that allowed for the liberation of the prisoners. As such, his material begs for a comparison with other medieval cases but also with the well-known study of early modern Christian slavery in North-Africa and the attempts to buy their freedom.

Finally, Tim Soriano (University of Illinois) presented a paper on ‘The Royal Navy, Legal Pluralism, and Authority in Early Colonial Sierra Leone, 1670-1815’. His work shows how legal practices in the British Atlantic World were largely built around procedures established by the Royal Navy, and how naval regulations and customs translated into the rule of law and administration on land. Soriano described in an intricate way how efficient law changed in the colonial context of Sierra Leone, describing it as a ‘motley’ composition based on legal pluralism.

All in all, the quality of all of the papers (the modernists also provided highly stimulating presentations) ensured that the relative lack of early modern and medieval history was quickly forgotten. Moreover, the general discussions took on a particularly relevant character due to the on-going changes in contemporary U.S. politics. Taking place not even two months after the inauguration of President Trump and the announcement of his travel ban, the conference brought the societal role and future of migration history several times to the fore. No definitive answers could be provided, but one thing seemed certain: the debates about migration will not cease anytime soon, and the graduate students that presented at Con IH 2017 will certainly have their say in it.

For more information, see http://con-ih.com/.

(*In order to avoid misrepresentations of their material, this report has paraphrased parts of the abstracts of the three highlighted speakers. For the full abstracts, see the Con-IH website).


Construire la frontière, 26-27 May 2017

Construire la frontière. Les Croÿ, Montcornet, et les Guerres de Religion International conference, Château de Montcornet en Ardenne, 26-27 May 2017 450 years ago, on 5 May 1567, Antoine de Croÿ-Porcien passed away. In his days, the baron of Montcornet-en-Ardenne was better known as le calviniste, acting as one of the Protestant leaders during the French Wars of Religion. Since the year 2017 likewise marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the association ‘Les Amis de Montcornet’ will organize a conference taking place on the historical site of the castle of Montcornet, now in the French Ardennes near Charleville-Mézières. The papers presented by researchers from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom will focus on the part played by the Croÿ-family in the religious and political conflicts of the 16th century, particularly in the border region between France and the Habsburg Low Countries. Organising committee: Antonin Van Haaster (Association des Amis du château de Montcornet), Yves Junot (Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis), Violet Soen (KU Leuven).

For additional information and registrations, please contact Violet Soen.

A full programme can be found through this link: Depliant_coloque_montcornet_09


Prof. Dr. Violet Soen

Violet Soen conducts and coordinates research into transregional history at the Early Modern History Department of KU Leuven, in order to map the movement of persons and ideas across, along, and beyond political borders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For too long, a state-centred historiography has underestimated these constant exchanges and mobilities, and with the other members of this research group, she aims to challenge. She is currently working on a book project of transregional noble elites between the Low Countries and France in the ‘long’ sixteenth century.

Find out more at: http://www.mwpweb.eu/VioletSoen/

Recent publications:

Professor Soen is general editor of the series Habsburg Worlds by Brepols Publishers. This series covers the vast conglomerates under the rule of Spanish and Austrian members of the Habsburg dynasty. The series focuses on the daily experiences, social networks, trade routes, religious motivations, legal traditions, intellectual currents and political cultures in these regions. It aims to foster an interdisciplinary and comparative approach necessary for studying the manifold languages, cultures, histories and traditions in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia once under Habsburg administration or overlordship.


V. Soen and L. Hollevoet, ‘Le Borromée des anciens Pays-Bas? Maximilien de Berghes, (arch)évêque de Cambrai et l’application du Concile de Trente (1564-1567)’, Revue du Nord, forthcoming.

V. Soen and A. Van de Meulebroucke, ‘Vanguard Tridentine Reform in the Habsburg Netherlands The episcopacy of Robert de Croÿ, bishop of Cambrai 1519-1556)’ in: V. Soen, D. Vanysacker and W. François (ed.), Church, Censorship and Reform in the early modern Habsburg Netherlands (Bibliothèque de la Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 101), Turnhout, forthcoming.

V. Soen, ‘La nobleza y la frontera entre los Países Bajos y Francia: las casas nobiliarias Croÿ, Lalaing y Berlaymont en la segunda mitad del siglo XVI’, in: M. Merluzzi and G. Sabatini, Fronteras. Representaciónes, integraciónes y conflictos entre Europa y America, s. XVI-XX, Rome, (2016).

V. Soen, ‘Exile encounters and cross-border mobility in early modern borderlands: the Ecclesiastical Province of Cambrai as a transregional node (1559-1600)’, in: Belgeo : Revue Belge de Geographie / Belgisch Tijdschrift voor Geografie / Belgische Zeitschrift für Geographie = Belgian Journal of Geography, 2015, 2 (2016), 2-13. Link to article

V. Soen, ‘The Chièvres Legacy, the Croÿ Family and Litigation in Paris. Dynastic Identities between the Low Countries and France (1519-1559)’, in: L. Geevers and M. Marini (eds.), Dynastic Identity in Early Modern Europe: Rulers, Aristocrats and the Formation of Identities (Politics and Culture in Europe, 1650-1750), Ashgate, Farnham, 2015, 87-102. Link to article

V. Soen, A. Soetaert, and J. Verberckmoes, ‘Verborgen meertaligheid. De katholieke drukpers in de kerkprovincie Kamerijk (1560-1600)’, in: Queeste: tijdschrift voor middeleeuwse letterkunde in de Nederlanden, 22:1 (2015), 62-81.

B. De Ridder and V. Soen, ‘The Act of Cession, the 1598 and 1600 States-Generals in Brussels and the peace negotiations during the Dutch Revolt’, in R. Lesaffer (ed.), The Twelve Years Truce (1609): Peace, Truce, War and Law in the Low Countries at the Turn of the 17th Century (Studies in the History of International Law, 5), Leiden, Boston: Brill/Nijhoff, 2014, 48-68.

V. Soen and H. Cools, ‘L’aristocratie transrégionale et les frontières. Les processus d’identification politique dans les maisons de Luxembourg-Saint-Pol et de Croÿ (1470-1530)’, in: V. Soen, Y. Junot en F. Mariage (eds.), L’identité au pluriel. Jeux et enjeux des appartenances autour des anciens Pays-Bas, XIVe-XVIIIe siècles / Identity and Identities. Belonging at stake in and around the Low Countries, 14th-18th centuries (Revue du Nord, Hors série, Collection Histoire 30), Villeneuve d’Ascq, 2014, 209-228

V. Soen, ‘La Causa Croÿ et les limites du mythe bourguignon: la frontière, le lignage et la mémoire (1465-1475)’ in: J.-M. Cauchies and P. Peporte (eds.), Mémoires conflictuelles et mythes concurrents dans les pays bourguignons (ca. 1380-1580) (Publications du Centre d’études bourguignonnes XIVe-XVIe s. 52), Neuchâtel, 2012, 81-97.

V. Soen, ‘Naturales del país o Espaignolizés? Agentes de la Corte como negociadores de paz durante la guerra de Flandes (1577-1595)’ in: R. Vermeir, M. Ebben and R. Fagel (eds.), Agentes y Identidades en movimiento. España y los Países Bajos, siglos XVI-XVIII, Madrid, 2011, 171-193.

Contact details:

E-mail: violet.soen@kuleuven.be

Adress: KU Leuven, Onderzoeksgroep Nieuwe Tijd, Blijde Inkomststraat 21 bus 3307, B-3000 Leuven.


Crossing Ocean Currents

Crossing Ocean Currents: Belgium at the Intersection of 18th-Century Transatlantic Revolutions

Scholar: Dr. Jane Judge

This project investigates ideologies and manifestations of nationhood and patriotism in the (First) Belgian Revolution (1787-1790). Simultaneously, it seeks to place that upheaval in the Austrian Netherlands in the broader constellation of transatlantic and transregional revolutions that rocked the North Atlantic-European world at the end of the eighteenth-century. In particular, and taking cues from Janet Polasky’s latest book Revolutions Without Borders: The Call to Liberty in the Atlantic World, the project focuses on how ideas moved between and among revolutionaries in the United States and Britain, the Dutch United Provinces, France, and the Austrian Netherlands.

Werner Thomas

Prof. Dr. Werner Thomas

Werner Thomas (°1966) is Associate Professor of Iberian and Iberoamerican history at the University of Leuven. He has published on the repression of Protestantism in Spain (1517-1648), the Habsburg court of the Archdukes Albert and Isabella Clara Eugenia in Brussels (1598-1621), the Siege of Ostend (1601-1604), and the political and cultural relations between the (Southern) Netherlands and the Spanish empire (1500-1700). His current research projects include the contribution of Flemish prints and engravings to the construction of the Spanish empire in America, focussing on New Spain, Peru, and New Granada (1520-1800), the Southern Netherlands as a centre of accumulation and translation within the Spanish monarchy (1520-1700), and the role of Hispano-Flemish elites and mixed identities in the continuation of Flemish loyalty to the House of Habsburg (1659-1708).

Recent publications:

Professor Thomas is director of the series Avisos de Flandes at Leuven University Press. This series focuses on transregional and intercultural exchanges in the Habsburg Empire and beyond.


E. De Bom, R. Lesaffer and W.Thomas (eds.), Early Modern Sovereignties. Theory and Practice of a Burgeoning Concept in the Netherlands, Brill, forthcoming.

W. Thomas, ‘The metamorphosis of the Spanish Inquisition, 1520-1648′, in: D. Prudlo (ed.), A Companion to Heresy Inquisitions, Brill, forthcoming.

W. Thomas, ‘Inquisition and repression of Protestantism in Spain’, in: M.Ortrud Hertrampf (ed.), The Reformation in Spain, Peter Lang, forthcoming.

W. Thomas, ‘Printing for the Empire: books from the Habsburg Netherlands in Spanish America, 1500-1700′, in: Quaerendo, forthcoming.

S. Dupré, B. Demunck, W. Thomas, G. Vanpaemel (eds.), Embattled Territory. The Circulation of Knowledge in the Spanish Netherlands, Ghent, 2015.

W. Thomas and J. Verberckmoes, ‘The Southern Netherlands as a Centre of Global Knowledge Concerning the Iberian Empires in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries’, in:  S. Dupré, B. Demunck, W. Thomas, G. Vanpaemel (eds.), Embattled Territory. The Circulation of Knowledge in the Spanish Netherlands, Ghent, 2015, 161-197.

W. Thomas, ‘The Treaty of London, the Twelve Years Truce and Religious Toleration in Spain and the Netherlands (1598-1621), in: R. Lesaffer (ed.), The Twelve Years Truce (1609): Peace, Truce, War and Law in the Low Countries at the Turn of the 17th Century (Studies in the History of International Law, 5), Leiden, Boston: Brill/Nijhoff, 2014, 277-297.

W. Thomas, ‘De Zwarte Legende voorbij. Spanje, de Zuidelijke Nederlanden en de eerste globalisering, 1500-1700′, in: Academiae Analecta. Mededelingen van de Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten, 20 (2013), 3-20.

Contact details:

E-mail: werner.thomas@kuleuven.be

Adress: KU Leuven, Onderzoeksgroep Nieuwe Tijd, Blijde Inkomststraat 21 bus 3307, B-3000 Leuven.



Languages in a globalizing world

Evolving views on the world’s languages in a globalizing world (1540-1840): information growth, conceptual shifts, scholarly networks in the circulation of linguistic knowledge.

Primary researcher: Zanna Van Loon

Promotors: W. Thomas, T. Van Hal, L. Behiels

The project aims at conducting a systematic study of the historical (institutional and socio-cultural) and of the ethnolinguistic organization frames of the descriptions, and of the circuits of their production, diffusion and reception. The general research hypothesis we want to explore is the following: the growth of ethnolinguistic information on non-European languages (which we will study for the period 1540-1750) was initially a by-product of religious and political interest and imperialist drift, and became, in the course of the 18th century a prominent subject of historical and philosophical research. The working hypothesis is that changes in the status and functionality of linguistic and historical information are reflected in changes of the nature and organization of the networks of production, transmission and reception of this information.


The printer’s widow

The printer’s widow: gender, family and editorial choices in early modern Antwerp, Louvain, and Douai (long 16th – 17th centuries)

Primary Researcher: Heleen Wyffels

Promotor: V. Soen, J. Verberckmoes

In the early modern Low Countries, a woman could only become the head of a printing house by surviving a man. Widows (and sometimes daughters) appear with startling regularity in colophons and other sources pertaining to the business of their deceased husbands (or fathers) and were regarded as their legitimate successors. Surprisingly, book historians often gloss over the presence of these women in their sources. Therefore, this PhD-project aims to shed more light on widow-printer’s contribution to their family business and the book trade as a whole by combining a book historical approach with family and social history. It will consider widow-printers in Antwerp, a commercial metropolis in the Spanish-Habsburg sphere of influence and in Louvain and Douai, two university cities. The latter was a border region that attracted religious exiles from the British Isles, France and northern regions of the Low Countries. Due to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668), it came under French rule after intense warfare, while Antwerp re-oriented itself to a firmly Catholic identity after its siege (1584-1585) during the Dutch Revolt. These developments impacted the three book towns profoundly and by comparing them during the long sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the project will chart how widow-printers navigated their transregional contexts.

Johan Verberckmoes

Prof. Dr. Johan Verberckmoes

Johan Verberckmoes (°1962) is since 1985 member of the Research Unit Early Modern History, first as assistant and since 1996 as full-time professor. He studied history at the University of Leuven and the University of Hull (United Kingdom). In 1993 he graduated with a doctorate on humor and laughter in the 16th and 17th centuries, which forms one of his research specialisations. Other topics which he investigates are the imagination of overseas cultures in the Iberian Empires, private correspondences, emotions and family life, culture and social relations in the Early Modern city. He currently teaches (amongst others) British History, Cultural History of the Early Modern period, and The History of Portuguese America.

Recent publications:

C. Goossens  en J. Verberckmoes, Broze levens, krachtige vrouwen: Zussen, moeders en tantes Goubau in de achttiende eeuw, Leuven, 2017.

W. Thomas and J. Verberckmoes, ‘The Southern Netherlands as a Centre of Global Knowledge Concerning the Iberian Empires in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries’, in  S. Dupré, B. Demunck, W. Thomas, G. Vanpaemel (eds.), Embattled Territory. The Circulation of Knowledge in the Spanish Netherlands, Gent, 2015, 161-197.

V. Soen, A. Soetaert, and J. Verberckmoes, ‘Verborgen meertaligheid. De katholieke drukpers in de kerkprovincie Kamerijk (1560-1600)’, in: Queeste: tijdschrift voor middeleeuwse letterkunde in de Nederlanden, 22:1 (2015), 62-81.

J. Verberckmoes, ‘How Dutch Brasil Affects Your Emotions: The Antwerp Jesuit Cornelius Hazart On Early Colonial Brasil ‘, in: M. Van Groesen (ed.), The Legacy of Dutch Brasil, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014, p.146-167.

J. Verberckmoes, ‘Parading hilarious exotics in the Spanish Netherlands’, in: Nederlands kunsthistorisch jaarboek, 53 (2003), 53-69.

Contact details:

E-mail: johan.verberckmoes@kuleuven.be

Adress: KU Leuven, Onderzoeksgroep Nieuwe Tijd, Blijde Inkomststraat 21 bus 3307, B-3000 Leuven.


Jane Foto

Dr. Jane Judge

Jane Judge received her PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in June 2015. She wrote her doctoral thesis on the history of the United States of Belgium and its place within the wider Age of Revolutions, with the assistance of a fellowship at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow of the Belgian American Educational Foundation working with the Early Modern History group of KU Leuven in Belgium. Currently she is researching public manifestations of Belgianness during the 18th-century revolution, with an eye to incorporating the movement of revolution, revolutionaries, ideologies across borders. She is also transforming her doctoral thesis into a book to be published by Leuven University Press.

Recent publications:

J. Judge, ‘An Age in Microcosm: the United States of Belgium,’ in: B. Marsh and M. Rapport (eds.), Understanding and Teaching the Age of Revolutions, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2017, forthcoming.

J. Judge, ‘Provincial Manifestes: Belgians Declare Independence, 1789-1790′, in De Achttiende Eeuw, forthcoming.

J. Judge, ‘The Scottish-American Enlightenment’, in J. Straub (ed.), Handbook of Transatlantic North American Studies, Berlin,New York: De Gruyter, 2016, 545-561.

J. Judge, ‘Qu’allons-nous devenir? Belgian National Identity in the Age of Revolution’, in L. Jensen (ed.), The Roots of Nationalism. National Identity Formation in Early Modern Europe, 1600-1815, (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2016, 291-307.

J. Judge, ‘The End! Finishing Up Your Thesis’, Blog post for Laura Harrison, Editor-in-Chief, Pubs and Publications, The PhD Experience, University of Edinburgh School of History, Classics, and Archaeology PhD Student Blog, 24 April 2015 [http://www.blogs.hss.ed.ac.uk/pubs-and-publications/2015/04/24/the-end-finishing-up-your-thesis/]

J. Judge and E.M. Angelini, ‘Le Général Charles de Gaulle et l’Algérie’, American Association of Teachers of French, National Bulletin, 33.1 (2007), 39-42 and Vol. 33.2 (2007), 32-36.

Contact details:

E-mail: jane.judge@arts.kuleuven.be

Adress: KU Leuven, Onderzoeksgroep Nieuwe Tijd, Blijde Inkomststraat 21 bus 3307, B-3000 Leuven.