Botany in Time and Space: The Chelsea Physic Garden

When I sent a fellow doctoral candidate in the history of botany some pictures from the Chelsea Physic Garden, she asked me if I had encountered any ghosts of the much-admired botanists that shaped this famous institution and its networks. While I had to answer in the negative, I noticed that the paths of many natural historians and horticultural practitioners, whose footsteps I traced during my stay at the German Historical Institute London, had crossed on that patch of land—either physically or at least in writing and through the exchange of plant material. Here, during a journey following his medical studies under Herman Boerhaave (1668–1738) in Leiden, Johann Philipp Breyne (1680–1764), an aspiring botanist from Gdańsk, visited and admired the Lebanese cedars at the entrance of the garden which remained its most significant attractions until the nineteenth century. Crucially for the history of botany, Breyne also met with botanists who would define the history of the garden.

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Promoting German Nazism in the Heart of the British Empire: The London Congress of the ‘Nationalist International’ in July 1935

In July 1935, an unexpected assortment of mostly male European self-proclaimed patriots met for three days at a congress of the Nationalist International in London.1 Alongside ‘conservative’ delegates, including two British Tory MPs and Louis Bertrand, who was a French historian and member of the prestigious Académie française, the guest list also featured more radical and even outright fascist figures, such as Frits Clausen, the leader of a small Danish Nazi party, and Friedrich Grimm, an NSDAP attorney and member of the German Reichstag. According to The Times, most of the delegates were ‘notable European professors’, united not by politics, but by ‘devotion’ to their country.2 Other British newspapers such as the Daily Mirror and the London Evening Telegraph likewise commented on the event in a neutral or even benevolent tone, suggesting that delegates from forty countries met under the auspices of the ‘expert on international law’ Dr Hans Keller (1908–70). Keller was a young and ambitious German jurist who had founded the Nationalist International in Zurich in 1934 with the aim of securing peace and stability by transforming the League of Nations into a ‘parliament of peoples’ corresponding with the ‘racial divisions of Europe’.3 Blinded by a leaflet circulated prior to the conference which claimed that ‘The Nationalist International means world peace’4 and stressed the supposedly neutral and scientific nature of the organization, the British press seemed not to realize the real mission of the congress: to promote German Nazism internationally.

Continue reading Promoting German Nazism in the Heart of the British Empire: The London Congress of the ‘Nationalist International’ in July 1935
  1. This blogpost is based on research conducted for my Ph.D. thesis at the Free University of Berlin entitled ‘Notions and Practices of Fascist Internationalism in the 1930s’. I would like to thank the GHIL for a two-month scholarship, which enabled fruitful research in British archives and libraries. []
  2. The Times, 11 July 1935. Cf. Hans Keller and Akademie für die Rechte der Völker, (eds.), Der Kampf um die Völkerordnung: Forschungs- und Werbebericht der Akademie für die Rechte der Völker (Nationalistische Akademie) und der Internationalen Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Nationalisten (Berlin, 1939), 97. []
  3. Daily Mirror, 11 July 1935; The Evening Telegraph, 10 July 1935. []
  4. Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Nationalisten, Organic Nationalism: What the ‘Nationalist International’ Means to the Anglo-Saxon World (Zurich, 1935). []

Māori Iwi, Quaker Whalers, and Missionaries at the Bay of Islands in Aotearoa/New Zealand (1790–1840)

Among the many records of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) held in the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham are minutes of a meeting of the CMS committee in London. At this meeting on 9 August 1819 the committee learned from a letter sent by the missionary Thomas Kendall that several whaling captains who had anchored in the Bay of Islands in Aotearoa/New Zealand ‘had been very kind to him and his colleagues’. The ‘Officers of the above ships’, Kendall continued, ‘conducted themselves towards them and the Natives in a most friendly manner; and parties of Sailors attended Divine Service, on the Sunday, when the weather would permit’, including one ‘Captain Swaine of the INDIAN’, a whaling ship.1

Continue reading Māori Iwi, Quaker Whalers, and Missionaries at the Bay of Islands in Aotearoa/New Zealand (1790–1840)
  1. Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, CMS/G/C/4/155, CMS Committee Minutes, 9 Aug. 1819. []

Pastors, Commissaries, Diplomats: Agency and Migration Networks in the Early Modern Period

Confessional migrations, especially Protestant ones, are a defining characteristic of the early modern period.1 Well-known examples include the Huguenots and the Vaudois in the 1690s, the Palatines in 1708, and the Salzburgers in the 1730s. Most of these migrations were structured by networks involving migrants, diplomats, agents, states, and institutions; and just as importantly, money flows, publications, and escape routes. Overall, these migration networks can be seen as power constellations in which diplomats, agents, institutions and state actors were interconnected and influenced each other. But in spite of the plethora of research on early modern confessional migration, the diplomats and agents who acted as intermediaries in these contexts have not yet been thoroughly analysed.2 These intermediaries could be not only diplomats and agents, but also pastors or even migrants themselves. My Ph.D. project therefore aims to fill this void. It focuses on intermediaries and how they were incorporated into migration networks. In addition I analyse what agency intermediaries gained through their involvement in these networks, and probe how they used it for their own advantage and the advancement of their career. The analysis can also show how institutions, migrants, and governmental actors influence and make use of these intermediaries.

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  1. Alexander Schunka, ‘Glaubensflucht als Migrationsoption: Konfessionell motivierte Migrationen in der Frühen Neuzeit’, Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, 56/10 (2005), 547–64. []
  2. Matthias Asche, ‘Christliche Caritas, konfessionelles Kalkül und politische Propaganda: Emigrantennetzwerke, Flüchtlingskommissare und ihre Bedeutung für Logistik und Raumordnung in Alteuropa und im Alten Reich des ausgehenden 17. Jahrhunderts—ein Problemaufriß’, in Joachim Bahlcke, Rainer Leng, and Peter Scholz (eds.), Migration als soziale Herausforderung: Historische Formen solidarischen Handelns von der Antike bis zum 20. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart 2011). []

Anger, Astonishment, and other Reactions: A Medieval King’s Emotional Behaviour

[A]s though he [Henry III] was infected by fury, being unable to contain his anger, he raised his voice in uproar, and ran furiously away from all who were in his chamber.1

Medieval kings such as Henry III (r. 1216–72) are regularly described in chronicles as angry—especially when challenged—and they often expressed their anger in excessive gestures. This particular passage was written by Matthew Paris, a monastic chronicler famous for not holding back his opinion on either kings or popes. Presumably his accounts of these emotional gestures might be shaped by his judgement on the king and a desire for a colourful narrative. But are these the only ways of interpreting such descriptions of royal emotional behaviour? Are they merely a means to an end, removed from reality?

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  1. Matthaei Pariensis Monachi sancti albani, chronica majora, ed. Henry R. Luards, vol. 5 (London, 1880) (Rolls Series 57), 326: ‘quasi furia invectus, nec se prae ira capiens, vocem cum clamore exaltavit, et omnes qui in sua camera fuerunt, velut furiosus aufugavit.’ []

‘Enjoy your bodies!’: Writing the History of Sexuality in Later Life through 1980s British Television

At 15:45 on 11 February 1986, Channel 4’s programme for the elderly Years Ahead turned to sex. This special Valentine’s Day edition conceded that society was oblivious to intimate desire in later life. And yet, change was on the horizon. Marjorie Proops, co-host of that episode, stated that ‘attitudes are changing’, and so Years Ahead set out to guide even more seniors towards ‘sexual freedom’.

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British Migrants in the Kingdom of Saxony and Saxons in London, c.1850–1914

It may seem counter-intuitive that, three months after the outbreak of the First World War, British people were allowed to walk completely free through the streets of Dresden.1 But a look at the history of the British community in Saxony shows that there had been a special relationship between British migrants and the Saxon locals long before this conflict. Only when reports of the arrest of Germans in Britain (and especially of the conditions of imprisonment there) reached Germany did this relationship take a turn for the worse.

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  1. SAoS, 10717 Foreign Ministry, Nr. 2278, Charles Alfred Moore [chaplain of All Saints’ Church Dresden] to police chief Paul Köttig, 24 Oct. 1914: ‘For since the outbreak of hostilities . . . British subjects have been treated with the utmost courtesy and consideration by the Officials who have done all in their power to safeguard us from unpleasantness or any undue restrictions of our liberties. In Dresden . . . men of military service age have been permitted to go about unmoles…’ []

Translating Guild Socialism: The Case of Eva Schumann (1889–1967)

In 1920, Eva Schumann wrote from her home in Dresden to the offices of the National Guilds League in London offering her services as a translator.1 Her intention was to help popularise the political program of Guild Socialism in Germany, which she believed shared parallels with other socialist ideas already popular in her homeland.2 In response, the National Guilds League accepted her request and granted her permission to translate a lecture on the subject that would serve as a useful primer for German-speaking audiences.3

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  1. The contents of this blog article are based on research included in my forthcoming Ph.D. dissertation at Humboldt University of Berlin and Free University Berlin. []
  2. Collection, Box 8, Nuffield College Library. []
  3. Eva Schumann to George D. H. Cole, June 1920–March 1921, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis. []

A Brotherhood of Soldiers? Concepts of Comradeship 1914–1938

Whether we watch movies, read novels, play video games, look at paintings, or listen to podcasts about the First World War, we encounter expressions of what we consider to be the comradeship of the trenches. The idea of the soldiers holding fast together through all hardships, living together, and loving each other like brothers, even dying for one another, has become a central part of the collective memory of the ‘Great War’.1 The social relationship we are shown in these media representations is most often that of best friends. By defining the relationship between soldiers in this way, media productions are creating relatability for non-military users as well as avoiding the rather less clearly defined term ‘comradeship’. The most recent example of this is the film 1917 directed by Sam Mendes, which tells the story of the First World War through the eyes of two soldier friends on a special mission. What it does not show is the daily lives the soldiers had to lead with those they did not consider to be their friends, for whom they did not feel sympathy, or were just not emotionally close to. Those people they called ‘comrades’ and this relationship is almost entirely absent from cultural representations of the war. Media productions therefore replace the social relationship of comradeship with the concept of friendship in our cultural memory of the Great War because they only show one kind of relationship at the front.

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  1. See Aleida Assmann, Der lange Schatten der Vergangenheit (Munich, 2006), 23–6; available in English as Shadows of Trauma: Memory and the Politics of Postwar Identity, trans. Sarah Clift (New York, 2016). []

Recording the Dead in Early Modern London and Munich

Recording the names of the dead has a long tradition in human societies.1 Lists of the dead come in many different forms: as a call to remember the dead, as a reminder of some kind of sacrifice or traumatic event, or as a means to keep track of mortality patterns. In antiquity, we find early examples of lists of those who died in battle, while in the Middle Ages monastic necrologues recorded when a monk or nun died. In both of these cases, however, only the deaths of a select number of individuals were recorded. It is not until the sixteenth century that, at least in Western contexts, more detailed records allow us to gain a better understanding of who died when, and sometimes also where their bodies were buried.2

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  1. The third part (363–488) of Thomas W. Laqueur, The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains (Princeton, 2015) is devoted to the ‘Names of the Dead’. []
  2. On these longer-term developments, see Philip Booth und Elizabeth Tingle (eds.), A Companion to Death, Burial, and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, c.1300–1700 (Leiden, 2021); Thea Tomaini (ed.), Dealing with The Dead: Mortality and Community in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Leiden, 2018). []
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