Eduard Zander in Ethiopia, 1847–68

Eduard Zander (1813–68), from Saxony-Anhalt, combined the roles of painter and draughtsman, architect and artisan, ethnographer and assistant to the German botanist Georg Wilhelm Schimper in one person.1 What is left of the artist’s output consists to a large degree of drawings in a naturalistic style made in the mid nineteenth century in Ethiopia. Nothing comparable is known by Ethiopian artists of the time. From the beginning of the nineteenth century onwards, European travellers sketched landscapes, spectacular sites like the stelae park in Aksum with its monumental, almost 2,000-year-old obelisks, the country’s eleven thirteenth-century monolithic rock churches in Lalibäla, the palaces in Gondär, and impressive ranges such as the Simän Mountains. Little by little, European explorers drew the life around them, important events like receptions by local dignitaries, and picturesque scenes such as a slave market.2

Continue reading Eduard Zander in Ethiopia, 1847–68
  1. See also Dorothea McEwan, (2012), ‘Eduard Zander, sein Leben in Ähiopien, 1847–1868’, in Dessauer Kalender 2013: Heimatliches Jahrbuch für Dessau-Roßlau und Umgebung,vol. 57, 32–51. []
  2. Henry Salt, A Voyage to Abyssinia, and Travels into the Interior of that Country, Executed Under the Orders of the British Government, in the Years 1809 and 1810 (London, 1814). []

Studies on Aby Warburg, Fritz Saxl, and Gertrud Bing

The Studies1 is a collection of articles I originally published in German, Italian and French as the first Archivist of the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London, turned into chapters. I catalogued the entire correspondence of Aby Warburg (1866–1929) held by the archive, some 37,000 letters and postcards dating from the 1880s to Warburg’s death in 1929.2 As an expert in German palaeography and in intellectual history, I set up a database of the Warburg Institute’s large archival holdings. Having worked on other large collections, notably the Gustav Klimt / Emilie Flöge correspondence, large holdings of records of Jewish sthetls, and Austrian archival material from Egypt, the collection in the Warburg Institute allowed for an in-depth examination and understanding of Aby Warburg, Director of the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg in Hamburg and his two librarians, Fritz Saxl and Gertrud Bing. Saxl and Bing were instrumental in transferring the entire library to London in 1933, and became directors of the newly established Warburg Institute there and developing it into one of the world’s leading centres of intellectual history, Saxl until his death in 1946 and Bing from 1955 to 1959. In this new volume, which comprises seventeen chapters, I have translated and updated my work originally published as articles in various academic journals on the impact of these three extraordinary scholars.

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  1. Dorothea McEwan, Studies on Aby Warburg, Fritz Saxl, and Gertrud Bing (Abingdon, 2023). []
  2. Database of the Aby Warburg Correspondence in the Warburg Institute Archive (WIA), 37,845 English language abstracts, available online. []

Socialism and Slavery within the British and German Socialist Labour Movements, 1830–1890

I know and deeply deplore the sufferings which the workingmen at Manchester and in all Europe are called to endure in this crisis. It has been often and studiously represented that the attempt to overthrow this government, which was built upon the foundation of human rights, and to substitute for it one which should rest exclusively on the basis of human slavery, was likely to obtain the favor of Europe. Through the actions of our disloyal citizens the workingmen of Europe have been subjected to a severe trial, for the purpose of forcing their sanction to that attempt.1

With these words, among others, the American President Lincoln addressed a famous letter to the workers of Manchester in January 1863. What had happened? Manchester and Lancashire suffered from the Cotton Famine from 1862 onwards, which made many workers unemployed and drove them into poverty. Supporting the Confederate States in the American Civil War, as many merchants and members of the upper classes did, could therefore have been an obvious way for the workers to get back to work and earn a crust. Yet under difficult conditions, workers continued to support the northern states and the struggle to end slavery. In Manchester city centre today, a large statue commemorates this contact between sections of the British working class and the American president.

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  1. Abraham Lincoln, ‘To the Workingmen of Manchester, England’, Jan. 19, 1863, in Roy P. Basler, (ed.), The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 8 vols. (New Brunswick, 1953), vi, 63–5, at 64. []

The Emperor’s Diet or the Empire’s Reichstag? Sixteenth-Century English Wordplay on the ‘Diet’ and its Heuristic Use

On 10 January 1547, Thomas Thirlby, first and last bishop of Westminster and Henry VIII’s envoy to Emperor Charles V, informed his master ‘that th[e] Emperour gothe to Ulmes [Ulm], thear to take the diet for the cure of his gowt, and as some hathe said, He well have a Diet there for the cure of Germany.’1 In this witty wordplay on the homonymy of the word ‘diet’, Thirlby relayed news about the emperor’s health problems and his issues with the Schmalkaldic League, an association of Protestant Imperial Estates. The solution was represented by the same word ‘diet’ in both cases, albeit with different meanings. What was proof of eloquence and humanist rhetoric in this primary source, however, today presents certain heuristic challenges for historians who encounter the word ‘diet’ in edited sources.

Continue reading The Emperor’s Diet or the Empire’s Reichstag? Sixteenth-Century English Wordplay on the ‘Diet’ and its Heuristic Use
  1. The National Archives, Kew (TNA), SP 1/228, Thirlby to Paget, 10 Jan. 1547, fos. 41r–42v, at 41r. []

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.

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  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). []

Conference Report: The Politics of Iconoclasm in the Middle Ages, 1–2 September 2022

Image-making ages always appear to be image-breaking ones as well, as Len Scales (Durham) stressed in his welcome and introduction, referring to current instances of overtly political attacks on images. As such, we would expect the Middle Ages, as a decidedly visual age, to be no different. Yet existing scholarship, Scales continued, suggests that image-breaking was alien to the medieval period. Perhaps because medieval images were so often religious in content and the Middle Ages are so often viewed as an era of faith, the relative (though not absolute) lack of religiously motivated iconoclastic action throughout the Middle Ages is mistaken for proof that there was no noteworthy destruction of visual material, and certainly not for political reasons. Scales thus called for comparative and systematic research to further flesh out the topic.

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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). []

Borders and Belonging: Subjects of Current and Historical Significance

Borders and belonging are of immense importance as borders are being (re)defined, strengthened, or weakened all around the globe. Brexit, the proposed wall between the USA and Mexico, the India–Pakistan border—the drawing of social and spatial boundaries is at the heart of many current debates, as is the question of what it means to ‘belong’ somewhere. The featured image illustrates how important the relationship between borders and belonging is and, from the point of view of those involved, how relevant to security considerations. A NASA image taken on board the International Space Station in September 2015, it shows the India-Pakistan border at night. The view is in a northerly direction across the valley of the Indus River. Illuminated by the light of security installations, it represents one of the few cases where an international border can be seen from space, at least at night.

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