Cape Coast Castle is one of more than thirty forts which European trading companies erected on the coast of modern-day Ghana between the fifteenth and the nineteenth century. The castle has long been a symbol of one of the most heinous crimes in history: the Atlantic slave trade. Visitors who tour the building in the twenty-first century often project their feelings of anger, grief, and regret onto the inert structure. Some of them are even convinced that spirits roam the slave dungeons, courtyards, and parapets. One of these spirits is the Reverend Philip Quaque, the first person of African descent to ever be ordained in the Anglican Church. Quaque is buried in the fort’s courtyard under a couple of stone slabs bearing his initials. His story, or at least a version of it, features in every guided tour.
Continue reading Philip Quaque in Cape Coast 1766–1816
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.’ 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
Confessional migrations, especially Protestant ones, are a defining characteristic of the early modern period. 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. 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.
Continue reading Pastors, Commissaries, Diplomats: Agency and Migration Networks in the Early Modern Period
Recording the names of the dead has a long tradition in human societies. 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.
Continue reading Recording the Dead in Early Modern London and Munich
The new volume Scribal News in Politics and Parliament 1660–1760, which has just been published as a special issue of the journal Parliamentary History, gathers twelve essays by scholars from Britain, Europe, and North America on the role of scribal news in reporting about parliament and politics in Britain between 1660 and 1760. The volume grew out of a one-day conference held between the History of Parliament and the German Historical Institute London (both institutions are neighbours on Bloomsbury Square) in December 2018 to explore a hitherto underinvestigated topic at the intersection of political and media history.
Continue reading New Publication on Manuscript Newsletters around 1700
It seems like the logical conclusion to a friendly and fruitful relationship that my monograph on town directories of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, entitled Die Stadt lesen: Englische ‘Directories’ als Wissens- und Orientierungsmedien, 1760–1830, has recently been published in the GHIL’s series with De Gruyter Oldenbourg. By far the largest part of my archival research—with most sources relevant to my Ph.D. held by English archives—was made possible by two GHIL scholarships, which also allowed me to discuss my ongoing work with colleagues at the Institute.
Continue reading Directories and the Legibility of Urban Spaces, 1760–1830
It is fitting that my dissertation on the idea of intervention and protection of foreign subjects during the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) has been published in the GHIL’s series, as it touches on one of the most researched periods of English history: the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the Anglo-Spanish War. My study investigates the conflict-ridden relationship between Protestant England and Catholic Spain in the incipient Age of Confession as reflected in publications and drafts of declarations of war and war manifestos, which scholarship has shown to be sources of vital importance for the history of political thought in the early modern period.
Continue reading Intervention on Behalf of Foreign Subjects during the Anglo-Spanish War, 1585–1604
From a Euro-Mediterranean perspective, the conquest of Constantinople led by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1453 not only marked the end of the Byzantine empire that had lasted more than a millennium, but also the end of the European Middle Ages. Rightly considered a ‘moment of great historical significance’ by both contemporaries and modern researchers, the conquest of Constantinople ‘had repercussions that went far beyond its walls’ not only politically and economically, but also culturally and socially.
Continue reading Prophecies and (Hi)Stories: Telling the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453
The newly published anthology Ethiopia Illustrated: Church Paintings, Maps and Drawings is a result of my appointment as Associate Fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences in 2017. The suggestion was aired to publish a volume with my research articles on Ethiopian manuscripts and paintings, which had previously appeared in a variety of journals accessible to readerships in Europe and North America, but which were not easily accessible in Ethiopia. Such a project necessitated obtaining permission to republish the articles, which fortunately was quickly forthcoming. But it also necessitated obtaining funding to print not only seven articles, but also no fewer than 146 illustrations in one volume. The Ethiopian Academy Press was keen to do so, but asked if financial assistance was available.
Continue reading Ethiopia Illustrated: Manuscripts and Painting in Ethiopia – Examples from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century
The time I spent perusing the British Library’s early modern treasures—thanks to a scholarship from the German Historical Institute London—left me with much to think about for my current research project on the body and pleasure in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century periodicals. First and foremost, my time in London gave me a heightened sense of how newspapers and magazines functioned as a medium for conveying pleasure, not least as a sensory experience.
Continue reading Vicarious Observation: Conveying Pleasure and Sensory Experience in Eighteenth-Century British Periodicals