Political History PhD Network | Workshop 2017 Report

The Changing Frontiers of Political History,16th-20th Centuries

Workshop Political History PhD Network
26-27 October 2017, Sciences-Po Paris, France


This two day-workshop is an initiative of the Political History PhD Network. It was organised by Alexandre Boza, Alessandro Capone, Laurent Cuvelier & Thomas Maineult (Sciences Po Paris).

Workshop report

by Alexandre Boza & Laurent Cuvelier

The third workshop of the International Political History PhD Network was hosted by Sciences Po Paris, on 26-27 October 2017. Federating under the headline « The Changing Frontier of Political History », around twenty PhD Students from several European countries (Italy, Spain, The Netherland, France, Germany, the United Kingdom…) and from United States, gathered to present their research. As defined in previous workshops’ organization, each paper was discussed within small groups of high expertise within their respective fields. Joint sessions were held for those study endeavours that bridged two of the panels, thus ensuring comprehensive feedback from the audience. Papers were distributed beforehand, and after brief presentations followed from an assigned commentator, collective feedback opened fruitful discussions. Contributors were grouped into four panels (Empires and Nation-States in a global perspective; Religion, politics, and modernity ; New perspectives in history of international relations ; Politics and practices of social control).

The first panel focused on the importance of Imperial studies for the renewal of political history. It emphasized the methodological influence of cultural history, especially the studies of controversies and discourses linked to specific social and political contexts. It also implied different extra-European contexts such as the first Spanish-Empire or the 19th Century French Empire.

Daniel Alleman (Cambridge University) analysed controversies between Spanish jurists about forced native labor in colonial Peru. Studying those debates, he has shown the connections between Spanish scholastic thought, more practically oriented treatises on the government of the New World, and the broader discourse of empire in early modern Spain.

Madeline Woker (Columbia University) presented her research about politics of taxation in colonial contexts. She focused mainly on colonial Algeria at the beginning of the 20th century, and has traced the debates that led to the abolition of the impôt arabe in 1918. In her paper and presentation, she underlined how taxation crucially shaped the way colonial rule was experienced by all members of colonial society.

Betto van Waarden (UC Louvain) studies how Belgian, British, and German political leaders interacted with the press during its expansion to a ‘mass’ phenomenon between 1880 and 1914. During the conference, he has developed a case study about the 1901-2 verbal conflict between British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain and German Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow. This conflict has been shaped by the communication of both politicians and has contributed to the emergence of a transnational public sphere. Van Waarden’s study of their communication shows how they understood the importance of publicity and visibility to shape their political careers and their celebrity.

Remzi Çağatay Çakırlar (Leiden University-EHESS) focused on the role of French Radical politician Édouard Herriot in the relationship between France and the Young Turk movement in Turkey, both with its Unionist and Kemalist guise. Based on extensive archival research conducted in Leiden, Paris, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence, Carcassonne, and Istanbul, the paper demonstrates that Herriot’s relations with the Young Turks, in the time period from the 1908 Revolution to Atatürk’s death in 1938, were bilateral and frequent. His influence were crucial and can be seen through the ideological foundation of the Kemalist State. Thus, Republicanism and Laïcism are two of the Six Arrows who were added to Turkish Constitution in 1937.

Panel II drew the audience interest on the renewal of religious dimension in modern politics history. Speakers presented several perspectives on this general through diverse topics.

Chloé Lacoste (Université Paris IV) presented her ongoing inquiry on public funerals Northern Ireland in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. She focused on the way Fenians used public funerals and memorials to build up both their political and cultural identity. She wondered if catholicism was a way to nationalism a path to catholicism, and explained how catholicism has challenged and transformed the former Irish republican nationalism. Doing so she emphasized the importance of “role models” as narrative for such a construction and of monuments locations as milestones for identity building.

Serena Presti Danisi (Padua University) has proposed the first results of her prosopography on the first Roman Constituent Assembly of 1849. Elected through universal suffrage, these representatives expressed the liberal movements of the late 1840s, merging liberalism and elitism in a clientelistic way. Roman deputies appeared to have an important former political culture through local and european networking as most of them were already second rank actors in administration and economy.

Stefan Trajkovic Filipovic (Justus-Liebig University, Giessen) presented a study of the relation between belief and space through the media coverage of recent political uses of Mount Rumija. The building of a church dedicated to St Vladimir’s millennium cult raised harsh opposition between Serbian nationalism supported by Serbian orthodox church in Montenegro and Montenegrin nationalism. Articulating local, federal and european scales, S. T. Filipovic showed by this example how the geographical issue of the interface became symbolic frontier for political identities.

Panel III was focused on new perspectives in International relations. Speakers examined this issue following different perspectives and adopting original methodological approaches.

Francesco Caprioli (Univ. Autónoma de Madrid) has studied the Spanish diplomacy during the first third of the 16th century in Maghreb and in Italy as a system to preserve Spanish influence in the Mediterranean. He has focused on both the decision-making circles of the royal court in Madrid and the go-betweens employed with the Berber dynasties as well as with the Italian Renaissance families.

Edoardo Angione (Roma Tre University) has presented his work on information channels used by the papal State under Paul V’s pontificate. He analysed three of them: diplomacy, independent informants and clergymen to underline how the needs and local contexts of informants have shaped international relations between Rome and the Ottoman Empire.

Carlos Antolín Rejón (Univ. Autónoma de Madrid) focused on Prince Filiberto of Savoy (1588-1624) and his public image, using iconic representations and portraits. Between the image of a Habsburg-Savoy Prince or an Italian-Spanish one, the study of material aspects (his clothes for example) shows the progressive “hispanisation” of Fliliberto’s public image even if the Savoy identity were never left completely.

Michele D’Angelo (Univ. Autónoma de Madrid-Univ. de Toulouse) has shown how France and Spain established and consolidated, between 1950s and 1960s, diplomatic relationship throughout the control and repression of their foreign citizens. He underlined the new cooperative relations through different issues such as the control of anti-francoist activists or the Algerian Independent War. In that process, Spanish diplomats have taken a key part to avoid the politization of Spanish workers in France.

Finally, panel IV focused on the practices of social control. It underlined the importance of administrative connection and transfers across state borders and among the local, the national and the European scale. It also has shown how material approaches of political practices and specific case studies are still fruitful methodological perspectives.

Stefano Poggi (EUI, Florence) has developed a specific case study from his research focusing on the techniques of identification in the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. With his case about Security Cards in the Napoleonic Vicenza (1805-1809), he has underlined the potential of a micro perspective in the identification studies, especially to study how the local society reacted to new practices of social control.

Erik de Lange (Utrecht University) studies the European fight against piracy and privateering during the first part of the 19th century. During this workshop he focused on European policies and efforts against ‘Barbary piracy’. After the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818, European tried to address concerted communications to the Ottoman Porte. Moreover, France and England organised a joint expedition to Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. The different reaction and opposition of the Barbary Regencies shows the limits of inter-imperial practices of security and the problematic application of the ‘piracy’ label.

Wouter Klem (Utrecht University) has presented his research focusing on the European campaign against anarchist terrorism and the importance of transnational networks of police. He has shown how the anarchist threat catalyzed police experts to engage in a transnational epistemic network, to exchange and readapt different kind of police practices (such as the anthropometric measurements developed by Alphonse Bertillon).

In his paper and presentation, Nicola Baković (Justus-Liebig University, Giessen) has focused on the methodological aspects of his research. The later is about marches in Soviet Yugoslavia, which has shaped the representations of Yugoslav Territory during the Socialist period. He has developed a methodological approach linked to the process of “place making” (geographical locations, material structures, human agencies…) and the concept of “routinisation”. This approach has let him to emphasize how local actors, non-political aims and economical factors were important for the success of those marches.

Uygar Aydemir (Sabanci University, Istanbul) has presented his work about a political treatise written by Mahmud Nedim Pasha during the 19th century. He developed Mahmud Nedim’s criticism of modern Ottoman bureaucracy and has tried to link Nedim’s perspective with the critique of bureaucracy in Eastern and Central Europe during the 19th century.

As a complement to the organization in panels, coffees and diner in the sideline of the workshop offered occasion to deepen discussions and establish personal contacts over coffee or dinner, eventually to discover french gastronomie.

The presence of scholars from so diverse countries allowed challenging discussions over topics and strong attention to methodological issues. Alongside with the good quality of most presentations, this seems to indicate that the Network is attracting a growing attention, starting being recognized as a valuable scientific experience. The conference programme was further complemented by a keynote discussion on Thursday evening where Michele Di Donato, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Centre for History of Sciences Po, reflected on the challenges of applying for a post-doc position through transnational study of contemporary communists networks. The discussion was appreciated for focusing on the innovating processes in young researchers fundings projects.

On Friday 27th, Marc Lazar, chair of the Association for Political History, addressed the relationship between the PHPN and the APH, insisting on the strengthening of proximity between the two networks. The discussion highlighted the opportunity for PHD to join the APH and get involved in the three next steps : the 2018 APH Conference in Paris, the 2018 PHPN Workshop in Leiden. The discussion moved on to making explicit the Association’s concern for PhD students’ formation and job opportunities. Marc Lazar insisted on the forthcoming Political History job market initiated by the APH and on the importance for the APH website to contribute to turn into a place for “community building”.