Linking the Atlantic with the Heart of Europe: German Transnational Networks in the 18th Century

AHA Session 61
Central European History Society 3
Friday, January 8, 2016: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Room 304 (Hilton Atlanta, Third Floor)
Benjamin Marschke, Humboldt State University
The Audience

Session Abstract

Historians of late have been on the search for other Atlantics: this panel seeks to assess that of the German. The field of Atlantic History has been mainly organized around its various component empires (e.g. French, Spanish, British, Portuguese). More recent scholarship has sought to decenter empires from Atlantic History, identifying a broader range of historical actors (including subaltern ones) and identifying contact zones, networks, and moments of overlap and exchange between various Atlantics. Despite their home region’s fragmented political environment and its geographical distance from the Atlantic basin, German-speaking populations over the eighteenth century became increasingly present in, and connected to, the Atlantic. This panel will explore a variety of networks developed by Germans over the eighteenth century that bound them materially, culturally, intellectually, and legally to a zone pivotal in the history of globalization. Each paper takes up a different dimension of the "German Atlantic," promoting a fuller historiographical assessment of this concept amongst competing frames of transnational historical inquiry.

Markus Berger analyzes the formation and evolution of the theological-academic network of the German Lutheran minister John Christopher Kunze (1744-1807), who served Philadelphia and New York congregations from 1770 to 1807.  His presentation will inquire particularly into Kunze's links with his German colleagues in Pennsylvania and the Glauchasche Anstalten (later called the Francke Foundations) in Halle, Germany. Nikolas Schröder examines the early eighteenth-century connections of the Glauchasche Anstalten (Francke Foundations) to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) and the Royal German Chapel in London, linking German-speaking Central Europe with this major Atlantic metropole and its flows of information. In order to illuminate the Enlightenment-era, German-speaking disciplinary networks between Latin America and Europe, Nicholas Miller will focus on Carlos III of Spain’s recruitment of dozens of German-trained Camerialist experts to oversee infrastructural and institutional improvement within Spain’s New World dominions. Andrew Zonderman explores how the German merchant community of colonial Philadelphia integrated itself and its fellow German-speaking immigrants into British networks of trade, consumption, and credit as well as British imperial subjecthood.

These investigations focus on the role of networks in facilitating and enabling transnational information exchange, commercial trade, and migration in the eighteenth-century Atlantic. Transnational networks enabled Germans to carve out various roles in the eighteenth-century Atlantic. These networks assisted them in overcoming the difficulties imposed by their minority status within imperial structures defined by other nations, and helped establish an understanding of their presence as one of mutual benefit for “host” jurisdictions and individual actors. These analyses of German transoceanic networks highlight the presence and diversity of German-speaking peoples around the Atlantic as well as their roles as observers of, and actors within, the contemporaneous Enlightenment, political reform and revolution, commercial expansion, and religious reorganization and renewal. The presence of these networks raises important challenges to long-standing tropes of insularity and provincialism used to describe German-speaking peoples during the long eighteenth century.

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