Central European History Society Presidential Panel: The Saliency of Central Europe: Questions and New Approaches

AHA Session 32
Central European History Society 3
World History Association 2
Friday, January 3, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Mercury Ballroom (New York Hilton, Third Floor)
James M. Brophy, University of Delaware
In Good Times and Bad: What Is German Studies Today?
David E. Barclay, Kalamazoo College
Cultural Patronage and the State
Celia S. Applegate, Vanderbilt University
Central Europe in the Transoceanic Early Modern World
Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, University of WisconsinMilwaukee
A Transnational and Global Habsburg Empire
Pieter M. Judson, European University Institute
The Audience

Session Abstract

  • "The Saliency of Central Europe: Questions and New Approaches" addresses the state of Central European history and explores new approaches in situating Central Europe in larger transnational, transimperial, or global frameworks. The first of the two themes is prompted by colleagues' perception of the declining saliency of Central European history in our profession, not only for addressing such topics as antisemitism and authoritarianism, but also for the long nineteenth century, the Atlantic World, and early modern world history. Assessing the importance of Central Europe for the larger profession at the 2020 AHA conference seems apposite, because in past years so few AHA panels have incorporated German, Habsburg, or East Central European topics. Toward this end, Professor David Barclay, the long-time director of the German Studies Association, diagnoses the current and future prospects of the field. In spite of the field’s innovative vibrancy with method and approach, Barclay notes the discipline’s problems brought on by policy changes after the Cold War and the current priorities of North American universities. Professor Celia Applegate, a former president of the German Studies Association and the Central European History Society (CEHS), concentrates on the history of “cultural undertakings” in Central Europe by examining the balance of marketplace, patronage, and state support for sustaining cultural communities in modern and current times. German cultural policies, she asserts, teach us much about the perils and promises of state support. The second theme showcases how historians are embedding Central Europe in larger transnational and global impulses. Professor Merry Wiesner, the current president of the World History Association, looks at where the “ocean-centric” emphasis of world history leaves Central Europe. She marshals an array of Central European actors – from printers and mapmakers to financiers and consumers –to show that the transoceanic world was not created by Western Europeans alone. Professor Pieter Judson, the president-elect of CEHS, assesses transnational approaches for the Habsburg Empire's connections throughout the globe. The transnational perspective, he argues, has caused historians to question the continental model of the Habsburg Empire. Although the empire never possessed extra-European colonies, and its government eschewed a global role, its businesses, entrepreneurs, military experts, scholars, scientists, and adventurers initiated a range of informal imperial ventures. The Habsburg influence on the Eastern Mediterranean, Latin America, and China throw light not only on the “global possibilities” of Imperial Austria but also on how global networks inflect the study of local and regional experience. In sum, the panel outlines the contributions of Central European history within the historical profession and its various interpretive communities.
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