Brussels, 7-8 December 2017
Throughout Europe, the 19th century saw the growth and modernisation of many levels of administration. The state-building process frequently led to the introduction or consolidation of sub-national, or territorial, representatives of the government such as governors and prefects. Many types of representatives of the state have existed in Europe, and many still do. Long, historical research into territorial administration and state representatives was nationally-orientated and disregarded the cultural dimension. As a result, European territorial administration and state officials are scarcely explored from a historical-comparative or cross-cultural viewpoint.
Recently, instigated by Pierre Karila-Cohen (Rennes 2/Institut Universitaire de France), an international group of researchers, inspired by developments in various disciplines, has taken up the challenge of filling this historiographical gap. Colloquiums were held in 2015 and 2016, in Rennes. The objective of this 3th colloquium, to be held at the Open Universiteit (Campus Vrije Universiteit Brussel), is to further the understanding of territorial officials and administration from a transnational point-of-view.
Within the humanities, the past decades have seen the development of transnational approaches to problematize the nation-state as a unit of analysis. A striking paradox in the history of state-building is that nation-states frequently were shaped using foreign examples. Even though states underscored the national character of their institutions, reforms actually emerged from transnational communication. Both in the social sciences and humanities, the notion of ‘circulation’ has taken root to examine contemporary travelling concepts on good (public) governance, and the intermediaries that transgressed national borders, thus facilitating the exchange of ideas. Drawing on these strands in research, this colloquium proposes to investigate territorial governance and state representatives through the prism of ‘circulation’.
The following list of questions indicates the main themes of the colloquium, but is suggestive rather than prescriptive.
- Which ideas on good territorial governance circulated in Europe? For instance, in the late 18th century, Kameralwissenschaft and œconomie politique travelled the continent. E.g. the research of Christine Lebeau to Saxon grand commis in 1762-1768, which showed how knowledge, via personal libraries, interacted and was transformed. (Lebeau 1993) Have there been equivalent circulating ideas concerning territorial governance?
- How were models of territorial administration transnationally diffused? Circulation was not seldom a product of Empire building. For instance, the Dutch gouverneurs and Italian prefetti drew on, and modified, French examples. (Karila-Cohen ed. forthcoming)
- How did personal contacts inspire reform plans across national borders? National structures were constructed with imported building blocks. E.g. mid-1800s, European progressive liberals endeavoured to reform territorial governance using foreign experiences. (Randeraad 1994)
- To what extent did state representatives themselves physically circulate their territory, Europe and beyond? E.g. officials held posts in many outskirts of the vast countries, and developed imperial careers in oversees possessions, which entailed an ongoing transformation of (administrative) practices. (Lambert & Lester ed. 2006)
- Of which social networks did states representatives form part? E.g. personal experiences abroad shaped the later workings of state officials. Prior to their vocation, they might have studied abroad. Universities are known to have served as intellectual hubs where future officials were educated; via correspondence networks ideas ‘went viral’. (Leerssen 2011)
We invite proposals for 25 minute talks in English or French. Papers either take the form of a case study, or an original and unpublished synthesis. We encourage papers that take an empirical approach to the concept of ‘circulation’, focusing on specific relevant cases. Please submit your proposal by e-mail (pierre.karila-cohen[a]univ-rennes2.fr & martijn.vanderburg[a]ou.nl) before 31st March 2017.
Please note that only a limited amount of funding may be available to assist speakers to cover partial cost. Conference materials, lunches and dinners will be provided for.
Pierre Karila-Cohen, Professor of Modern History, Université Rennes 2, France
Martijn van der Burg, Assistant Professor of Cultural History, Open Universiteit, The Netherlands
Contact Email: Martijn.firstname.lastname@example.org