The Material Culture of War and Emergency in the Early Modern World Conference and Graduate Student Workshop.
War was a pervasive part of early modern life. People experienced war as agents of conflict, impotent witnesses of its destructive forces, and as victims of its economic, social, and material consequences. Such events of conflict and emergency have been approached primarily through text, which has tended to focus historical narratives on the physical destruction wrought on the early modern world. But what if we were to see states of war and emergency also as periods of creation, in which new object types, new collections, new modes of commemorating, visualizing, and material thinking were produced? While material culture studies has been recognised elsewhere as an important window into the everyday, emotional and interior lives of historical actors, the absence of object-based studies of early modern war is a notable omission.
This two-part event seeks to bring together scholars from all fields whose research can re-evaluate the way we view the relationships between conflict and the object world in the early modern period and help explore how processes of destruction could establish new spaces in which material production and consumption might take root. As well as thinking about creation, the conference will consider how war reconfigured the trajectories of existing objects as their biographies became entangled with unfolding events. We are particularly interested in research that moves beyond the more traditional objects of crisis and warfare, such as arms and plunder, and expands the notion of what an object of war might be, looking particularly at the everyday artifacts whose meaning came to be shaped by events of conflict.
The overall purpose of discussion is to focus on how the material approach might bring new insight to the experience of early modern warfare: How were individuals’ experiences of conflict shaped by their material interactions? How did they navigate the extremes of warfare, both during and after conflict, through objects? In what ways did objects’ proximity to and intimacy with conflict determine the value placed upon them by contemporaries? How did encounters with destruction shape the afterlife of objects of war? In addition to this focus on martial conflict, consideration of states of emergency more generally—events of destruction by fire, flood, or other natural disaster, or confessional, political, and social upheaval—can also shed light on the broader discussion and we thus encourage their inclusion.
Papers might consider, but do not have to be limited to:
– Soldiers as artists and artisans
– The loss and migration of objects due to warfare and emergency
– The afterlives of objects associated with early modern war and other destructive events
– Ruins and rebuilding
– The material commemoration of conflict and catastrophe
– Preserving, collecting, and displaying objects of war and emergency
The event begins on 19 April with a Graduate Student Workshop at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies. It will be followed by a public lecture by Sigrun Haude (University of Cincinnati), author of Coping with Life during the Thirty Years’ War (2021). The workshop is designed for early-stage doctoral students across disciplines to share research and discuss methodologies relevant to material and visual culture, particularly within contexts of war and emergency. Very welcome are those students who wish to gain greater experience incorporating visual and material culture into their research. Participants will each give very brief (max. 7-minute) presentations, which will be followed by an extended period for feedback and discussion with established historians and art historians.
The full-day conference at Oxford will be held on 20 April. We invite proposals for twenty-minute research talks that respond to the stated prompts. Contributions from scholars coming from History, Art History, Archaeology, Literature, and related disciplines welcome.
Participation at both events is encouraged but not expected.
Proposals for papers should be sent to Róisín Watson (firstname.lastname@example.org) & Allison Stielau (email@example.com) by 5 pm on 15 January 2023. Applicants to the conference should include paper title and abstract (no more than 250 words). Applicants to the workshop should indicate their interest in the topic and how participating would aid their doctoral research and briefly summarize the presentation they would give (no more than 150 words). Accepted speakers will be informed by 1 February.
A small number of bursaries for graduate students and early career scholars will be available. Please indicate your need in your application.
Organized with the generous support of: UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL History of Art Past Imperfect Seminar, University of Oxford Faculty of History, The John Fell Fund at the University of Oxford, The Centre for early modern studies at the University of Oxford.
Image: The Sacking of Magdeburg 1631, Workshop of Matthäus Merlan, 1659, watercolour over engraving on paper