The Globalized Periphery: Atlantic Commerce, Socioeconomic and Cultural Change in Central Europe (1680-1850)
Socio-economic relations between early modern Central Europe – loosely defined as the territories of the Holy Roman Empire – and the Atlantic World have been widely neglected by the prospering field of Atlantic History. This project, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), investigates the integration of the Empire’s seemingly landlocked “peripheries” into global markets, with a focus on
- the export of manufactures meant for bartering African slaves and for consumption in the New World,
- the reflux of products from Africa and the Americas and their impact on material culture and on the social fabric in the Empire.
These topics are investigated in three distinct but interlinked sub-projects, covering the long 18th century, when the Atlantic slave trade and the plantation system, as well as European proto-industries were at their peak:
- The networks of distribution spun by Silesian linen merchants into Western European seaports and beyond constitute one case study within the project. Low wages in Pomerania, Silesia, Galicia etc. allowed for linen from these regions to compete with cottons from India on markets in Western Europe, Africa and the Americas. (See Project A)
- Since Africa in particular was a ‘buyers’ market’ whose consumers shaped the assortments of goods shipped there and thus made their mark on production in Europe, a second sub-project analyzes the volume and structure of exports from Central Europe via France and Portugal to Africa. It illuminates Central European interests in the slave trade and also investigates the mercantile networks established by Central European merchants in Lisbon and Nantes in order to conduct this trade. (See Project B)
- The third sub-project examines the impact of Atlantic consumer products and raw materials on industry and consumption in Central Europe, including lesser known merchandise like West African gum Arabic, crucial for the European textile industry. It asks how such products fueled technological innovations, impacted knowledge production, and channeled consumer practices. (See Project C)