Traces of the Slave Trade in the Holy Roman Empire and its Successor States: Discourses, Practices, and Objects, 1500–1850

Josef Koestlbauer's picture
Call for Papers
November 29, 2018 to December 1, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Atlantic History / Studies, Black History / Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies, German History / Studies, Slavery

Contents and objectives
Recent research has increasingly highlighted the economic and personal involvement of German actors in the early modern slave trade. Merchants, shipowners, sailors, and doctors from the Holy Roman Empire and its successor states organized the purchase and transport
of enslaved people from the colonial zones of other powers. The textiles, metal, and glass industries produced goods for the slave trade. At the same time, aristocratic households in the Holy Roman Empire used so-called “court moors” as servants and for representative purposes. The financial, material, and human effects of the slave trade thus extended from the zones of colonial rule deep into the territories of the Holy Roman Empire (see e.g., Weber 2009, Kuhlmann-Smirnov 2013, Rosenhaft/ Brahm 2016).
Continuing and expanding this research, the conference will explore the discourses, practices, and material objects that testify to slavery and the slave trade in the Holy Roman Empire. This concerns the trafficking of people who were—even in the Old Empire—regarded by some owners as slaves and explicitly described as such (Mallinckrodt 2016 and 2017). It also concerns the discursive engagement with slavery and the slave trade, which for the above-mentioned reasons should not only be seen in its function as a proxy discourse, i.e., as criticism of other forms of unfreedom (Lentz 2016). And third, it concerns the material goods that were exchanged for slaves or that were made from slave labor. With regard to these three fields of research, one of the main aims of the conference is to bring together scholarship that has thus far largely been local in focus and to highlight the systematic character of the involvement of the Holy Roman Empire in the Atlantic slave trade as well as in other systems of slavery. The focus on slavery and the slave trade deliberately intends to direct attention away from possible representative purposes (and thus the owners' perspective), and looks instead at the journeys of trafficked people into the Holy Roman Empire as well as the economic side of human trafficking, and—whenever possible—at the experiences of the trafficked individuals themselves.

The following topics may be considered:
- Analyses of publications, private correspondence, diaries, or memoirs addressing the necessity or immorality of slavery and the slave trade, reporting on personal experiences with the slave trade, or taking a definite position regarding the abolitionist movement or the defense of slavery, which were written or received in the Holy Roman Empire.
- Tracing the routes along which people were trafficked into the Holy Roman Empire and its successor states, proof of trading practices, evidence on how people who were acquired in this way were dealt with in the Holy Roman Empire, presentation of personal testimonies from trafficked individuals and accounts of their lives.
- Investigation of goods and objects produced using slave labor and traded in the Holy Roman Empire or that can serve as material witnesses to the slave trade and slavery.

The conference will be organized and financed as part of the ERC project "The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and its Slaves" (grant agreement no. 641110). The conference languages are German and English. An English-language, peer-reviewed publication of the
contributions is planned for 2019. Therefore, the following timetable must be observed:
- Proposals for topics (1-2 pages) as well as a short CV should be sent by April 16, 2018 to: The selection of the papers will take place in the same month. Only original contributions based on new research can be considered.
- The contributions will be circulated among the participants two weeks before the conference. Hence, they must be sent in by November 15, 2018 with a length of approx. 5,000 words (German or English).
- The final, English-language version of the essay (max. 10,000 words) must be submitted by March 31, 2019.
- Due to the obligatory open access publication, which is funded by the grant and therefore depends on its duration, no deviations from this schedule are possible.

The following experts have already confirmed their participation:
- Prof. Mark Häberlein (University of Bamberg)
- Prof. Craig M. Koslofsky (University of Illinois)
- Prof. Eve Rosenhaft (University of Liverpool)
- Prof. Walter Sauer (University of Vienna)
- Prof. Arne Spohr (Bowling Green State University)
- Prof. Klaus Weber (European University Viadrina Frankfurt/Oder)

We look forward to receiving your application!

Contact Info: 

Prof. Rebekka v. Mallinckrodt / Dr. Josef Köstlbauer / Sarah Lentz - University of Bremen