Periodic Reporting for period 4 - SoSGlobal (Stories of Survival: Recovering the Connected Histories of Eastern Christianity in the Early Modern World)
Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2020-08-31
The questions driving the research range include issues related to communal identity, memory and belonging in Eastern Christianity, modes of exchange and communication between Eastern Christian communities and their counterparts in the West, and central questions about the place of Eastern Christianity in the early modern world. Underlying the project is also a set of deeper questions related to the practice and future of early modern global history, itself a subject of current and controversial debate. The project responds directly to one of the most pressing conceptual challenges facing global history today: that is, how is it possible to link the study of the micro-scale level of everyday life to the macro-narratives of global change. At the heart of this project, therefore, is an attempt to contribute to a more rigorous form of global history, and one which preserves philology and source criticism at the heart of its methodology.
The second objective of the project was to write a ‘connected history’ of early modern Eastern Christianity in a global framework, one that links individuals, texts, and contexts within a transnational framework stretching across Europe, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, India, and the Americas. The combined efforts of the research team has resulted in no fewer than 16 publications related directly to the three research questions (e.g. 1 book, 15 articles). Stretching across archives and sources in Arabic, Syriac, Karshuni, Latin, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and English, the publications offer for the first time a truly global vision of the horizons of Eastern Christianity in the early modern period.
Third, the project has contributed a sophisticated methodology to the study of early modern global history, particularly in its refinement of current approaches of ‘global microhistory’. Of particular importance is the project’s output on Global History and Microhistory, published in 2019 as a supplement volume for the journal Past and Present. The entire volume is available online in open access form, and it has become the ‘go-to’ volume for a wide range of international scholars looking for new models of combining microhistory and global history.
Finally, the project has opened new avenues for further research into the study of Eastern Christianity, mobility and early modern globalization. By recovering lost sources and discovering new ones, the project expanded the horizons of Eastern Christian Studies, enabling it to extend into new studies of religious, cultural, and literary history. The global context of the project will also provide a foundation for scholars to develop more focused, national histories of Eastern Christianity in close consultation with local, provincial, and national archives. Finally, the project’s focus on the Eastern Christian diaspora will enable scholars to engage in a more explicitly comparative study, for example, by comparing Eastern Christians to better documented communities such as Jews, Greeks, and Muslims in the early modern world. In this way, the project will also contribute to the growing and dynamic literature on the study of early modern toleration, difference, and mobility.
This project began with the assumption that the history of Eastern Christianity must be studied in the context of wider European and global developments in the early modern period. As such, the team targeted its findings in publications that reached three main audiences: specialists in Eastern Christianity, scholars in Middle Eastern history and Islamic studies, and ‘mainstream’ history journals aimed at wider circles of early modern historians. In addition, the team disseminated its findings at several international conferences and smaller workshops. In this way, the Stories of Survival project placed Eastern Christianity at the forefront of European, Islamic, and global history in the early modern period.
That Eastern Christianity should become relevant to the study of the early modern period more generally remains the central goal of this project. But underlying the project is also a set of deeper questions related to the practice and future of early modern global history, itself a subject of current and controversial debate. The intellectual incoherence of the field has been a subject of great concern for practitioners and critics alike, and these debates revolve around significant differences in opinion over the appropriate methods, sources, and goals of global history. The project responded, therefore, to one of the most pressing conceptual challenges facing global history today, that is, how is it possible to link the study of the micro-scale level of everyday life to the macro-narratives of global change. The project successfully contributed a more rigorous form of global history, one which preserves philology and source criticism at the heart of its methodology.