Summer Course 2015



39th International Wolfenbüttel Summer Course

Early Modern European Black Studies

(Herzog August Bibliothek, 26th July - 8th August 2015)

Prof. Dr. Eve Rosenhaft (University of Liverpool)

Application deadline: 28th February 2015

Portrait by Wenzel Hollar (1635); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum,
WHollar AB 3.630;


Historical research in Black Studies has tended to be dominated by studies of the ‘Atlantic world’ created by European colonialism, with a chronological focus on transatlantic slavery and its consequences and a cultural emphasis on Anglophone studies. The aim of this Summer Course is to contribute to broadening the horizons of Black Studies by exploring the varieties of experience and interaction among people (black and white) who lived in Europe before the rise of the transatlantic slave trade or in its ‘hinterlands’ – territories and societies whose involvement in the enslavement of Africans was marginal or secondary.  The geographical regions covered in the sessions include Italy, Portugal, Germany, Denmark and the Dutch Empire; the periods we will explore range from about 1400 to 1800. Research on the black experience in these places and periods is growing and lively; the Summer Course aims to provide a space for postgraduate students with interests in any and all areas of Black Studies to engage with this scholarship.

The Summer Course will address the central questions of research in Black Studies and the particular problems and issues raised when we apply those questions to early modern continental Europe: the challenges of ‘finding’ black people in historical societies which neither problematised nor celebrated their presence, forms of subjectivity and identity construction, the tension between self- and other-representation, the origins and persistence of patterns of discrimination and possibilities for emancipation. Participants will be introduced to the key scholarship in the field and work together on analysing and evaluating characteristic source materials. Using literary, philosophical and travel literature, published and manuscript ego-documents and other textual and visual media, we hope to develop fresh approaches to research in Black Studies: What methods and questions are particular to the early modern period? How can broadening the geographical and temporal horizons of the field enrich understandings respectively of the black experience and of European societies in the past?  The rich source material in the holdings of the Herzog August Bibliothek and the regional archives allows for close engagement with contemporary texts and images. 

Mornings will be devoted to presentations and workshops led by senior scholars in the field, with key readings circulated in advance. In the afternoons participants will be able to use the library holdings for their own work. There will, of course, be opportunities for further individual and group discussions with those teaching on the course. In addition, students will be invited to present on aspects of their own research, and there will be opportunities for field trips to historical sites and/or museums.

For participants with projects in the modern periods who want to develop research skills for early modern German studies, afternoon practice groups on reading relevant manuscript and print sources (paleography) will be available.

Course tutors:

  • Drs. Carl Haarnack (Bibliotheca Surinamica and University of Amsterdam)
  • Prof. Dr. Kate Lowe (Queen Mary, University of London)
  • Prof. Dr. Rebekka von Mallinckrodt (University of Bremen)
  • Prof. Dr. Eve Rosenhaft (University of Liverpool)
  • Dr. Gunvor Simonsen (University of Copenhagen)
  • Prof. Dr. Arne Spohr (Bowling Green State University, USA)


The call for applications is addressed to masters or doctoral students from Germany and abroad. The seminars will be conducted in English; the materials for study will be in a range of languages but each session will include key texts in English.

The library offers up to fifteen places for participants and will cover their expenses for accommodation and breakfast. Each participant will receive a subsidy of 100 Euros to cover living costs. Participants are expected to pay their own travel expenses.

There are no application forms. Applicants should state their reasons for wishing to participate in the course and send a c.v. which describes their academic career and their current research. Please also supply the address of an academic referee who may be contacted to supply a reference if needed. The deadline is 28th February 2015. Applications should be submitted, preferably by email, to:

Dr. Volker Bauer
Herzog August Bibliothek
Postfach 13 64
D-38299 Wolfenbüttel
Fax-Nr.: +49 5331- 808 266