Clothes Make the (Wo)man – Dress and Cultural Difference in Early Modern Europe

Conference Report by Cornelia Aust, Denise Klein, and Thomas Weller, Leibniz Institute of European History

Cross-posted from

“femme grecque”, Rålamb Kostümalbum, 1657, ©, Nr. 56

Dress is a key marker of difference. It is closely attached to the body, part of the daily routine, and an unavoidable means of communication. The clothes people wear tell stories about their allegiances and identities but also about their exclusion and stigmatization. They allow for the display of wealth and can mercilessly display poverty and indigence. Clothes also enable people to play with identities and affinities: for instance, individuals can claim higher social status via their clothes. In many ways, dress is thus open to manipulation by the wearer and misinterpretation by the observer.

Authorities—whether religious or secular, local or regional—have always aimed at imposing order on this potential muddle. This is particularly true for the early modern era, when the world became ever more complex. In Europe, the composition of societies diversified with the emergence of new social groups and increasing migration and travel. Thanks to intensified long-distance trade and technological developments, new fashionable clothes and accessories entered the market. With the emergence of a consumer culture, it was now the case that not only the extremely wealthy could afford at least the occasional indulgence in luxury items and accessories.

Diego Velázquez, Don Pedro de Barberana y Aparregui, with Calatrava Cross, 1632, commons.

Over recent years, research has focused on a variety of areas related to dress and appearance in the context of early-modern political, socio-economic, and cultural transformations both within Europe and related to its entanglement with other parts of the world. Nevertheless, a significant compartmentalization in the research on dress and appearance remains: research is often organized around particular cities and territories, and much research is still framed by modern national boundaries. Thus, the conference on dress and cultural difference in early modern Europe at the Leibniz Institute of European History aimed to cross some of these boundaries. It sought to look at dress and its perception in Europe from a transcultural perspective and to highlight the many differences that clothing can express.

In her keynote lecture “The Right to Dress,” ULINKA RUBLACK (Cambridge) provided a broad overview of sumptuary laws, dress practices, and the related political changes in the early modern world. She emphasized that innovations in fashion, even before the eighteenth century, were not reserved to aristocratic elites. Small luxury items or imitations of precious fabrics allowed fashion to spread across different social groups. Rublack argued that sumptuary laws did not necessarily enshrine a new mode of ‘governmentality’ and mark a step towards modernity: instead, those protagonists interested in spreading new fashionable clothes and accessories – merchants, manufacturers, artisans, and their customers – fought for, and slowly won, their “right to dress.”

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European History Across Boundaries from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century

PhD Workshop starts today at Mainz

The Leibniz Institute of European History has convened international PhD students to a workshop on European history across boundaries from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, including Europe’s relations with the world. The Graduate Workshop 2017/18 starting today takes place in cooperation with Lyndal Roper, Regius Chair of History at the University of Oxford. Early career researches working in this field present their dissertation projects and discuss the transcultural and transnational scope of their findings.

Leibniz Institute of European History: Fellowship Programme

The programm covers a range of topics that aim to cross and reflect boundaries and borders from early modern to contemporary history. Participants are:

Desiree E. Krikken (Groningen), My plot, your plat, our inhabited landscape: Early modern land surveyors and the record of European physical space
Alberto Rodríguez Martínez (Seville), Local politics and cross-border negotiations in the Low Countries (1598–1621)

Valerio Zanetti (Cambridge), Embodied Feminity in Renaissance Europe
Julia Maclachlan (Manchester),Male Homosexuality 1945–70: Transnational Scientific and Social Knowledge in British and West European contexts

Betto van Waarden (Leuven), Political Visibility: Celebrity leaders and the emerging mass press in Europe, 1895–1908
Joana Duyster Borreda (Oxford), Towards an International History of Nationalism: Performing, Remembering and Disseminating Catalan Culture Abroad

Carlos Domper Lasús (LUISS Rome), Polls without Democracy: Elections under European dictatorships during the Cold War: Spain and Portugal in a comparative framework
Mari Hauge (EUI), Another third standpoint? Scandinavian left-wing intellectuals and their Cold War

Christian Wiesner (Innsbruck), Reception and regulation of the Tridentine reforms: The Roman curia of the 16th and 17th Century and the implementation of the residential obligation of priests and bishops
Tanja Zakrzewski (Potsdam), Conversos and Moriscos: Identity and violence in Early Modern Spain

Iris Busschers (Groningen), Making Missionary Lives: Collective biography, missionary memory, and Dutch self-fashioning in the context of Reformed Missions to Dutch New Guinea and East Java, c. 1900–1949
Norman Aselmeyer (EUI), Fractured Spaces: East Africa, the Uganda railway, and patterns of disintegration, c. 1890–1914

Conveners: Gregor Feindt, Johannes Paulmann (Mainz) and Lyndal Roper (Oxford)
Venue: Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz, Germany
Date: 24 – 26 January 2018

The Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG), an independent research institution in Mainz (Germany), contributes to the history of Europe across boundaries from an interdisciplinary perspective. It fosters research on the social, political, cultural and religious dynamics in Europe from the early modern period into the twentieth century and focusses on processes of establishing, coping with and enabling difference. The IEG has a fellowship programme for PhD students, PostDoc researches and Senior Research Fellows. For further details see here.


Helsinki 1975: Détente and Human Rights in the CSCE Process

New IEG open access publication “On site, in time”Bernhard Gißibl’s entry on the CSCE process.

“On site, in time” takes a look at events that took place in European locations and that exemplify how difference and inequality were negotiated in Europe.The 60 articles depict strategies that were developed to promote, present, preserve, mitigate or abolish difference. Such strategies may include discussions, peaceful solutions and aid as well migration, mission and protest or even exclusion, war and destruction.

Cross-posted from:

Conference diplomacy and the CSCE process (constellations)

In the history of international conference diplomacy, Helsinki symbolizes détente, cooperation, and human rights during the Cold War. The reason for this is the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), whose Final Act was signed in Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall on August 1st, 1975 by the leaders of 33 European states, the USA, and Canada.

Helmut Schmidt, Erich Honecker, Gerald Ford and Bruno Kreisky at the CSCE Summit in 1975 in Helsinki, Finland.

This initiated a dialogue and negotiation process on confidence-building measures and principles between the blocs of the Cold War, which was designated the CSCE or “Helsinki process”. At the same time, the conference location signifies the role that neutral and non-aligned countries played as catalysts, facilitators and – in the case of Finland – as intermediaries of the security conference.

Cold War and détente in Europe (differences)

The CSCE conference had its roots in the superpowers’ efforts to ease tensions in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. By the early 1970s, conditions had changed: NATO had adopted a new strategy of easing tensions (“détente”), while the Federal Republic of Germany had concluded the Eastern treaties and recognized the GDR. In July 1973, the foreign ministers of all 33 European countries (with the exception Albania), as well as the USA and Canada, were able to begin with preliminary negotiations on security and cooperation in Europe. Continue reading

Political Mobilisation in the Early-Twentieth Century

Special issue of Immigrants & Minorities on “Homelands and Hostlands: The Spatial Dynamics of Political Mobilisation”

This special issue edited by Eveline G. Bouwers (Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz) and Niall Whelehan (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow) considers the categories of ‘homeland’ and ‘hostland’ as a means to approach questions of identity, loyalty and estrangement that both inspired and shaped political mobilisation in the early twentieth century world. During these years the advance of the global went hand in hand with a renaissance of the particular. Within this context of both high mobility and increasing localism, the articles in this special issue consider the importance of spatial perspectives in understanding how people and communities are moved to action by grievances, frustrations and loyalties.

Drawing on rich archival detail, each article considers different case studies that highlight diverse forms of politicisation and provide new insights into how communities negotiated questions of boundaries and space, and how the juxtaposition of homeland and hostland shaped their thinking. They show that, in an era of high mobility and increasing localism, political mobilisation was intimately connected with questions of space, making both use of it yet also depending on it.

Table of contents:

Eveline G. Bouwers & Niall Whelehan, Introduction: The Importance of Space for Understanding Political Mobilisation.

Eveline G. Bouwers, Challenging de Republic from the Provinces: An Analysis of Crowd Action after the Separation Law (1905).

Pietro Di Paola, ‘Capturing Anarchists Across Borders’: The Transnational Dimensions of Italian Antimilitarist Campaigns, 1911-14.

Elisabeth Marie Piller, To Aid the Fatherland. German-Americans, Transatlantic Relief Work and American Neutrality, 1914-17.

John Cunningham, Tom Glynn and ‘Pickhandle Mary’ Fitzgerald: Two Irish Syndicalists in Pre-World War One South Africa.

Rebecca Ayako Bennette, Remapping the German Homeland: Germania and Catholic Efforts to Mobilise Continued Support during the First World War.

CROSS-files: New Blog of ICRC Archives

Cross-posted from

The Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva has created the new blog CROSS-files! This blog aims at promoting the contents of the rich audiovisual archives, library collections, general archives and what the ICRC calls the “Agency Archives”. This great collection of books, sound recordings, films, videos and photos illustrate and document the activities of the ICRC from the end of the 19th century up to the present day. These archives and library have been continually expanded over more than 150 years and today represent a significant heritage in the field of humanitarian law and action. It is a fantastic resource for all researchers working in the entangled fields of the history of humanitarianism and peace and conflict studies!

Furthermore, there is also the new ICRC Archives facebook account, where you can find additional material regarding the archives.

Enjoy exploring the rich history of the International Committee of the Red Cross and its archives!

Europe Across Borders

The blog Europe Across Borders is a forum for historical research on Europe across borders from around 1500 to the present. It advances historical knowledge in present scholarly and public debates.


The blog posts cross and reflect boundaries not merely between nation states or cultures but also between social, economic, religious, ethnic, gender, and other entities. The blog thus fosters research on the dynamics in Europe from the early modern period into the twentieth century and the immediate past. The blog is open to a broad variety of topics, both with regard to methodological approaches and fields of research. Methodologically, it brings together approaches such as comparative studies, the study of transfer processes and entanglements, the histoire croisée, or international, imperial and global history. Beyond that, the blog takes up all fields of cultural, political, social, economic, environmental and intellectual history throughout Europe in the modern period. It is especially interested in providing a fresh picture on Europe’s place in a globalising world. Continue reading