Historical research on European Expansion has generally overlooked the role of Central and Eastern Europe in this process, even though Immanuel Wallerstein has famously integrated these regions as peripheries and semi-peripheries in his Modern World System. Research carried out in the past two decades has underscored the importance of commodity flows between German-speaking lands and the Atlantic world, and offered a more nuanced picture. Eastern provinces, such as Silesia, did not provide raw materials (as Wallerstein suggested), but high quality linens which served as barter commodities in the slave trade and as work wear on plantations, while competitors in Northern France went into decline. Proto-industries in Westphalia and the Rhineland not only exported linens and metal ware to these distant markets, but also sent merchants to places like Bordeaux, Cadiz, Lisbon and London. In Bordeaux and London, they rose into the ranks of leading merchant bankers, ship owners and owners of New World plantations, thus securing these exports – and blurring Wallerstein’s concept of the core region. Eighteenth-century Hamburg, in turn, became Europe’s major centre for sugar refining, outperforming places like Bordeaux and Amsterdam, and re-exporting the produce as far east as St. Petersburg. It was a peculiar mix of factor endowments, which gave proto-industries in some German lands a competitive edge. The presentation will consider availability and cost of labour, solid fuel, waterpower, raw materials etc.
Klaus Weber is Professor of European Economic and Social History, Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder); obtained his PhD at Universität Hamburg (2001); has been Research Fellow at The Rothschild Archive, London (2004-2009), and researcher at the Institut für die Geschichte der Deutschen Juden, Hamburg (2010-2011). A project at Viadrina is in its final phase: “The Globalized Periphery: Atlantic Commerce, Socioeconomic and Cultural Change in Central Europe (c. 1680-1850)” (funded by DFG).
Yuta Kikuchi obtained his Ph.D. (Dr.phil, 2013) in History at the University of Greifswald, Germany. Since 2016, he has been Associate Professor of Economic History of Europe at Rikkyo University of Tokyo, Japan. His recent publications include Hamburgs Ostsee- und Mitteleuropahandel 1600-1800. Warendistribution und Hinterlandnetzwerke (Cologne: Boehlau, 2018).
All welcome- this event is free to attend but booking is required.