Global Empires, Global Courts: Explorations in Politics and Religion
The second conference of the AHRC Global Microhistory Network continues to investigate the relationship between the local and the global, but takes a different tack. In order to explore the potential of global microhistory, we will focus on imperial formations—mostly, but not exclusively, European ones—and debate the correlation between global empires and global courts (and capital cities) in the early modern era. Beijing, Delhi, London, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Madrid, Istanbul, and Venice, but also the Iberian overseas viceregal cities or, say, the capitals of the Malay sultanates, will be at the heart of a collective reflection anchored in two main fields of inquiry: politics and religion.
Were European empires felt in their respective capital cities? The answer is affirmative for the case of Lisbon (Kate Lowe 2015) and London (Robert Batchelor 2014), while Madrid reveals a strange “absence of empire” (James Amelang 2008). How can one gauge the global character of a given court and city? By the “cosmopolitan” character of its inhabitants, social practices, urban culture, visuality and material culture? Were courts and metropolises favoured sites to conceive global politics and foster global imperial dreams across cultures? And were these imperial centers necessarily the most fertile spaces with regard to transcultural diplomacy, rituality and gift-giving?
Parallel and equally intriguing questions can be posed concerning religion. Global religions like Islam and Christianity were adopted, adapted, rejected, practiced, translated and debated in several early modern courts and capital cities. Simultaneously, imperial centers of power were often confronted with rather complex human landscapes, dominated by religious diversity and multi-ethnicity. How did minorities, foreigners and the “empires’ offspring” live in global cities of global empires? How was it to have conversos, moriscos, “global indios” (Nancy van Deusen 2015) and chinos in the same city and under the same “imperial roof”?
Twenty scholars from the United Kingdom, Continental Europe, the United States and Israel will address these and other related themes during a two-day conference—13-14 September 2018—at the European University Institute, Florence.
Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605) holds a religious assembly in the Ibadat Khana (House of Worship) in Fatehpur Sikri; the two men dressed in black are the Jesuit missionaries Rodolfo Acquaviva and Francisco Henriques
illustration to the Akbarnama, miniature painting by Nar Singh, ca. 1605