Our project proposes a fragmentary account of the art histories produced in present-day Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia between 1850 and 1950, from an entangled histories perspective. We will look at the relationships between the art histories produced in these countries and the art histories produced in Western Europe. But, more importantly, we will investigate how the art histories written in the countries mentioned above resonate with each other, either proposing conflicting interpretations of the past, or ignoring uncomfortable competing discourses. We will investigate the art histories written between 1850 and 1950 because we are interested in how art history contributed to nation building discourses. Therefore, we will focus on those art histories that concur to nationalising the past. Our project is articulated around three crucial concepts – periodisation, style and influence – set in the context of relevant contemporary historiographies produced in Western Europe, and analysing the entanglements with competing historiographies in each of the countries considered. We will focus on two main issues: 1. How did Central and Eastern European art historians adopt, adapt and respond to theoretical and methodological issues developed elsewhere, and 2. What are the periodisations of art produced on the territory of Central and Eastern European countries; what are the theoretical and methodological strategies for conceptualising local styles; and how was the concept of influence used in establishing hierarchical relationships. Researching the conceptualisation of a theoretical framework that would accommodate the artistic production of the past will show the difficulties in dealing with a complex reality without simplifying and essentializing it along ideological lines. The research will also show that the three concepts that we focus on are not neutral or strictly descriptive, and that their use in art history needs to be reconsidered.
Politicians, scholars, and popular writers between 1750 and 1850 routinely characterized South-East-Central Europe as a corrupt political space. A wide range of foreign observers portrayed graft, nepotism, and bribery as endemic. Indigenous critics echoed many of these assessments. Regional insiders and outsiders alike mobilized commentaries on “corruption” for their own political, professional, and personal ends, claiming they could run more honest and efficient administrations, military regimes, and commercial operations than those in power. These notables linked “corruption” to the region's supposed cultural backwardness and economic under-development. In doing so, public figures naturalized notions of “corruption,” making it appear both widespread and organic in the region—popularizing tropes that have endured right down to the present. Yet, “corruption” is a historically specific concept. TransCorr seeks to construct a history of the idea of “corruption” in Central-South-East Europe in conjunction with the rise of modernity. It demonstrates how in the context of new ideas about modernity emanating from West Europe, regional leaders reframed a host of traditional customs and practices as corrupt. It examines how Great Power attempts to transform these borderlands into formal and informal imperial provinces further entrenched novel understandings of “corruption”, often pejoratively associating them with the Ottoman legacy. By tracing out this history, TransCorr reveals a genealogy of ideas, discourses, and attitudes that continue to inform analyses of and discussions within the region today. The project brings the study of this geographic area into greater dialogue with a global story of modernization and aligns the region’s historiography with new innovations in the scientific literature. It also reframes contemporary debates on patronage and graft, and reconfigures broader understandings of center-periphery relations within the region and across the continent.
It is hard to give a broadly acceptable definition of the concept of luxury, which as a field of study has also been largely neglected by historians and sociologists. From a moral or philosophical point of view, luxury is seen as a form of decadence, although from the economic perspective it is seen as a force that drives development of the consumerist economy. Every society knows it in some form, regardless of the degree of economic development, reserving luxury to elite groups, who show their power and pomp through the display of luxury goods. The history of luxury is therefore, from this perspective, a history of power, reflecting the syncretism of cultural and political thought. Luxury and fashion as components of material culture can also be analysed through the lens of cultural history, since they play an important role in the creation of visual culture. This project proposes to analyse the Christian elites of Ottoman-dominated Europe in the Early Modern period from these perspectives, and to look at how they defined their social status and identity at the intersection of East and West. In such an analysis, the Westernisation of South-Eastern Europe proceeds not just through the spread of Enlightenment ideas and the influence of the French Revolution, but also through changes in visual culture brought about by Western influence on notions of luxury and fashion. This approach allows a closer appreciation of the synchronicities and time lags between traditional culture, developments in political thought and social change in the context of the modernisation or “Europeanization” of this part of Europe.
The present research project focuses on an unjustly neglected corpus of late-medieval sources, the administrative and fiscal accounts (‘computi’) of the castellanies – basic administrative units – of the county of Savoy. I propose a holistic model of analysis that can fully capitalise on the unusual wealth of detail of the Savoyard source material, in order to illuminate some key topics in late-medieval institutional and socio-economic history, from the development of state institutions through administrative and fiscal reform – with particular attention to the transition from personal to institutional accountability – to the question of socio-economic growth, decline, and recovery during the turbulent period of the late-thirteenth to the late-fourteenth century. More broadly, my research into these topics aims to contribute to our understanding of the late-medieval origins of European modernity. The advances of pragmatic literacy, record-keeping, and auditing practices will be analysed with the aid of anthropological and social scientific theories of practice. By comparing the Savoyard ‘computi’ with their sources of inspiration, from the Anglo-Norman pipe rolls to the Catalan fiscal records, the project aims to highlight the creative adaptation of imported administrative models, and thus to contribute to our knowledge of institutional transfers in European history. The project will develop an inclusive frame of analysis in which the ‘computi’ will be read against the evidence from enfeoffment charters, castellany surveys (‘extente’), and the records of direct taxation (‘subsidia’). The serial data will be analysed by building a database; the findings of quantitative analysis will be verified by case studies of the individuals and families (many from the middle social strata) that surface in the fiscal records.