Guest Post: An Academic Bridge Across the Atlantic

Today’s guest post comes from Lauric Henneton, Associate Professor at the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin and Vice Président of the Réseau pour le Développement Européen de l’Histoire de la Jeune Amérique (REDEHJA). Junto readers: Have you attended the Summer Academy of Atlantic History? Please share your reflections in the comments.

In June I wrote a post here on Early American and Atlantic history happenings in France. It made clear (hopefully) that the French networks were closely intertwined with British networks and that those scholars, together with their own preexisting transatlantic connections, had coalesced into an expanding European framework, the European Early American Studies Association (EEASA). EEASA’s meetings take two main forms: a biannual EEASA conference on even years (the next in Lublin, Poland in December 2014; proposals due by Sept. 30!) and the Summer Academy of Atlantic History (SAAH) on odd years. Originally, the SAAH was a bilateral creation, the brainchild of Susanne Lachenicht (University of Bayreuth, Germany) and myself. At the time (late 2008), Susanne was still affiliated with Hamburg University, and we discussed possible areas of future collaboration in the burgeoning field of Atlantic history. A journal was rapidly ruled out. Other options would include a series of international conferences or workshops, or an international research seminar; then the idea of a graduate student seminar emerged in the midst of dozens of emails exchanged frantically over the course of a few days.

The key idea was to provide a forum fostering an ongoing transatlantic conversation but also to have it based in Europe. In other words, to make sure that the Atlantic conversation was not centered in the U.S. (no offense meant), even though it was by no means created to rival the Harvard Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World. Having a European venue would ensure that more European scholars—of all stages—might attend. Indeed, the steering committee of the Academy, composed of scholars from both sides of the Atlantic, and several European countries and backgrounds, strives to select as many Europeans as (North) Americans.

With the third Academy, focusing on “Circuits of Knowledge” and held in Hamburg, Germany, drawing to a close, it seems like a good time to explain to the readers of the Junto what it’s all about. Mainly, (post)doctoral students present a (pre-circulated) project and hear comments from a diverse team of European and American tutors. Through discussion, students can confront different traditions, approaches, perspectives and methodologies. On top of these intense, 90-minute sessions, we have two (or three) keynote lectures by senior scholars, and sessions in which group projects are presented and discussed. And we make sure that coffee breaks are long enough to enable participants to engage in less formal discussions and to expand their networks. A “social program,” including a conference dinner and excursions around town, is a crucial time (thought not strictly academic in scope) for more of that interaction to happen.

This year, we introduced the new “Nicholas Canny Prize” for best pre-circulated paper, best presentation, and best discussion to acknowledge the immense impact that Professor Canny has had on our field. The prize was in the form (aptly enough) of a copy of the Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World, edited by Canny and Philip Morgan (and launched during the second edition of the SAAH in Galway in 2011) along with a two-month paid subscription to the Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History. The first winner of the Nicholas Canny prize was—drumroll, please—Anne-Sophie Overkamp (University of Bayreuth), with an outstanding project entitled “An Eldorado of the Industrious, a Zion or the Pious: Middling Classes of Elberfeld and Barmen around 1800 in their Global Context.”

Having held a third, successful edition of the Academy is a strong encouragement to move forward with the program. We have come to a point when the format of Academies seems satisfactory, and we seem to have generated interest among colleagues and doctoral students, thanks to the positive feedback that past participants have been kind enough to spread. But the most gratifying for the founders and committee has probably been to see past participants not only keep in touch (and “like” each other’s updates on social networks) but also to see them convene panels and conferences together. They’ve built on the scholarly connections provided by the Summer Academy and kept the ball rolling. Future Academies are no longer a question of “if,” but of “where.” Several institutions have volunteered already to host the 2015 and 2017 editions and it all depends on securing funding in time. In the next few months, we will announce where the 2015 Academy will be held and issue a call for papers. Meanwhile, the Summer Academy of Atlantic History has a Facebook page where you can follow updates. A report of the 2013 Academy goes online soon, and those of the first and second edition are already available; a database of past students, keynotes and projects is forthcoming, too.

One comment on “Guest Post: An Academic Bridge Across the Atlantic

  1. I attended the Academy and thought it was *incredibly* inspiring. I enjoyed reading the ± 10 page dissertation descriptions, and hope that we (both the official commenters and the audience) were really able to help the dissertators on their way. A good time, with yummy food and fabulous weather, was had by all.

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