‘Stories of Survival’ research associate Dr Tobias Graf will be giving a paper at the University of Cambridge’s Early Modern History workshop:
Date: 31 January, 2019
Venue: Senior Parlour, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Seminar programme: https://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/seminars/early-modern-world-history-workshop
Paper Title: Syrian Refugees in Eighteenth-Century Germany: A Chapter in the Connected History of Eastern Christianity in the Early Modern World
Although usually ignored in mainstream historiography, there has been a long history of contact between Eastern Christians and Europe. Throughout the early modern period, a substantial number of Arabic-speaking Christians travelled from the Levant and Iraq to the countries of Latin Christendom to collect alms, levy political support, and acquire as well as share knowledge. The eighteenth century, however, witnessed what could provocatively be called a ‘refugee crisis’ during which Christian notables from Syria (encompassing present-day Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon), particularly Maronites from Mount Lebanon, turned to their Christian sisters and brothers for support to alleviate the worst of the hardships they claimed to be facing at home. Such supplicants were particularly frequent in the German lands where they soon formed a readily recognizable stereotype of ‘Arabian princes’, leaving behind a paper trail of petitions and administrative records in the courts and cities they visited. Examining this paper trail and particularly the rhetorical strategies employed by the petitioners, this talk will showcase research undertaken in the context of the ERC-funded project Stories of Survival: Recovering the Connected Histories of Eastern Christianity in the Early Modern World directed by Dr John-Paul Ghobrial at the University of Oxford. I will argue that the construction of the stereotype required the complicity—even collaboration—of several parties, thus promoting particular visions of the Eastern Mediterranean.