Europe's Short Peace, 1595-1620

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: History and Cultures


The Short Peace network will assemble a multi-national and multi-disciplinary group of scholars to explore the entangled political, religious, and cultural history of Europe between 1595 and 1620. This era of peace and peace-making has been largely overlooked because it is caught between two eras marked by war: the sixteenth-century 'Wars of Religion' (c.1546-1609) and the Thirty Years' War (1618-c.1648/59). This interwar period was not accidental, a mere absence of war: rather, the conditions of peace were deliberately constructed and maintained by princes, statesman and diplomats in the Low Countries, Britain, France, the Empire, the Ottoman Porte, and, above all, in Spain. These efforts were not wholly successful; for, rather than being a time of tranquility, the coming of peace inaugurated an era of confessional confusion and confrontation, instability, and terrorism. This project will be the first to begin to examine the 'Short Peace' in its own right, and as a European-scale phenomenon.

Collaboration is necessary to the success of the project because the sources and expertise necessary to study the Short Peace are scattered. There are relevant national, local and familial archives in at least a dozen countries, and no single scholar can have a grasp of them all. Scholars have studied individual elements of the 'Short Peace' - the Venetian 'Interdict' controversy (1606-7), the Twelve Years' Truce (1609), the media environment of the regency of Marie de' Médicis (1610-17) - each aware that there were others scholars working on related themes elsewhere, but without the opportunity to engaging in direct conversation or collaboration. The goal of the network is to build those relationships and start those collaborations, thus laying the groundwork for a new history of the era.

The network's primary activity will be a series of four workshops on themes central to the Short Peace. These include confessionalization and religious controversy; the 'Republic of Letters' and the early modern multimedia environment; conscience, conversion and allegiance; and peace-making itself. The workshops will consist of discussion of pre-circulated papers by conference participants, with invited comments; this will maximize time for idea- and information-exchange while meeting in person. The venues for the workshops have been chosen to attract participation from the widest possible group of scholars from the UK, Europe, and North America. Selected papers from the workshops will be gathered together and submitted for publication as a special issue of a journal.

In addition, working with project partners and research libraries, the network will produce a resource guide for studying the Short Peace, helping identify relevant printed, manuscript, and secondary sources. This guide - produced through a pooling of expertise - will be made freely available and will support teaching and research into the era. The network will also work with the Clark Library in Los Angeles to assemble a public exhibition emphasizing the European context of late Elizabethan and Jacobean England.

Planned Impact

The network's commitment to reconstructing a transnational context for late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Europe, and its associated impact activities, will reach non-academic beneficiaries in a number of ways.
First, the creation of an analytic bibliography will involve working closely with libraries and archives to survey their relevant holdings. Conducted in partnership with the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), this survey will help participant libraries to better understand their own holdings, relationships they may have to materials held elsewhere, and the developing interests of the research community. The bibliography will also be transformed into a public-facing resource (a 'LibGuide'), which will help librarians and university teachers support teaching and learning in adjacent fields. The development of these resources will also help CLIR itself establish transnational partnerships and serve as a model for future programming.

The partnership with the Clark Library involves a public-facing exhibition aimed to educate a public audience in the Los Angeles area about the European contexts behind relatively well-known events in late Elizabethan and early Stuart English history (e.g., the Essex revolt, the Gunpowder Treason, and the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh). The exhibit will increase the understanding of the history of European interconnection among visitors, as well as helping the Clark Library pursue their strategic objectives related to increasing visitor numbers and establishing a programme of public events. We will leverage the connections of network members (with, for example, the British Library) to begin conversations with other museums and libraries about hosting similar exhibitions. These activities will ensure that the research of the network will have impacts on teaching and on the practices and offerings of cultural and heritage institutions.


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