Our discipline has a long history of switching between the micro, the meso and the macro in an attempt to make sense of historical developments and phenomena. Global history has introduced the concept of playing with scales to reflect on this interplay between different levels of analysis, increasing the usefulness of scales as an analytical tool. The merits of zooming in and out have been demonstrated in the study of exceptional mobile actors like Elias of Babylon, the Iraqi Christian who travelled to Spanish America in the seventeenth century. John-Paul Ghobrial has called for conceiving such actors not only in terms of their global connections, but situating them firmly within their various local contexts and the ways these informed their practices of mobility.
Our panel builds on this approach by investigating the ways in which historical actors themselves used different scales to make sense of their own mobility as well as that of others. It argues that such questions are just as relevant for understanding more widespread forms of mobility, such as alms collecting, pilgrimage, stage coach travel, and work mobility. We study intersections of mobility at different ranges within Europe as well as beyond, including migration to and from the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas. By applying a comparative and intersectional perspective, we aim to bring into view the roles played by spaces, means of travel, objects, and texts in forming and habituating practices of mobility and to reflect on how these, in turn, shaped the social relations, self-representation, and perception of mobile actors.
Early modern land-based vehicles have surprisingly seldom been studied as spaces of human interaction. Through the adoption of an intersectional approach this paper will conceptualize stagecoaches as liminal social sites where diverse beings in transit – with regard to their social and religious backgrounds, age and gender (and sometimes also their race) as well as their reasons for travelling and the distance travelled – came into contact.
In eighteenth-century Europe, Arabian princes appear to have been ubiquitous with frequent mentions in print as well as administrative records. Identifying as high-ranking Christians from Ottoman Syria, these men quickly achieved fame and notoriety as alms collectors. Key to their attempts to distinguish themselves from competitors of varying mobility was a self-fashioning which emphasized long-distance migration. Nonetheless, as highly mobile actors, the princes actively played with different scales of migration as and when it suited their needs.
As numerous historical records show, many Ottoman Bosnians of the 17th and 18th centuries travelled to Hijaz for Hajj, performing local pilgrimages in Anatolia, Syria and Egypt on the way. Some brought back devotional and other objects, including books, or penned first-person narratives of their experiences. The pilgrims conceived of travel on multiple levels: as a long-distance journey to sacred places of Mecca and Medina; as a string of visits to tombs of saints and scholars; and as a way to share religious values with people back home. The writings and objects thus served as means of devotion to the holy places even among those who were permanently anchored in their localities.
This paper takes a relational perspective on European employees of the Dutch East India Company, tracing how they formed, maintained, or broke up social relations at home, on the road, on board ships, and in their workplaces in South Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. During their careers, they became involved in a great variety of forms and ranges of mobility, each one bringing them in contact with many other mobile and sedentary people. The sheer variety of these trajectories and connections as well as their significance for an entangled history ‘from below’ can only be grasped by a controlled play with analytical scales.
This presentation will focus on young people from an urban context who, upon completing their education, entered the service of the Dutch East and West India Companies in the seventeenth century. Through the analysis of travel reports and eulogies, the paper will examine what role the journey played in their life narratives and whether they and their social environments interpreted it as constitutive for their later trajectories. The presentation thus seeks to enhance our understanding of the discursive role transcontinental work migration could play beyond the promises of boundless riches to be acquired on faraway shores.