We are now into August, and colleagues across Modern Languages & Cultures continue to make the most of this time to undertake their research. Professor Eve Rosenhaft, Professor of German Historical Studies, is spending the first half of her summer chasing writing deadlines. Not only is she revising an article on Germans and the financial bubbles of 1720, but she is also preparing a volume of essays on the ‘materiality of writing’ in the eighteenth century, looking at what can be learnt about people’s lives by paying attention not only to what they wrote but how they wrote: signatures, handwriting in autograph albums, handwritten books like cookery books, scribblings in the margins of printed books, and so on.
At the same time, Professor Rosenhaft is planning the formal launch of a new book that she has edited with a German colleague: Felix Brahm and Eve Rosenhaft (eds.), Slavery Hinterland. Transatlantic Slavery and Continental Europe, 1680-1850. This is the first book in English to offer an overview of the ways in which even parts of Europe that were not directly or heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade – Switzerland, Italy, Denmark and the German lands – were culturally and economically connected with slavery, the plantation economies of the Americas and the struggle for abolition.
Whilst all colleagues take some annual leave over the summer, Professor Rosenhaft is combining her holiday with her research. Later this month, she will visit the World War I battlefields around Arras and Cambrai, following an unexpected German-American connection. Like several thousand American doctors and nurses, her great-uncle served with the Royal Army Medical Corps on the Western Front in 1917-18. When he died, he left behind a copy of the 1929 American edition of Ernst Jünger’s The Storm of Steel (In Stahlgewittern), probably the best known personal memoir of World War I by a German soldier. He and Jünger had served on the same front, and during the Battle of Cambrai in November-December 1917 their units had faced each other across the lines. The book is full of his pencilled comments on Jünger’s observations – making a kind of virtual conversation between enemies across the lines.
Professor Rosenhaft gave a paper about this fascinating document in February, as part of the Passions of War network project at Leicester University. While she decides how to tell the story for publication, she want to see the places where it all happened.