CENTRAL-EUROPEAN WORKSHOPS – Bridging Early Modern History (CEW)

International Workshops for young historians from Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine in Early Modern History


In the archives of the Habsburg Monarchy’s successor states, numerous young readers sit in silence side by side doing research for their qualification theses, but they often lack the opportunity to share their findings or even to get to know each other personally. Too often the conditions for academic networking are wanting. Archival visits still involve travel, but the research results obtained in archives often go unshared, and this has proven disadvantageous for international research. Given this deficit in knowledge transfer among the successor states of the Habsburg Monarchy, and given the desire of Hungarian students for academic exchange with Austrian students, the Hungarian archival delegate at the Austrian State Archives, Dr. István Fazekas (currently Professor at the Eötvös-Loránd University of Budapest) reached out to Prof. Martin Scheutz and Prof. Thomas Winkelbauer (Institute for Austrian Historical Research at tje University of Vienna) about achieving a better exchange of research results among history students in the field of early modern history. An international forum was set up, in which students working on a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation at one of the universities in the Austro-Hungarian successor states might meet in an atmosphere congenial to communication. At scheduled workshops, low-threshold but high-quality exchanges of research took place. In addition, a joint workshop or seminar for master’s and doctoral candidates, conducted at the level of conferences taking place on a regular basis, was an important didactic instrument to give young junior researchers their first experience of an international conference. Junior researchers were able to use this international forum to learn how to present research results and gain experience in defending their own scientific arguments. Alongside academic exchange, it was equally important for junior researchers to get to know each other personally, in order to be able to share experiences in study and research from one country to the next.

For the instructors too, mutual contact proved critical, because the latest research findings could be discussed here in a down-to-earth manner. It quickly became clear that the forum ought to include not only Hungary (university locations: Budapest and Piliscsaba, Pécs, Szeged) and Austria (university locations: Graz, Klagenfurt, Salzburg, Vienna), but also Bulgaria (Sofia), Slovenia (Ljubljana), Slovakia (Bratislava, Prešov), the Czech Republic (Brno, České Budějovice, Olomouc, Pardubice, Prague) and the Ukraine (Kiev) in order to create a broad sounding board for research and to enable discussions on an international level. This gave rise to an international network of early modern historians: Prof. Maria Baramova (University of Sofia), Prof. András Forgó (University of Pécs), Prof. Gabriele Haug-Moritz (University of Graz), Prof. Sašo Jerše (University of Ljubljana), Prof. Tomáš Knoz (University of Brno), Prof. Sándor Papp (University of Szeged) and Prof. Arno Strohmeyer (University of Salzburg). Since 2011, workshops have been held annually at the various participating university locations in Austria, Hungary and Slovenia. So far, the conference venues have been Graz, Ljubljana, Pécs, Piliscsaba, Salzburg, Szeged, Vienna and Zwettl Abbey (as of 2021). Further meetings in Bulgaria, Slovakia and Ukraine are planned. Initially, the Collegium Hungaricum in Vienna, the Institute for Hungarian Historical Research in Vienna (under its former director PhDr. Csaba Szabó) and the Institute for Austrian Historical Research at the University of Vienna took the lead, but very soon an expanded foundation for cooperation among different university locations was achieved, and the group of participating researchers with a focus in the field of early modern history expanded: sessions have been attended by professors from Bulgaria, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Ukraine.

The following ground rules were observed at sessions:

•    Students were able to present their current research results at the level of the master's thesis or doctoral dissertation. As a rule, speakers were able to obtain ECTS points at their home universities for participating in the workshops.
•    Speakers were not permitted to speak in their mother tongue, but had to speak in a foreign language of their choice (either German or English). This served to strengthen their ability to themselves scientifically in a foreign language. For instance, the Austrian students mainly spoke in English, while the non-Austrian students spoke in German or in English.
•    The supervisors of qualification theses were to be present when possible in order to enable a broad discussion of research results. A desired corollary aim was to improve networking among the universities.
•    The sessions took place at different university locations to highlight for the students the range of possibilities for study. In our experience, the trip to a given session location was sometimes the first contact with the city in question. In this way the sessions can be understood as a venue for imparting practical European knowledge.

In our experience, participating in these international workshops allowed participants to enhance their careers and achieve personal growth, while connecting them with other researchers. In this way, by a bottom-up process rooted in strong personal academic contacts, a strongly interconnected network of universities in the successor states of the Habsburg monarchy has emerged, which strives intensively to foster the history of the early modern period. Between 2011 and 2021, a total of 153 presentations were given at ten workshops to date, with a total of 19 universities from seven countries participating in the program. By national composition, that means that 71 papers were given by students from Austrian universities, 50 papers by students from Hungarian universities, ten papers from students from Czech universities, eight papers from students from Slovenian universities and three papers from students from Slovak universities. In addition, there were six presentations by students from Bulgaria, four by students from Ukraine, and one presenter came from Poland.

Budapest and Vienna, 5th July 2021

Prof. István Fazekas (Budapest), Prof. Martin Scheutz (Vienna)
and Prof. Thomas Winkelbauer (Vienna)