- Religion and Cultural Exchange in Europe, 1400–1700, and: Cities and Cultural Exchange in Europe, 1400–1700, and: Correspondence and Cultural Exchange in Europe, 1400–1700, and: Forging European Identities, 1400–1700
Over the course of almost a decade, an interdisciplinary group comprising dozens of scholars drawn from throughout the European Union, supplemented with a small number of non-Europeans, met in a series of meetings organized under the auspices of the European Science Foundation. The stated objective of this project was to investigate the cultural roots of modern Europe and to reveal the underlying "hidden unities shaping a common European past." The "working hypothesis" of the program was that "European culture from 1400 to 1700 contained expressions of hidden cohesion against a background of intense conflict," and that evidence of this unity can be found in the cultural intersections and exchanges that characterized the age (1:xix-xx).
The fruits of this formidable undertaking are the four volumes in the series Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe. The limited space of this review [End Page 947] combined with the sheer size of the project precludes any detailed discussion of individual essays, and permits only a cursory overview of each volume.
The first book in the series is entitled Religion and Cultural Exchange. As William Monter points out in his introductory essay, while the European Union has asserted that Christianity does not constitute the cultural foundation of Europe, the scholars involved in the sessions that produced this volume "unanimously recognised the priority of religious identities as cultural markers" in the early modern period (1:3). Essays are organized around several themes, including religious ritual and ceremony and the transmission of religious ideas through means ranging from sermons and print media, to catechism and singing. The most suggestive essays treat religious conflict and coexistence along the religious and political frontiers of Central Europe. Despite the hardening of religious boundaries during this age of confessionalization, this volume suggests the range and variety of exchange that still occurred in early modern Europe.
Volume 2, Cities and Cultural Exchange in Europe, focuses on the critical role of urban centers from the Baltic to Istanbul in cultivating cultural exchange. Following several astute introductory essays addressing key conceptual issues, the remainder of the contributions examines specific local and regional case studies to illustrate and develop these themes. The majority of these focus on port, or gateway, cities, whose high levels of immigration and mobility, with their attendant pliable social ties, were more likely to foster a broad range of cultural interchange. Many of the contributions address the place of foreigners and strangers within the fabric of European cities, and show that levels of interaction with, and even integration of, outsiders differed significantly from city to city. The final section of the volume provides a comparative analysis of the spaces and structures of cultural exchange in urban centers in Europe and the Mediterranean.
The third volume, Correspondence and Cultural Exchange in Europe, addresses the nexus of information and cultural exchange from two vantage points: networks of communication and markets of information, and the function and meaning of correspondence in both the political and the artistic sphere. While the centrality of certain key centers of information...