Munich Centre for Global History

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Social Sketches and the Formation of Global Knowledge in the Atlantic World (1830-1860)

Due to the social changes occasioned by the French Revolution and the Enlightenment, in the first decades of the 19th century people began to focus on themselves as human beings and on their immediate living environment. Based on the English "sketches of manners" and the French "esquisses des moeurs", social sketches became wide-spread in many European countries. These short sociological and anthropological treatises were published in newspapers and magazines whose circulation and influence largely increased during this period due to technological innovations inpress and marketing, as well as the liberalisation of censorship.

This genre gained considerable significance in Spain with the so-called "artículos de costumbres", mainly related to the efforts of the Madrilenian writers and journalists Mariano José de Larra and Ramón de Mesonero Romanos. Although most of the Spanish colonies in South and Central America and the Caribbean had already gained independence in this period, these "artículos de costumbres" became very popular beyond the Atlantic Ocean because of the strong cultural connection with Spain. As a result, a transatlantic network of knowledge emerged. The investigation of its components provides valuable insight into the changes of social, political and technological thought in the middle of the 19th century (1830-1860).

Furthermore, this project analyses social sketches as representations of global knowledge and is mainly concerned with the following questions: which differences between urban and rural life are highlighted? How are different social types represented? In which ways did national sketch collections contribute to the countries' self-image? As a result, this research project intends to contribute to the understanding of the global history of knowledge in the Atlantic World in the 19th century.

Nature of the project:



2018 -

Participating researchers:

Dr. Florian Grafl