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How to do Transregional History: A Concept, Method and Tool for Early Modern Border Research

In: Journal of Early Modern History
Authors:
Violet Soen KU Leuven, Early Modern History Research Group, Transregionalhistory.eu violet.soen@kuleuven.be

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Bram De Ridder KU Leuven, Early Modern History Research Group, Transregionalhistory.eu bram.deridder@kuleuven.be

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Alexander Soetaert KU Leuven, Early Modern History Research Group, Transregionalhistory.eu alexander.soetaert@kuleuven.be

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Werner Thomas KU Leuven, Early Modern History Research Group, Transregionalhistory.eu werner.thomas@kuleuven.be

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Johan Verberckmoes KU Leuven, Early Modern History Research Group, Transregionalhistory.eu johan.verberckmoes@kuleuven.be

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Sophie Verreyken KU Leuven, Early Modern History Research Group, Transregionalhistory.eu sophie.verreyken@kuleuven.be

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This article argues that the method of transregional history offers a valuable new tool for studying early modern territorial borders. Where existing research strands do not always suffice to accommodate the complexity of such boundaries, this new concept can serve as an alternative. Firstly, transregional history points out that early modern boundaries were not the outcome of actions that were pursued at one spatial level, be it local, regional, national, transnational, or global, but existed at multiple negotiated levels at once. Secondly, the method prompts historians: a) to not predefine “the” singular border of the region under scrutiny, but to follow historical actors as they shifted from one course of action to another in dealing with these multiple borders; and b) to question what transcended the boundaries of a region instead of highlighting how they separated one “unique” area from the next. In doing so, transregional history helps to reformulate questions about territorial boundaries, to make novel heuristic choices in research where and when borders matter, and, hence, to improve our understanding of transboundary historical change.

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