Hi, I am Cathleen Sarti, a historian for early modern (Northern) European history, especially for the Scandinavian and the British kingdoms. The history of these countries has much to offer, too much, and that’s why I focused my research interests a bit further: I am mostly interested in the political culture of these kingdoms in the 16th and 17th century, and I am fascinated by the question of how and what people in these communities thought in regards to political questions. 

The question of how ideas and conventions of authority („Herrschaft“ in German which covers also an understanding of rule, power, government, etc.) was also one of the key questions for my PhD-thesis on the depositions of monarchs. I don’t want to tell too much about it before you got a chance to read the book (which I am preparing right now), but I can definitely say, what people did and said in political crisis was something other than what they usually said. If you’re curious about this research you can read a bit more about this here (German and English):

For me, history is a way of understanding people and societies – one of many ways. What I emphasize in my own historical research is the broad perspective: my doctoral thesis covered four kingdoms and 200 years – comparative history at its finest 🙂 The comparative view allowed me to tease out characteristics of depositions which were specific to one kingdom (thereby hinting at a individual political culture), and which could be seen in all or most kingdoms (thereby showing its importance for the specific event of early modern deposition). The view over 200 years enabled me to trace changes from the early 16th century with its rulership based on individual, personal relations to the late 17th century with a more institutionalized monarchy in which parliament, press, or public opinion played a bigger role.

My next “big” project has an even longer perspective: I want to look at non-elite political counsellors under the main branch of the Oldenburg dynasty who ruled Denmark-Norway from 1448 until 1863. Spoken with historical periods in mind; I am starting in the (late) middle ages, cover the complete early modern period, and end in the modern period. Just around 400 years, but political rulership and authority changed quite a lot during this time – let’s see if political counselship changed as well. A first look at this new research can be taken here:

  • Counselling the Danish King: Sigbrit Villoms as Financial Mastermind for Christian II, 1513-1523. In: Sarti, Cathleen (ed.): Women and Economic Power in Premodern Royal Courts (Gender & Power in the Premodern World). Leeds: Arc Humanities Press, 2020, pp. 73-86.

So, while political counselship is one pillar of my research, dynastic and monarchical rule is the other. I am part of the Royal Studies Network where all aspects of monarchical politics and culture are discussed during our annual conferences. Monarchies and the dynasties ruling these realms are in many ways a constant of premodern (and also modern) politics – they are actually not only really longlasting, but also highly adaptable to changing contexts: together with my colleagues Charlotte Backerra and Milinda Banerjee, and with the authors of our edited volume, we explored dynastic rule in the time of nation-states and growing nationalism. Spoiler Alert: not as opposite of each other as one might think!

I am convinced that political culture forms the way how people think and act in their societies. And I am convinced, that it is all much more complicated, and that it is not possible to really understand the whole motivation behind political action and political thought – often enough, even I don’t know why I am doing what I do, how can we know why people hundreds of years ago did what they did? What we as historians and researchers from other disciplines can do is show the spectrum of what was thought possible or probable. We can show the actions, and the history of these actions. We can show the discourses – scholarly, political, but also literary texts as well as artistic expressions. We can show what could be known at a certain time and a certain place. And, finally, we can (within limits) show the influences of all these factors on specific people, actions, and events. We can get an impression of how people reacted to each other, and to historical events, and how these circles of action-reaction led to new developments. To do this, we need to include all kinds of historical material – of sources! We should look at parliamentary documents and reports, but we should also take a look at what the parliamentarians discussing politics read, which plays they saw, how their daily commute might have been formed by architectural representations of power, how family members and friends might have influenced their politics, which economic interests they might have had, and so on. While the interdisciplinary exchange with scholars interested in literature, art, media, etc, might not always be easy – it is always worth it. In a network of historians and literature scholars, we discussed how and why history is transformed in all kinds of forms. These discussions remain influential in my research and in my thinking – after all, if you want to know how and what people thought, you also need to know what they “binge-watched”, what they talked about in the streets, which ideas were spread through popular literature and art, and through the elusive public opinion. 

As a curious historian, I am always engaged in too many projects and scholarly discussions – that is one of the great things about being an academic! Unfortunately, that also means that this blog here suffers from long inactive periods – if you want to keep up with my work, you have better luck at meeting me at a conference or follow me on Twitter. Or, since I am always interested in scholarly discussions, just drop me an email and get in touch…


Die Adresse meiner Website ist: http://csarti.net.

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  1. Pingback: weblog.histnet.ch » Blog Archive » Zwerge auf den Schultern von Riesen: Geschichtsblog des Monats November 2007

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