Keynote Lecture

Darina Martykánová (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

Global Engineers: Building Global Capitalism from the Periphery

The expansion of global capitalism in the decades around the turn  of twentieth century included growing investment in all kinds of projects and enterprises that required technical expertise. Railways were built crossing the territories of several countries, canals opened up new routes for ships by separating isthmuses and continents, irrigation systems enabled agricultural production on previously barren soil. The companies that carried out these works were often linked to particular “national interests”, but, at the same time, joint ventures abounded and the staff employed to carry out the project was often a multi-ethnic and multinational one. In this world, engineers carved out for themselves an expanding field of professional opportunities: as independent professionals offering their services, as private and public employees and as business owners and partners.

In spatial terms, the professional field of the engineers was becoming truly global in the period between 1870s and 1920s. While some engineers accessed this global arena via nationally-based companies or public institutions, others were required to mobilize their transnational networks and provide internationally recognizable credentials, such as a degree from an engineering school in a country that scored reasonably well on the international hierarchy of prestige. It is no coincidence that the latter group is often lost in the historiography, as they tend not to fit in well any particular national historical narrative.

In my talk, I examine professional careers of engineers of many different national and ethno-religious origins, with a particular emphasis on those who had been born in non-colonial peripheries. I focus on a small group of those who obtained their engineering diploma at the French École centrale des arts et manufactures and displayed a high degree of worldwide mobility, developing a truly global professional career. Reconstructing their biographies allows me to ascertain the importance of different factors that enabled their professional mobility, such as ethno-religious networks, the links of friendship and expertise created during one’s studies at this prestigious engineering school or the connection between the school and specific French companies operating abroad. Moreover, I will discuss the hypothesis of these engineers participating in the creation of a globally recognizable figure of engineer and of a transnational professional culture that enabled a successful realization of engineering works in different geographical and cultural settings.

Darina Martykánová is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Modern History of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Her work focuses on the history of professions and transnational circulation of knowledge, with a special focus on the Ottoman Empire and the Iberian world. Her second line of research examines the redefinition of masculinities in interaction with the discourse of “progress of civilisation”.


Jakob Vogel (Sciences Po), Alexander van Wickeren (University of Cologne)

Motion and Beyond: Experts and Expertise in the 18th and 19th Century European Atlantic

The workshop sheds light on the mechanics of movement and non-movement of experts and expertise in the European Atlantic during the 18th and 19th century. We will focus on different traveling actors and bodies of knowledge that helped to create modern expertise-based economic reform projects and practices. Recent attempts, especially the so-called Agnotology (Schiebinger /Proctor), problematize a too easy understanding of free-floating circulation, network and exchange in the Atlantic. Following this critical perspective, the workshop addresses assignments of expertise reaching from elite to subaltern actors that raise important questions on categories of race and gender. Secondly, we would like to point to the changing social, political and economic contexts that enabled or disabled the Atlantic movement of expertise, especially the transition of imperial rule and labor regimes. Thirdly and finally, the workshop explores different forms of expertise reaching from implicit to explicit knowledge, from science to rather practical bodies of expertise.

Jakob Vogel is Full Professor of European History (19th and 20th century) at the Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po, Paris, and since 2018 Director of the Marc Bloch de Berlin. His main research fields are transnational approaches on the history of nation and nationalism, European colonialism, the history of science, knowledge and experts in a broader european and global setting. Publications (selection): (ed with Lothar Schilling), Transnational Cultures of Expertise. Circulating State Related Knowledge in the 18th and 19th centuries, Berlin: De Gruyter 2019; (ed. with Etienne François, Thomas Serrier et al.), Europa. Notre Histoire, Paris: Les Arènes 2017.

Alexander van Wickeren is affiliated with the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne, where he prepares a post-doc project and coordinates internationally co-supervised Ph.D. projects. He completed his doctoral studies at the University of Cologne and Sciences Po Paris in November 2017. His research interests include the cultural history of science and knowledge from the late 18th up to the mid-20th century. He is particularly interested in agricultural knowledge and knowledge on goods and materials. In his research, he combines this focus with perspectives from global history, with a particular emphasis on the problem of regionality and the colonial dimensions in European history.


Matthias Kaltenbrunner (University of Vienna)

Cars for the East: The informal car market in Poland after 1989 and the migration of expertise

In the aftermath of the 1989 revolutions which brought the end of the state socialist systems in Central Europe, various kinds of informal transnational markets flourished. Focusing on Poland, I analyse the informal car market that was a relatively new phenomenon in this area. Those who tried to curb the informal activities on both sides of the former Iron Curtain were in desperate need of expertise in order to catch up with the highly dynamic informal actors. I argue that representatives of state institutions had in some way to ‚copy‘ the strategy of their antagonists: They also had to develop transnational networks and had sometimes even to stick to informal practices themselves. Thus, the boundaries between state and informal actors became increasingly blurred: Insurance agents took over police tasks, and different kinds of ‚experts‘ were working both for the police and informal structures.

Matthias Kaltenbrunner is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of East European History at the University of Vienna. His publications include two monographs on Soviet POWs and migration history. Currently he is working on a project on the transnational history of transformations after 1989, focussing on the informal car market in Poland.


Sarah Easterby-Smith (University of St Andrews)

Hybrid Knowledge in the Archive: Researching Non-Canonical Expertise

In this workshop, we will confront the challenge of locating and researching forms of expertise developed among non-canonical actors. In this context, ‘non-canonical’ refers to men and women whose knowledge-making activities were rarely considered worthy of recording, usually because of their gender or low social status. Over the past two decades or so, historians of science and technology have not only begun to identify the existence of such groups of people but have also started to unpick the reasons why the forms of expert knowledge that they produced were either wholly ignored or simply not recorded for posterity. Focusing on eighteenth-century examples, we will consider recent historiographical contributions to the topic and will consider how we might read archival sources differently in order to identify forms of expertise that fell outside the conventional scientific canon.

Sarah Easterby-Smith is a Senior Lecturer in Modern History and Co-Director of the Centre for French History and Culture at the University of St Andrews. She researches eighteenth-century French and British history, with special interests in the social history of science and in global history. Her monograph, Cultivating Commerce: Cultures of Botany in Britain and France was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018. She is currently working on a research project about French natural history collecting around the Indian Ocean.


Bernhard Struck (University of St Andrews)

Esperanto Expertise. Local Actors – Transnational Knowledge in the Early 20th Century (Research Workshop)

The Esperanto movement was a broad and eclectic one. Around 1900 it brought together men and women from diverse backgrounds, faiths, and professions : Jews, Protestants, Catholics, free-thinkers, atheists. It attracted peace activists, suffragettes, anarchists, vegetarians. In particular the movement’s and their leaders’ links to internationalism, e.g. Red Cross, the League of Nations, have been studied. One particular prominent group of Esperantists has yet escaped scholarly discussion: experts.

The first annual Esperanto congress met in Boulogne-sur-mer in 1905. Attendee numbers rose rapidly from some 688 (1905) to over 1,500 (Barcelona, 1909) during the years before the First World War. Among the pre-war attendees were professions that can be labelled as experts including engineers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers. Engineers, for instance, flocked together to Cambridge in 1907 from Paris, London, Puerto Rico, Glasgow, Poltava, and Tbilisi. Engineers – military, agronomic, ship-building, architects – attending the 1912 congress in Krakow came from Bilbao, Belgrade, Dresden, Genoa, Warsaw, L’viv, Czenstochova, Paris, Berlin, Edinburgh, and Nowy Sacz. To name just a few. Experts came together from capitals, key educational institutions as well as from more peripheral places.

Thus, the Esperanto movement was more than a peace movement and a community of Esperanto-speakers. At a time of both globalisation and nationalisation as well as the rapid development of technology around 1900 the Esperanto movement became a major hub and meeting forum for the exchange of expertise knowledge in a number of fields from architecture, engineering, to education, law, and medicine. This workshop is designed as a hands-on (no dirty hands, promised) research workshop around several sample sources. As such I hope to offer a reflection on how to study such a wide-cast network at various levels from the local-individual to the regional and transnational level.

Bernhard Struck is Reader in Modern History at the University of St Andrews. He was the founding director of the Institute for Transnational & Spatial History (ITSH) at St Andrews. His research interests cover the history of travel, borders, cartography, and (more recently) Esperanto. He is currently working on a co-authored monograph on “Modern Europe, 1760-2000. A Transnational History“ (Bloomsbury).


Jakub Rákosník (Charles University)

Governing Population Growth in Socialist Czechoslovakia

The lecture is based on the initial supposition that there is a strong connection between the growth in Czechoslovak social expertise in the 1960s and the subsequent social policies of “normalized regime“ in the 1970s, although a radical discontinuity was declared by its key political representatives. Presentation will include a brief critical assessment of the post-war Czechoslovak welfare regime and its criticism by social scientists. Sociologists, economists, and lawyers focused on the state’s housing policy, the promotion of population growth, and – last but not least – pension schemes.

Jakub Rákosník is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Economic and Social History, Faculty of Arts, Charles University. Following graduation from Charles University, he first worked at a law firm in years 2001–2002, and subsequently started teaching at the Faculty of Arts. He received a Ph.D. in Economic and social history (2004), and then in Legal theory and history (2012). He is a specialist in modern economic, social and comparative history. His research has been concentrated mainly upon development of welfare states, economic cycles, and the history of the working-class movement. Among his publications are five monographies and more than fifty scholarly articles.