October 08, 2015
French Atlantic? Why now and why Williamsburg
3 min read
Today’s post is courtesy of Chris Hodson, co-organizer of the “Emerging Histories of the Early Modern French Atlantic” conference.
Yes, Virginia, there was a French Atlantic…
…and from October 16-18, over 30 distinguished presenters and commentators will descend on the Omohundro Institute to prove it.
Featuring scholars from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and North America, “Emerging Histories of the Early Modern French Atlantic” promises two and a half days of cutting-edge research and wide-ranging conversation on a field of study that too often gets short shrift. True enough, scholarship on the French Atlantic has traditionally lagged behind histories of contemporary English, Iberian, and even Dutch colonialism, but in the past two decades a burst of innovative work has done much to narrow the gap. Still, French Atlantic history remains patchy – divided by region and informed by methodologies that tend to limit synthesis and stunt comparisons, scholars have struggled to find opportunities to take the measure of the field as a whole. So, to remedy this fragmented state of affairs, and to probe the inner workings of the world created by France’s encounter with Africa and the Americas, what better venue than…Williamsburg?
Yes, our relentlessly Anglo-American host town was named for a man Louis XIV once described as his kingdom’s “mortal enemy.” And yet Williamsburg is an excellent place to work through the particulars of the French Atlantic, and not just because of the Institute’s standout hospitality. For, as the papers on tap for the conference demonstrate, France’s Atlantic World was inextricably linked to the colonial enterprises of England and Spain, and to the complex indigenous societies of Africa and the Americas whose influence shaped Williamsburg and thousands of not-particularly-French places like it. So, even if you do not consider yourself a French Atlantic historian, “Emerging Histories” is absolutely for you. We hope to see you there.