Dr Stefan Hanß

Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History

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Research interests


I work on cross-cultural contacts in the early modern Mediterranean from a global perspective as well as on the relationship between material culture and the body in Reformation Germany and the broader Habsburg world.

My research has been generously supported by the British Academy (Rising Star Engagement Award), the Centro Tedesco di Studi Veneziani, the Dahlem Research School (Honors Fellowship) and Friedrich Meinecke Society of the Freie Universität Berlin, the European Cooperation in Science & Technology (COST Action PIMo CA18140), the Fritz Thyssen Foundation (Herzog Ernst Postdoctoral Fellowship), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung), the German Historical Institute Rome, the John Carter Brown Library (Center for New World Comparative Studies Fellowship), St John's College Cambridge (College Research Associateship and Annual Fund), and the University of Cambridge, Faculty of History (Visiting Scholarship and George Macaulay Trevelyan Fund).


The Cross-Cultural Mediterranean

My first monograph examines the sixteenth-century global event-making of the Battle of Lepanto. I decentred the history of Lepanto, which is commonly defined as a victory of 'Christian Europe', by revoicing silenced stories uncovered through research undertaken in more than 170 archives, libraries, and museums. Contemporaries shaped Lepanto's meanings as connected histories in places as far-flung as England, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ethiopia, Russia, the German, Ottoman, and Persian lands as well as Japan, the Philippines, and South America. Building on that research, my second monograph studies the impact of material culture on the production of history. Objects taken during the Battle of Lepanto, such as Ottoman flags, textiles, and manuscripts, were crucial means for crafting narratives and establishing a material presence of this sixteenth-century event. By challenging the perception of a particular battle in a new methodological approach (histoire de l’événement), I contribute to a broader debate on the status of events in history. In this context, I studied further aspects of Christian-Muslim contacts in the early modern period. I published on Veneto-Ottoman diplomacy and on Mediterranean slavery as well as its implications for the historiography of slavery. Several publications on Ottoman language-learning in early modern Germany, the Habsburg embassy's material worlds in early modern Istanbul, and the Habsburg Empire’s relationships with the Mediterranean are either forthcoming or in print. Conducting research on the cross-cultural circulation of material culture in the early modern Mediterranean, I am also a UK substitute member of the COST Action People in Motion: Entangled Histories of Displacement across the Mediterranean (1492–1923) (PIMo CA18140). This four-year global research project, which is funded by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology, brings together researchers from 18 countries (04/2019–04/2023).

(©Chronos Verlag, V&R unipress, Ergon Verlag)


Feathers and Feather-Working

Building on my interest in early modern material culture, my current and future research centres on early modern materialized identities in the German- and Spanish-speaking Habsburg lands and on hair and feathers in particular. As a member of the Basel-Bern-Cambridge research group on early modern materialized identities, I conducted archival- and artefact-based research on early modern feather-work that led to a number of publications. A book chapter charts, for the very first time, the thus far unknown history of early modern European feather-working in its relationship with the world of matter and making. Another book chapter reconsiders the aesthetic appreciation of New World feathers in Renaissance Europe. Another journal article focuses on cultural encounters in colonial Peru by discussing the early modern nexus between feather-work and textiles. Two further texts on feather-working and feather-trading in early modern Germany and the Spanish world are in progress. In all my contributions and publications on early modern feather-working, I reconsider our understanding of the presence, transformation, challenges, and cross-cultural realities of early modern material worlds by connected in-depth archival studies with new methods in material culture studies like digital microscopy and remaking experiments.

(©Stefan Hanß)


Hair in the Habsburg World

Above all, my current research is devoted to the history of hair in Reformation Germany and the Habsburg world. People's everyday performances of hair and their innovative usage of head, facial, body, and animal hair mirrored fundamental religious and social changes at that time. In the estate-based society of early modern Germany, authorities regulated hairstyles. In such a hair-literate society, however, people innovatively approached hair and managed their appearance by going to barbershops, using medicinal remedies, and staging particular beards and hairstyles. At the heart of the importance of hair was its ambivalence between the affirmation of societal norms and its potential to negotiate them in everyday life. This leads me to examine how hair enabled people to stage identities and to shape gender, social, and confessional boundaries in everyday life. A monograph is in progress; several book chapters and articles are in print. In the context of early modern German history, I also published on self-narratives, concepts of time, and practices of timing.