Martin Schaller

Thesis Title: The Habsburg Empire from the outside perspective - Experiences and encounters of nineteenth century travellers, ca. 1815-1860s

Supervisor: Dr. Bernhard Struck

Description of Research and Thesis

Between 2009 and 2012 I studied History as well as Economics at the University of Vienna. After my studies in Vienna I came to St Andrews where I earned a Master’s degree in Modern History the following year. Since September 2013 I am working on my PhD thesis, which is supervised by Dr. Bernhard Struck.

My research interests lie in transnational and spatial history. More precisely I am interested in the perceptions of different conceptualized spaces within Europe such as ‘Western Europe’ or ‘Eastern Europe’. At the same time I find the history of travelling and travel writing fascinating. The combination of both features constitutes the core of my doctorial research.

As one entity the Habsburg Empire does neither belong to the ‘Western’ nor the ‘Eastern’, neither to the ‘Southern’ nor the ‘Northern’ parts of Europe. The dividing lines of these constructed spaces run across the area formerly occupied by the Empire. Recent research has challenged the view that modern Europe was fundamentally divided in an Eastern and Western half. Instead, it is increasingly emphasized that the discourse about ‘East’ and ‘West’ was only one variation that never completely superseded concepts such as ‘North’ and ‘South’.
My study tries to engage with the different perceptions of these spaces as expressed in travel accounts by foreign travellers, in particular British and German and asks how they perceived these spaces while perambulating the Habsburg Empire. It is not at all clear where contemporary travellers detected the borders between ‘East’ and ‘West’ or ‘North’ and ‘South’. One important part of the study is therefore to examine where and how these spaces were located but also what signified for them entering another space. By additionally employing a long term perspective changes over time are accounted for. Finally, the comparative approach allows for examining differences according to the travellers’ backgrounds and thus offers a means to broaden the results. By comparing the travellers’ respective views, differing conceptions within Europe are taken into consideration, thus countering overly monolithic narratives.
Methodologically this study ties together the concepts of transnational history, since the travellers under examination ventured abroad, comparative history due to the focus on two distinct groups, and spatial history in the form of mental maps.
The construction of different spaces has not yet lost its significance as the still existent discourses about the ‘East’ or the resurfacing debates of a distinctive European South show. With my work I hope to contribute to a more thorough understanding of the mechanisms, which shape our perception of spaces and at the same time demonstrate their historicity.

Pervious degrees: B.A. (distinction) in History (University of Vienna), B.Sc. in Economics (University of Vienna), M.Litt (distinction) in Modern History (University of St. Andrews)

Stephen W Bonarjee Prize Holder 2013 (for best performance in Modern History M.Litt)
University of St Andrews 600th Anniversary PhD Scholarship (2013-2016)

Bernhard Struck, Martin Schaller, ‘Bayerische Hottentotten, schottische Barbaren und Hommer auf Tahiti. Bereister Raum, beschriebene Zeiten und die Verortung des Eigenen und Fremden im späten 18. Jahrhundert’ in Christoph Dejung and Martin Lengwiler (eds), Ränder der Moderne. Neue Perspektiven auf die Europäische Geschichte (1800-1930) (Köln, Weimar, Wien. Böhlau: 2016), pp. 37-64.

Martin Schaller, ‘Arbeiten mit digital(isiert)en Quellen. Herausforderungen und Chancen’ in Wolfgang Schmale (ed.), Digital Humanities: Praktiken der Digitalisierung, der Dissemination und der Selbstreflexivität (Stuttgart. Steiner: 2015), pp. 15-30.