In an era of digital information, there is still a need for scholars to travel abroad to study archives that allow a deeper understanding of how people lived their lives and were affected by war and turmoil.
West Virginia University history professor Katherine B. Aaslestad was recently given the opportunity to do just that when she received the prestigious J. William Fulbright Research Award to travel to Germany. Aaslestad’s Fulbright Flex Award will support three research trips to Germany over the next three years in order to undertake research on her book project, “After the Wars: German Central Europe after Napoleonic Conquest, 1815-1848.”
“The materials I’ll be looking at are not digitized, so I can’t use my computer and kind draw them up. I really have to go into the archives and the libraries and take out the dusty boxes and read them.” Aaslestad said. “It’s the hardest thing about being a historian, not living in the country that you’re working in.”
Highly competitive, there are only two Fulbright Flex Awards for Germany, and Aaslestad says she is very proud to have earned one of them. She will visit the state and city archives in Berlin, Saxony, Wurttemberg, Bavaria and north Germany to conduct research on the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars through a transnational and comparative study of German Central Europe. This research has important implications for contemporary society grappling with international conflicts and domestic demobilization.
By conceptualizing 1815 to 1848 as a post-war period, Aaslestad’s work challenges assumptions about the German states and popular culture, as it explores the first modern era that celebrates, condemns and debates the role of mass military power. Her work will also provide a fuller historical perspective for the omnipresent problem of reconstructing civil society after war.
“I’m looking at this as a post war period to see how the war shaped people’s lives after it was over, [examining] the legacy of the war for Europeans and especially for Germans,” Aaslestad said. “German history tends to be painted with broad strokes, so what I’m trying to remind people and scholars is that there was no Germany at this point, so there is no typical one size answer that fits all.”
In addition to her research activities, as a Fulbright Scholar, Aaslestad will engage with their host institution, the University of Cologne, by giving talks, acting as a mentor, and participating in conferences and seminars. While international collaboration is a goal and a frequent outcome of all Fulbright Scholar grants, Flex awards particularly facilitate these types of continued relationships.
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