The Centre for Privacy Studies and the Society for Court Studies presents

Privacy at Court? A Reassessment of the Public/Private Divide within European Courts (1400-1800)

10-11 December 2020

Confirmed keynote Speakers: Professor Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin/Institute for Advanced Study) and Dr Dries Raeymaekers (Radboud University)

Grand, extravagant, magnificent, scandalous, corrupt, political, personal, fractious; these are terms often used to describe the medieval and early modern courts of Europe. Moreover, this dynamic location within the social world was central to the legitimacy and authority of the monarch or princely power, acting thereby as a machinery that shaped European politics and culture. Architecture, art, fashion, patronage and cultural exchanges relied upon and were influenced by the visual spectacle of European courts. Researchers have convincingly and innovatively emphasised the public nature of courtly events, procedures, and ceremonies. Nevertheless, court life also involved certain zones of privacy. Indeed, what was recognized as private at European courts? How were such privacies obtained or constructed within the court? How did practices of privacy impact political deliberations at court? How was privacy put on public display?

These and similar questions urge us to reassesses the public nature of the early modern European court and to reconsider our present-day understandings of privacy. Indeed, the emergence of court studies as a scientific area of investigation relied heavily upon sociological modes of explanation, political history, and cultural studies of, e.g., performance and ritualization. Can issues of courtly privacy be fitted into our existing models? Or do we have to reconsider models and their representations of court life, when we take zones of privacy into account? Such a reassessment will fertilize the grounds for a much broader discussion of the past and the future of court studies.

The conference provides researchers of court studies the opportunity to examine or reassess the role of privacy within European courts and court studies. We thus invite contributions that examine any topic related to the public/private-divide within European court culture (1400- 1800). Furthermore, we also welcome contributions that engage with discussions surrounding the methodology of court studies and the history of this line of research: contributions dealing specifically with privacy as catalyst for rethinking court studies will be prioritized.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • institution of monarchy and practices of rulership
  • physical spaces and architecture
  • literature/treatises and epistolary cultures
  • imagery, art, festivals and spectacles
  • political theory, practice and court politics
  • sociability, knowledge exchange and networks
  • diplomacy, international relations, and warfare
  • religious discourse, worship and devotion
  • law, crime and scandal
  • ceremony, ritual, music and performance
  • objects and material culture
  • the historiography of court studies or of specific courts
  • the methodology of court studies
  • a theory of court vs. a history of court life

Speakers will have 20 minutes to present their material during the course of the two-day proceedings, followed by a Q&A session. Proposals should be max 300 words with a short bio. Panel proposals will be considered and should be no more than 500 words for the panel, along with a short bio of each presenter. 

Our call for papers is now closed. Thank you for your interest in our Symposium: Privacy at Court. Our organisers will be going through the proposals over the next couple of weeks and finalise the programme by the end of April. All candidates will be notified before the end of April.

Organizers: Dustin Michael Neighbors and Lars Cyril Nørgaard Postdoctoral Researchers at the Centre for Privacy Studies