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Cultural Difference and Early Modern Foreign Relations. The Spanish Monarchy and the Hanseatic Cities (c. 1570–1700)

Whereas historians have been interested in the formation and establishment of cultural differences in early modern Europe for quite a long time – the substantial amount of research on the processes of confessionalisation and early modern nation-building being a case in point –  this project aims to analyse phenomena of cultural transgression and boundary-crossing. As an object of study, the Spanish Monarchy and the Hanseatic Cities are of particular interest, because these two actors can be regarded as unequal partners for various reasons. There were striking differences between the Catholic world power Spain and the Hanseatic cities, which were Protestant with only few exceptions, not only in religious terms but also with regard to political, legal and socio-economic aspects. Although stereotyped images that depicted the other as an enemy were widespread, since the closing decades of the sixteenth century, an economic and political rapprochement between the Spanish Monarchy and the Hanseatic Cities took place from which both parts drew considerable benefit. Historians have paid very little attention to this process so far, and this is precisely the starting point of this project. It analyses the interaction between representatives of both sides, focussing on their strategies of bridging differences and communicative barriers. At the same time, it asks about the extent to which these strategies influenced the formation, consolidation or dissolution of cultural perceptions of self and other. Working with a broad concept of early modern foreign relations, it does not focus solely on the supposed principal actors, i.e. early modern diplomats and state representatives, but also takes into account other groups like merchants or sailors, who also acted as cultural brokers and go-betweens and played an important role in the process of coping with difference.