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Rooted Cosmopolitans and Transatlantic Mobilities: Revolutionary Lives after 1848/49

Until today the myth of so-called »Forty Eighters« is deeply entrenched in narratives of German, German-American as well as American history. The post-revolutionary lives of this group are in retrospective either interpreted single-handedly as a symbol of their failure in Europe or the success of their democratic ideals in the United States. The main objective of my project is therefore to analyze revolutionary lives after 1848/49 by focusing on their transatlantic mobilities. In doing so, the project will break with linear narratives of such transnational biographies and ask how we can contextualize their agency in multiple (local, national, or international) contexts.

Such a multi-perspectivity can provide a new, alternative approach to the actors’ self-assertions and self-images, for example, as revolutionaries in exile, cosmopolitan republicans or German-Americans. Furthermore, the project integrates structural factors and opportunity structures, such as fortune, gender, social status, ethnicity, family, religious and political identities, into its research design in order to explain the group’s agency in different contexts. Through its emphasis on multiple mobilities my project therefore aims to contribute to more recent scholarly attempts for the second half of the nineteenth century: to make transatlantic entanglements visible via biographical approaches.