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Transatlantic Families. The Lives of German Revolutionary Emigres, 1848/49–1914

In regard to the lives of German revolutionary emigres after 1848/49 this research project moves beyond the dominant interpretations in conceptual and national historiography in three ways: First, it conceptualizes their transnational lives as biographies of migration and explains the actors’ self-understanding and agency via experiences of transatlantic mobility. In so doing, the project connects explicitly to the interdisciplinary research field of mobility studies. Second, it analyzes the social, economic, and cultural foundations of the process of mobility. In this context, it emphasizes the central importance of family networks for shaping the actors’ agency and thereby transcends established post-revolutionary turning points, such as the American Civil War or the foundation of the German Empire in 1871. Third, it takes the emigres’ children into account: On the one hand, this opens up an enhanced perspective on the history of the influence the revolution had over a longer period of time. On the other hand, it explains its transatlantic legacies beyond the categories of flight, exile, or return.

Altogether, such an analysis of the transatlantic lives of German revolutionary emigres highlights that mobility, family, and political self-understanding were highly entangled and are thus only understandable in their interplay. Finally, by a nuanced analysis of multiple belongings, border-crossing capabilities of mobility, as well as revolutionary self-stagings, the project aims at contextualizing and partially revising the myth of »Forty-Eighters« – which is still powerful on this and the other side of the Atlantic – on a historiographic level.