Franco-Fil: a “how-to” guide to French resources for German researchers

In our virtual research world, online resources on methodology seem infinite. Taking a tour on Franco-Fil: Informationssuche und wissenschaftliche Ressourcen zu Frankreich, one fully appreciates how precious such a blog was for (budding) researchers.

Primarily aimed at German speakers, this blog was set up by the Deutsches Historisches Institut of Paris. Written by a team of librarian and researchers under the supervision of Mareike König, this blog reviews various resources available such as digital libraries, archives, and provides useful methodological tips about historical research in and about France.

Franco-Fil: Informationssuche und wissenschaftliche Ressourcen zu Frankreich © DHI Paris
Franco-Fil: Informationssuche und wissenschaftliche Ressourcen zu Frankreich © DHI Paris

With an emphasis on virtual libraries, this blog constitutes an open window towards resources for medieval, early modern and modern history.

The “Mittwochtipp” section presents each week (wednesday) a tool, institution or archive body, mostly highlighting digital resources that might not have been advertised otherwise.  There are 60 Mittwochtipps so far, presenting resources on 19th century schoolbooks, history of immigration in France, travel literature, and many more.

Finally, a section on bibliographies (articles, books, databases, newspapers…) constitutes a useful tool, especially for young researchers newly arrived in the French system, with introductions and tips on how to constitute one’s own bibliography and corpus with the help of online tools, how and where to find iconographic sources, or how to understand and use the catalogues of French universities’ libraries.

Four years on the PhD writing boat

One of the first things I was told when beginning my PhD was that I had to make sure I would focus on my subject for the upcoming years. Yet, one of the main difficulties I encountered during my years of studying history, was that I couldn’t gather all my attention on one single aspect or one single time slot. As I’m now under pressure to finish the writing of my thesis, I look back at these years of research in the archives, travels to conferences, book reviews and other side-projects I undertook.

I probably did too much, because I don’t easily say no to an interesting venture. However, too much is up to the person who decides to undertake the work. Had I only focused on Huguenot correspondences for 4 years, I’m not sure I would still love reading them and talking about them. Instead, I kept on working various side jobs to pay my rent and this still makes me appreciate the time I can devote to actual research and academic matters. Each time though, I had this pang of guilt about not being tied down to my desk to dutifully write my chapters. This feeling of guilt you also get whenever opening a non-academic book or worse, daring to go out for something not PhD-related.

All things considered, all these side activities helped me to stay grounded. When into a PhD program, one often doesn’t see the rest of the world anymore. But there is more to life than research, however exciting this part of life is, and as idiotic as it may sound, it is often hard to understand that when one is immersed into the archives.

One of the  crucial things I learned during the PhD was that networking was also a way to develop my research skills. Indeed, my attending conferences led me to meet researchers who helped me a great deal to get acquainted with other topics and to broaden my understanding of my own area of specialization. From seeing others presenting their research, I learned how to organize my work better, and about the crucial methodology that is so often not taught at university. Meeting other researchers also helped me to understand better why I wanted to be one (while some of them even helped me to see who I didn’t want to become, but no name-dropping here).

The journey of a PhD student is a long and winding one, but despite all the uncertainties and frustration, it is also a journey towards a maturation of the mind. We are given three or more years to achieve this. Some of us are better equipped to successfully manage that in that span of time. Others need more time to acquire the right analytical reflexes, because others elements go in the way, be they financial struggles, life events and most of all that self-doubt which often accompanies one’s solitary reflection. I’m still tiptoeing and doubting about every step I make when it relates to my research. It comes with its shares of frustrations, disappointments and discouragement. What I found to be the best answer to tackle these moments of doubts was to reach out to others in the same situation, to seek advise from more advances researchers, and to keep in touch with other parts of your life that make you feel content.


Nodegoat and Palladio: Introductory Workshop “Historische Netzwerke in Theorie und digitaler Praxis”

During the winter semester 2014-2015, Dr. Anne Baillot offered a course on historical networks in theory and digital practice at the Stuttgart Research Centre for Text Studies. She kindly invited Carolin Hahn and myself to give a workshop on various tools of data analysis and geovisualization.  This post and the attached slides aim at sharing my experience of software Nodegoat and Palladio, the two online-platforms I used as I attempted to organize my PhD’s sources.

These tools are already depicted in detail on their respective webpages. Palladio (Research+Humanities Lab at Stanford University), constitutes the easiest – and probably  fastest – way to draw your own network in no time. Nodegoat (developed by LAB1100‘s Pim van Bree and Geert Kessels), requires a little bit more attention at first, as the user needs to create its own framework from scratch before being able to visualize its date. Past the initial approach, it facilitates the work as it makes the frame entirely adapted to one’s own research needs.

The slides I used to present these tools are available here.

As this blog also seeks to raise methodological questions, I take the opportunity here to share my thoughts on a recurring question I hear, both as participant and organizer of workshops on networks analysis: “I have my data, but I’m no IT specialist, how can I quickly visualize my networks?”

Scientific Network Berlin SaintPetersburg Palladio
Exemple of visualization with Palladio: the scientific network between Berlin and Saint-Petersburg as seen in the correspondence of Jean-Albert Euler and Jean-Henri Samuel Formey


I observed many times that humanists willing to use digital tools remain reluctant to learn about their proper use first. They want a result, and a quick one. But the sole visualization of a corpus in space is meaningless if one doesn’t explain its meaning and its value by aiming at answering questions set up well before the drawing of a network. While network visualization allows to emphasize one or the other aspect of one’s research and strongly supports the analytical process, it can’t constitute the core of it, as it merely illustrates a postulate that had to be thought of earlier on in the research process. Visualizing networks is a mean, not an end. The difficulties to properly use a network in humanities were well explained by Gabriel Garrote on the blog Réseaux et Histoire in “Réseaux: de la notion à l’analyse. Heurs et malheurs d’un outil“.


Gephi – Introductory Workshop “Historische Netzwerke in Theorie und digitaler Praxis”

In January 2015, I held a lecture at Stuttgart University together with Emmanuelle Chaze focussing on possibilities offered by various software in terms of network visualization. The workshop was part of the course “Historical Network research” of Dr. Anne Baillot, holding a junior professorship at the Stuttgart Research Centre for Text Studies during the winter semester 2014-2015.
Emmanuelle Chaze presented Nodegoat and Palladio. I myself gave an introduction to Gephi. The attached presentation gives an impression of what is possible while using Gephi in Literary Studies.

Einführing Gephi Carolin Hahn
Network of characters from Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” ©GEPHI

Furthermore, a short introduction on how to install and use the software is provided. The presentation aims to provide guidance to get started with the program in a few simple steps. For further explanations see the tutorials on Gephi’s official website and other websites or forums mentioned in the data file below. My presentation was given in German, and so is the attached PDF. Have fun!

GEPHI Introductory workshop by Carolin Hahn

The family correspondence of Jean-André De Luc (1727-1817)

I have been working on the De Luc family for a couple of years now and I have just published an article presenting the family correspondence in the latest issue of the Bulletin de la Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie de Genève, entitled: Un réseau familial international au XVIIIe siècle : pistes de recherche sur la correspondance privée de Jean-André De Luc.  I would like to thank Pr. Christian Grosse from Lausanne University for the opportunity to collaborate to the review, and Gaia Biaggi for the beautiful cartography.

Below is a link to the article (in French), which is to be quoted as follows:

[Emmanuelle Chaze, « Un réseau familial international
au XVIIIe siècle : pistes de recherche sur la correspondance
privée de Jean-André De Luc », Bulletin de la Société
d’histoire et d’archéologie de Genève, 42, 2012, pp. 47-57]


Living history – We care.



These past few days have been unexpected in a lot of ways. No one expected to go through so many emotions – shock, sadness, disbelief, disgust, anger…What struck me the most was that instantly, people stood up together, regardless of religion, nationality, ethnicity, in an upsurge of solidarity that I never witnessed before.

We, everywhere in the world, all stood as one to protest against the actions of a minority trying to deprive us of our freedom of speech. All prejudices and differences seemed to have instantly disappeared in the aftermath of the attacks. People felt in their flesh that it was time to address problems that have been plaguing our country and society for decades now.

Suddenly, there was a feeling that there couldn’t be any democracy without freedom of speech. But there is no democracy for everyone where lies racism, xenophobia, intolerance or anti-Semitism either.





In the aftermath of the attacks, I had interesting conversations with fellow expats – French nationals and others. French people were naturally shocked. But what struck me was the reaction of others. It was sad, they felt sorry for me, but they didn’t seem to quite understand why this single event found such a resonance worldwide.

Indeed, in December, terrorists killed more than 150 children in a school in Pakistan. How many people were in the Western world’s streets by then? This is also a question we have to address. Beyond the symbolism of freedom of speech, which triggered indignation against the Paris attacks worldwide, we – us and our governments – need to rethink the way we approach global politics.

We need to value human beings no matter where they live. We need to take terrorists attacks seriously no matter where they strike, no matter who dies. We need to do more, to engage more means where possible, to fight obscurantism by development, education, culture. But we need to do so with a spirit of mutual respect and give up western paternalism towards other cultures.



So why should be we take action only now? Cynics worldwide warn that Je Suis Charlie will only be a bonfire. But because of what freedom of speech, and journalism, represent, we need to carry on what begun after the attacks. We need to nurture this determination to change things.

It doesn’t matter whether one agrees with Charlie’s editorial line or not – the fact is there is no democracy without freedom of speech. That is why people of France – and across the world – feel so strongly about that particular event. There is no liberty where there is no freedom of thought. However, now we must also learn to really live together, not as neighbours ignoring each other, but as a melting pot of cultures sharing the same values: liberty, equality, fraternity.




It is time now to realize that we need to change something inside our society. What is sad is that it took that terrible event to happen for people to be aware of it. Now that passiveness gave way to a feeling of belonging, a sense of common duty, it is time to rekindle our society and to really work on living together, side by side, regardless of beliefs or origins.

It is time to face what some tried to overlook: France is multifaceted: multiracial, multicultural. It is time to break the suburbs belts around big cities, and to engage in dialogue between rough neighbourhoods and bourgeois suburbs.

It is time to stop being afraid of someone who looks different. It is time to shake hands, to look the other in the eyes and embrace our differences. It is time to develop intercultural dialogue and reach out.

Today, in Berlin, before the Charlie gathering, I went to five different mosques. I overcame the fear I had to be rejected, insulted, or despised because I was different. I wanted to understand, as an atheist, my neighbours, and to stop just cohabiting with them. I was welcomed by every person I met. All condemned what happened in Paris.

Are we more divided now? More than ever, these terror attacks made me want to reach out people who think differently. Terrorists didn’t make me more fearful of others. We fear what we don’t know. We fear emptiness, doubt, differences, we fear what we can’t fathom. But together, we stand as one.


Thank you



On a personal level, I would like to thank all of you who cared. Your kind messages, calls, words and hugs meant a lot, and I know every French person felt the same about such reactions.

Thanks to your words I felt sheltered, protected from these atrocities by the knowledge that beyond all this there is civilisation, built on love, trust, and tolerance.

I left my country because its politics and people were making me sad. I couldn’t stand its apathy anymore. In the aftermath of these attacks, out of all this darkness, France stood up again into light, with the beautiful, unconditional and international support we’ve seen.

I hope with all my heart that we only saw the beginning of a civil awakening, an awareness that our democracy belongs to us and that we are all its agents.

Charlie, what happened was such a waste. But something good will come out of it, because today we showed the world we cared.

Je suis Charlie


Tonight you can’t think about France without having a heavy heart. The country lost at once a dozen of its journalists in a terrorist attack perpetrated in an attempt to muzzle its press. These journalists didn’t need to go to a war zone, their pens and pencils were their weapons. They were intellectuals, caricaturists, and first and foremost men and women. They used to make us laugh, to annoy us, to denounce barbarity, extremism, ignorance, fanaticism. Above all, they were the essence of our democracy. In a bid to stay true to their principles, they often went too far, but that is exactly what they were supposed to do in the “country of Human Rights”, where freedom of speech prevails.

Today they got up like every morning, they went to work, they met up with their colleagues, they gathered for the weekly meeting. They were probably joking with each other, pondering what to publish in the next issue of Charlie Hebdo.

Amongst them,[1] there was Jean Cabut (Cabu), aged 76, Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb), 47, Georges Wolinski (Wolinski), 80, Bernard Verlhac (Tignous), 58, Philippe Honoré (Honoré), 80. A bunch of partners in crime…the crime of using their freedom of speech, the crime of drawing pictures. Men who despite constant threats, never shied away from depicting our world with crude, disturbing, sarcastic but always funny drawings. Well-known artists, whose caricatures depicted French and international politics and societies throughout the 20th and 21st centuries up until today.

Only today, their lives, and their work, got brutally interrupted in a blood bath when a couple of individuals decided that they should be punished for their work, punished for their drawings,and be deprived of their lives for having dared to show something those terrorists disapproved of.

Tonight, the most amazing answer to this utter barbarity emerges: have they killed Charlie? no. Have they beheaded our press? no. Have they muzzled us? no. Have they succeeded in instilling terror, racism and suspicion amongst us? no. Look at the pictures throughout the press. Tonight we stand as one against violence, we oppose pens to weapons, solidarity and courage to intimidation and violence, knowledge and love to ignorance and hatred.


Those despicable murderers succeeded in killing talented men, yes, but they failed at breaking us down. We will rise again. Journalists will never be muzzled. Changed by this atrocity, and yet the same, they will keep on doing their jobs, so paramount for democracy. French author Beaumarchais said “I quickly laugh at everything, for fear of having to cry”. Tonight I cry for this tragic loss of lives and talents, but tomorrow I’ll be strong again, and I will write again, I will seek to oppose knowledge to ignorance, because only through knowledge will we prevail against violence. The pen will always be mightier than the sword.

We will not be silenced.

[1] When I first wrote this article, the names of the other victims hadn’t been announced. They are Mustapha Ourad, Bernard Maris, Michel Renaud, Franck Brinsolaro, Ahmed Merabet, Frédéric Boisseau et Elsa Cayat.

The Russian Academy of Sciences in the Enlightenment: A Bibliography

This entry has been written in collaboration with my colleague Anna Aschauer (Universität Bayreuth).


Amburger, Erik, Die Deutschen in der russischen Akademie der Wissenschaft. Eine familiengeschichtliche Studie (1936).

Bartlett, Roger, Eighteenth-century Russia: society, culture, economy; papers from the VII International conference of the Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia, Wittenberg 2004 (Berlin, Lit.: 2007).

Bartlett, Roger, Russia and the world of the eighteenth-century: proceedings of the 3. International conference organized by the Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia and held at Indiana University at Bloomington, USA, Sept. 1984 (Columbus, Ohio, Slavia Publications, 1988).

Beyer-Thoma, Hermann, „Bayern und Osteuropa im 18. Jahrhundert: Gelehrtenmigration und Region.“ in Beyer-Thoma, Hermann, Griese, Olivia, Lengyel, Zsolt (eds.), Münchener Forschungen zur Geschichte Ost- und Südosteuropas: Werkstattberichte, Münchener Universitätsschriften (5) (Neuried: Ars Una, 2002) pp99–134.

Beyer-Thoma, Hermann, „Netzwerke und Migration. Wanderungen von Gelehrten aus dem evangelischen Franken nach Russland im 18. und frühen 19. Jahrhundert.“ in Beer, Mathias, Dahlmann, Dittmar (eds.), Über die trockene Grenze und über das offene Meer: Binneneuropäische und transatlantische Migrationen im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, Migration in Geschichte und Gegenwart (1) (Essen, Klartext:2004) pp133-166.

Bradley, Robert, Sandifer, Ed (eds.), Leonhard Euler: Life, Work and Legacy (Elsevier, 2007).

Cross, Anthony, Russia and the West in the Eighteenth-Century: proceedings of the second international conference organized by the Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia and held at the University of East-Anglia, Norwich, England, 17-22 Julyn 1981 (Newtonville, Mass. Oriental Research Partners, 1983).

Dahlmann, Dittmar, „Записки путешественников. Переписка Г. Ф. Миллера, Л. Эйлера и А. Ф. Бюшинга во время и после Второй амчатской экспедиции, 1733-1743.“ in Smagina, G.I. (ed.), Nemtsy v Rossii: Rossiĭsko-nemetskiĭ dialog (St. Petersburg, D. Bulanin: 2001), pp8–15.

Dixon, Simon (ed.), Personality and Place in Russian Culture: Essays in Memory of Lindsey Hughes (Leeds, Maney: 2010).

Gleason, Abbott, A companion to Russian history (Madlen, Mass., Wiley-Blackwell: 2009).

Kaiser, Friedhelm Berthold, Stasiewski, Bernhard  (eds.), Deutscher Einfluss auf Bildung und Wissenschaft im östlichen Europa. Studien zum Deutschtum im Osten (18) (Köln, Böhlau: 1984).

Kliuchevskii, Vasili Osipovich, A Course in Russian History; The Time of Catherine the Great (M.E. Sharpe, 1997).

Lieven, Dominic, The Cambridge History of Imperial Russia, 1689-1917 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 2006).

Mamikov, Valerij, Vo vremja tamozhennogo dosmotra obnaruzheny…Tamozhnja Sankt-Petersburga v zerkale vremen. (A history of the customs office of Saint-Petersburg) (Sankt-Petersburg, Izdate’stvo Sankt Peterburgskogo un-ta, 2006).

Porter, Roy (ed. ) The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 4. “Eighteenth-Century Science.”  (Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press: 2003).

Reidy, Michael, Kroll, Gary, Conway, Erik (eds.), Exploration and Science: Social Impact and Interaction (ABC Clio, 2007).

Robel, Gert, „Kärrner der Aufklärung. Hauslehrer im Rußland des 18. Jahrhunderts.“ in Lehmann-Carli, Gabriela, Scholz, Birgit (eds.), Russische Aufklärungsrezeption im Kontext offizieller Bildungskonzepte (1700-1825), Aufklärung und Europa. (Berlin, Berlin-Verlag Spitz: 2001), pp325–344.

Smagina, Galina, „Russisch- deutsche Beziehungen in der Wissenschaft im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert.“ in Smagina, Galina (ed.), Nemcy v Rossii: Russko-nemeckie naučnye i kul’turnye svjazi, (Saint-Petersburg, Bulanin: 2000), pp208–224.

Smagina, Galina, „Вклад немецких ученых в развитие российской школы в XVIII в.“ in Славогородская Л. В (ed.), Немцы и развитие образования в России (Saint- Petersburg, Российская Академия Наук: 1998).

Smagina, Galina, „Немецкие учебники по всеобщей истории в российской школе XVIII века.“ in Smagina, Galina (ed.), Nemtsy v Rossii: Rossiĭskonemetskiĭ dialog, (Saint. Petersburg, D. Bulanin: 2001), pp169–186.

Smagina, Galina. „Sankt-Petersburgskaja Akademiya nauk i prosveshenie v Rossii XVIII veka: obrazovanie i rasprostranenie znanij.“ Habilitation (Диссертация на соискание ученой степени доктора исторических наук), Институт истории естествознания и техники им. С. И. Вавилова, 2007).

Stén, Johan, Comet of the Enlightenment: Anders Johann Lexell’s Life and Discoveries (Springer: 2014).

Umbach, Maiken, Federalism and Enlightenment in Germany, 1740-1806 (London, Rio Grande: Hambledon Press: 2000).

Van Damme, Stephane, “Reason and Sentiment: The Enlightenment, Golden Age of the Translation of the Sciences?” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 35 (2004) pp383-389.

Vucinich, Alexander.  Science in Russian Culture (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1963).

Lost in translation: dealing with scholarship in other languages

As I would like to use this platform to broadcast the methodological issues encountered by junior researchers, this post will be devoted to that of the language barrier often encountered when reading previous scholarship on one’s research subject.

Although the logical introduction would be to mention the obvious dominance of English in current scholarship – at all levels and disciplines – I would like to address my struggles in dealing with another language, and maybe less accessible for Western researchers: Russian. I’m currently working on the scientific exchanges and networks between the Academies of Saint-Petersburg and Berlin in the 18th century.

Although the letters I’m editing,  exchanged between the two secretaries of the Academies, Jean-Albert Euler (1734-1800, son of the mathematician Leonard Euler) in Saint-Petersburg and Jean-Henri Samuel Formey (1711-1797) in Berlin, are written in French, most of the protagonists of this correspondence belong to Russia’s national Pantheon. Subsequently, most of the information – although not necessarily the most relevant – is written in Russian. Indeed, the scientists quoted in the letters are well-known by Russian historians and scientists, less so by Western ones.

Biographical entry on Vladimir Orlov, Director of the Academy of Sciences in Saint-Petersburg, in a “Who’s Who in 18th Century Russia” volume (Сухарева, О. В. Кто был кто в России.-М,АСТ.-2005.- ISBN 5-17-023261-6, p361). © E. Chaze

When I encounter a new name in a letter, I begin by searching it within the traditional instances used in such cases: biographies repositories, previous scholarship on the subject, or any other relevant primary or secondary source. But when the DNB (Deutsche National Bibliothek) is almost silent, and when a famous search engine’s only results viciously  brings you back to your own editorial work, instead of leading you towards a nicely prepared Wikipedia page ideally well researched and full of footnotes leading to book references, which strategy to adopt? The obvious way seems to…

Learn a new language: Russian for beginners?

…in order to see the broader picture and have access to all the scholarship I need. As I intend to further research this field, this would make sense and I am indeed in the process of learning the language, but am in no way yet able to decipher texts written about these Russian scientists. One another note, I also have to write my PhD in the meantime and don’t have much time to devote to a new language just right now. Ideally, historians are multilingual. Realistically, they also have to somehow earn a living when they don’t hold a secure position in academia, and sadly learning new languages is seldom remunerated.

Hence the inherent dilemma: should I attempt to describe the scientific networks between Saint-Petersburg and Berlin based on the sole primary and secondary sources written in languages I understand? Most of Western researchers interested in the subject would still find the information I unveil relevant – as they would be original ones. I could begin by doing just that, alternatively I could also attempt to

Build my own research circle

When working to become a historian, one doesn’t learn about collaboration. On the contrary, the academic field is quite a competitive and ruthless one. So it doesn’t necessarily come to mind to look out for a (preferably nice) colleague who might have just the skill you’re lacking, here Russian language.  However, while studying networks, one is bound to think about building up one’s own collaborative research circle.

And here being resourceful and reaching out, something one certainly doesn’t learn as a book nerd buried in the archives or when attending a seminar, is paramount. This is just what I’m in the process of learning and, having found a Russian speaking colleague equally eager to work on scientific networks, I’m much looking forward to share my ideas and collaborate, in order to write better documented papers on the subject and build up comprehensive and encompassing scholarship on these networks.

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