CFP: The Napoleonic Continental System (Amsterdam, May 2011)

The Napoleonic Continental System: Local, European, and Global Experiences and Consequences

Date: May 19-21, 2011
Location: Amsterdam, NL, International Institute of Social History
Organizer Dr. Johan Joor, International Institute of Social History, P.O. Box 2169, 1000 CD Amsterdam, The Netherlands,

Co-Organizer Dr. Katherine B. Aaslestad, Associate Professor, Department of History of West Virginia University, 220 Woodburn Hall, PO 6303, Morgantown, West Virginia, 26506-6303 USA,

Since 2004, several exciting interdisciplinary conferences on the Napoleonic Empire have re-conceptualized the Napoleonic era as a period of intense political, military, social, and economic transformation on the local and European level. This conference will highlight the role of the Continental System in the Empire and beyond. Though relatively neglected compared to other aspects of the Napoleonic Wars and Empire, the Continental System has been interpreted as either “defensive” or “offensive” in nature.  Scholars continue to debate its short and long-term consequences for economic development in Europe and North America. Regarded as both an economic and military structure, many scholars note that it became increasingly coercive after 1810.  Some scholars argue the System discredited and delegitimized Napoleon’s Empire, whereas others view it as a crude prototype for the European Union. To what degree do these interpretations continue to shape scholarship on the Continental System? Within a diverse Europe, can the Continental System be viewed as a homogenous structure?

This conference treats the Continental System within a long chronological framework that includes its origins in mercantilism and economic warfare prior to Napoleon’s Berlin Decrees in 1806 as well as its short and long-term significance in political, social-economic and commercial development.  This conference is also interested in both the local and global -the micro and the macro- significance of the Continental System from shifts in commerce in individual port cities like Amsterdam to new developments in colonial commerce in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Beyond the military and economic consequences of the Continental System, increased poverty and wealth developed alongside new social structures as merchants migrated to avoid the system, and sailors, labourers, fishermen, and other ordinary folk sought alternative forms of livelihood.

Proposals are invited on any aspect of interdisciplinary research relating to the Continental System, including the following themes:

  • New historiographical interpretations of the Continental System and its role in the Napoleonic Empire
  • Uniqueness of the Napoleonic Blockade as an instrument of war and the structural consequences in economic warfare
  • Role and consequences of naval warfare, including the North American War of 1812
  • Social consequences: increase in poverty, population migration, protest, social stratification, genderedexperiences
  • Alternatives to the System: black market trade, smuggling, and imperial corruption
  • Experiences of port cities, economic regions, commercial networks, and global trade
  • Political consequences of the Continental System on a local and European level
  • Regional differences in the application and consequences of the System
  • The role of the Continental System in the Trans-Atlantic World
  • The global implications of the Continental System: extent of the global network, intensity of global interconnectedness, and impact of global interconnectedness.
  • Damage and economic reconstruction following the Continental System

Proposals are invited for individual papers and panel sessions.  The Conference will be held May 19-21, 2011 at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Applicants should submit a 500 word proposal and a brief cv (in Word or PDF) by May 15, 2010.  Participants whose papers have been accepted will be notified by July 15, 2010. We need a final version of your paper by April 1, 2011 for pre-circulation and comment that relates the papers to the session theme.


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