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Conference “Zones and Lines, Water and Land: New Conversations on Borders” (Cardiff, 22-24 May, 2019)

In the early modern world, no less than today, borders were contested spaces that fostered opportunity on one hand and anxiety on the other. New technologies expanded the reach and scale of maritime enterprises and empires even as control of coastlines and blue-water spaces remained elusive. European interest in a path to the “western sea” focused North and South American colonists’ attention westward to what turned out to be the landlocked interior of massive continents governed and defended by Native peoples already there. Marshes and mountains, estuaries and arid zones, lakes, rivers, fisheries, and forests shaped the movement, experiences, and encounters of Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans who lived in or entered particular spaces. Two distinct and usually separate lines of scholarship examine these spaces of border contest: inland “frontier” studies and maritime/Atlantic history. This conference invites participants to continue a conversation about the landed and aquatic frontiers of borderlands and maritime history to investigate in a broadly comparative framework how early modern actors defined, defied, and took advantage of borders, be they on land or on water. The organisers hope attendees will simultaneously consider how a variety of actors imagined, pictured, and mapped these spaces. This event provides a forum to explore topics including, but not limited to, port cities, divided, middle, and Native grounds, saltwater frontiers, migration, diaspora, epistemology, and settler colonialism. The co-organisers are historians of the Atlantic World, but welcome proposals from other geographies and fields. They are delighted that Dr Lissa Wadewitz, author of The Nature of Borders: Salmon, Boundaries, and Bandits on the Salish Sea, will deliver the keynote address.

The co-organisers (Dr Rachel Herrmann, Cardiff University, and Dr Jessica Roney, Temple University) envision diverse formats for conference participation including but not limited to pre-circulated papers for extended discussion, pre-circulated two-page abstracts paired with brief presentations (for graduate students early on in their careers), roundtables, and standard formal conference presentations. Several of our committed participants are senior scholars willing to workshop essays by early career scholars. We warmly welcome suggestions for innovative paper formats and sessions. Interested participants should send one document containing a 250-word paper abstract, a few sentences describing preferred delivery format (i.e., roundtable, abstract + presentation, etc.), and a short CV to Rachel Herrmann ( by January 1st, 2019. The conference will take place May 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, 2019.

This workshop is the second of three in a series devoted to “Geographies of Power on Land and Water,” made possible by a Networking Scheme Grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (United Kingdom) and participates in an ongoing scholarly conversation about space, borders, and power in the early modern world. The co-investigators seek to expand the network over the next twelve months. The final conference will take place in Autumn 2019 at the Institute for Historical Research in London, UK.

Contact Info:
Dr Rachel Herrmann, Cardiff University
Contact Email:


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