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Helge Wendt

Helge Wendt is a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, where he is associated with the project Globalization of Knowledge. He received his PhD from the University of Mannheim, where he taught Early Modern History. His research focuses on global history of coal, the history of Christian missions in different colonial contexts and the history and historiography of globalization. He currently works on the analytic turn of mechanics in the eighteenth century, funded by the Collaborative Research Center “Transformations of Antiquity.” Wendt published a book on the global history of colonial missions Die missionarische Gesellschaft. Mikrostrukturen einer kolonialen Globalisierug (Franz Steiner, 2011) and papers on different aspects of colonial mission history. He is a co-editor of The History of Physics in Cuba (Springer, 2014) and the editor of The Globalization of Knowledge in the Iberian Colonial World (1500–1900) (Edition Open Access 2016). In his current book project he studies the global history of knowledge of black coal (seventeenth to nineteenth century).

Central European Missionaries in Sudan. Geopolitics and Alternative Colonialism in Mid-Nineteenth Century Africa

The Catholic Austro-Italian mission to southern Sudan is an example of friars from Central Europe being engaged in a colonial mission project. The mission was arranged in 1850s on the initiative of Max Ryllo and represented by two priests: Ignaz Knoblecher from Slovenia Daniele Comboni from Italy. It was endorsed by two Austrian Catholic associations, high officials and Propaganda Fide. This analysis offers new insights into the time of increasing geopolitical conflicts concerning the regions of eastern Africa.

The talk will present the history of this mission enterprise by following the evolution of the mission, its setbacks and new foundations. One of the mission’s goals was to establish schools – therefore, the educational program, the recruitment of pupils and the role graduated pupils had in the missional society will be the presentation’s central focus. Another aspect is the involvement of missionaries in regional affairs of politics and commerce. Taking into account the fact that the main participants of the mission enterprise came from territories respectively dominated by a “foreign” power, the question of how this mission project was different from others is of main interest. In contrast to simultaneous French missions in West-Africa, for instance, it is an evidence that the Austro-Italian mission had the intention of early emancipation of the missions from European tutelage.

Download pre-paper here