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One research focus of the Division for Early Modern History deals with body techniques, that is, the historically changeable, culturally structured, instrumental use of the body in all its various facets. The term, coined by Marcel Mauss, is conceptually far broader than either the concept of sport, which is aligned with competition, or of physical exercise, which relates to health and wellbeing. However, in the same vein as both these concepts, body techniques may serve as both lens and symptom for investigating individual and social developments as well as fields of conflict. Body techniques also lend themselves to enquiry into their function as sources of knowledge (embodiment) and procedural (body) memory. As we can only access past body attitudes and movements through the media of visual and textual sources, analysing both forms of depiction and their repercussions for bodily experience plays an important role in historical and historically oriented research.

A 2008 exhibition in the Herzog August Bibliothek (HAB) Wolfenbüttel curated by Rebekka von Mallinckrodt, with contributions from researchers from Germany and abroad, provided a first overview of the wide array of sources relating to body techniques held in the HAB (see exhibition catalogue and reviews in the press).

From 2009 to 2012 the DFG scientific network ‘Body Techniques in the Early Modern Period’ brought together researchers from nine countries and eight disciplines at four differently themed network workshops at the Free University of Berlin, the German Historical Institute (GHI) Paris, the Saarland University (Saarbrücken) and the GHI London to discuss their current work. Resulting from this cooperation were several doctoral and postdoctoral theses and monographs, the edited volume Sports and Physical Exercise in Early Modern Culture, as well as numerous essays and encyclopaedic entries (see below for details).

Research is continuing in this area through contributions to the history of science, the history of the senses and the history of technology in the area of ocean exploration and (underwater) seafaring as well as through editing The Age of Enlightenment 1650–1800, one of the six volumes making up the forthcoming Cultural History of Sport (Bloomsbury).

Publications on body techniques, sport and physical exercise

(Current papers and downloads are available at

  • Rebekka v. Mallinckrodt and Angela Schattner (eds), Sports and Physical Exercise in Early Modern Culture. New Perspectives on the History of Sports and Motion (London: Routledge, 2016), 272 pages.
  • Eaed.‚ ‘Introduction’, in Ibid., 1–17.
  • Rebekka v. Mallinckrodt, ‘French Enlightenment Swimming’, in Ibid., 231–51.
  • Ead., ‘Exploring Underwater Worlds. Diving in the Late Seventeenth/ Early Eighteenth-Century British Empire’, in Daniela Hacke and Paul P. Musselwhite (eds), Empire of Senses. Sensory Practices and Modes of Perception in the Atlantic World (Leiden: Brill, 2016), forthcoming.
  • Ead., ‘Schwimmende Prinzen, oder: Wie man Machtwechsel vorbereitet’ (Swimming princes, or: how to prepare a change of government), in Mariacarla Gadebusch-Bondio, Beate Kellner and Ulrich Pfister (eds), Die Macht der Natur – gemachte Natur. Realitäten und Fiktionen des Herrscherkörpers zwischen Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit (The Power of Nature—Nature Made. Realities and Fictions of the Ruler’s Body from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period), forthcoming.
  • Ead., ‘Taucherglocken, U-Boote und Aquanauten – Die Erschließung der Meere im 17. Jahrhundert zwischen Utopie und Experiment’ (Diving bells, submarines and aquanauts—seventeenth-century ocean exploration between utopia and experiment), in Karin Friedrich (ed.), Die Erschließung des Raumes. Konstruktion, Imagination und Darstellung von Räumen und Grenzen im Barockzeitalter (Discovering Space. Constructing, Imagining and Depicting Spaces and Borders in the Barock Period), Wolfenbütteler Arbeiten zur Barockforschung, 51 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014), 337–54.
  • Ead., ‘Beschleunigung in der Sattelzeit? – Sportliche, medizinische und soziale Perspektiven auf den Wettlauf um 1800’ (Acceleration at the turn of the eighteenth century? Sporting, medical and social perspectives on running races around 1800), in Achim Landwehr (ed.), Frühe Neue Zeiten. Zeitwissen zwischen Reformation und Revolution (Early Modern Times. Knowledge of Time between the Reformation and Revolution) (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2012), 83–104.
  • Ead., ‘GutsMuths Schwimmkonzepte im europäischen Vergleich’ (GutMuths’ concepts of swimming in European comparison), in Michael Krüger (ed.), Johann Christoph Friedrich GutsMuths (1759–1839) und die philanthropische Bewegung in Deutschland (Johann Christoph Friedrich GutsMuths (1759–1839) and the Philanthropic Movement in Germany) (Hamburg: Feldhaus, 2010), 67–77.
  • Ead., ‘Laufen’ (running), ‘Leibesübungen’ (physical exercise), ‘Ringen’ (wrestling), ‘Rudern’ (rowing), ‘Schießen’ (shooting), ‘Schwimmen’ (swimming), ‘Tauchen’ (diving), ‘Tennis’ (tennis), ‘Turnier’ (jousting) und ‘Wettkampf’ (competition) in Friedrich Jaeger (ed.), Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit (Encyclopedia of Early Modern History), vol. 7 (2008), vol. 11 (2010), vol. 13 (2011) and vol. 14 (2011) (Stuttgart: Metzler). All articles are available online and will be available in English translation in Encyclopedia of Early Modern History (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).
  • Ead. (ed.), Bewegtes Leben – Körpertechniken in der Frühen Neuzeit (Life on the Move: Body Techniques in the Early Modern Period), catalogue of exhibition in the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, 29 June–16 November 2008 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008), 384 pages, 181 images.
  • Ead., ‘Einführung: Körpertechniken in der Frühen Neuzeit’ (Introduction: body techniques in the early modern period), in Ibid., 1–14.
  • Ead., ‘Oronzio de Bernardi und die Neubegründung der Schwimmkunst im 18. Jahrhundert’ (Oronzio de Bernardi and (re-)inventing the art of swimming in the eighteenth century), in Ibid., 231–45.
  • Ead., ‘Leibesübungen’ (Physical exercise), in Ibid., 303–16.
  • Ead., ‘Schwimmtraktate der Frühen Neuzeit’ (Swimming treatises in the early modern period), in Ibid., 366–75.
  • Ead., ‘“Man entsage dem Betruge der misgeleiteten Vernunft (...) so wird man sehen, daß man schwimmen kann.” – Schwimmpraktiken und -debatten im 18. Jahrhundert’ (“If you renounce the deception of misguided reason [ ... ] you will see that you can swim.” Swimming practices and debates in the eighteenth century), in Werkstatt Geschichte, 44 (2006), 7-26.
  • Ead., ‘Bewegte Geschichte. Plädoyer für eine verstärkte Integration und konzeptuelle Erweiterung der Sportgeschichte in die frühneuzeitliche Geschichtswissenschaft’ (History on the move: a call to better integrate and conceptually extend the history of sport in early modern history studies), in Historische Anthropologie, 1 (2004), 134–39.

Members of the DFG scientific network ‘Body Techniques’, 2009–12

  • Prof. Dr. Rebekka von Mallinckrodt (Applicant)
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Behringer (Cooperation Partner, Saarbrücken)
  • Dr. Angela Schattner (Cooperation Partner, DHI London)
  • Prof. Dr. Pascal Brioist (Tours)
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Dinges (Stuttgart)
  • Prof. Dr. phil. Dr. rer. med. Mariacarla Gadebusch Bondio (TU München)
  • Dr. Jonathan Kohlrausch (Lübeck)
  • Dr. Ulrike Krampl (Tours)
  • Dr. Kristin Marek (Karlsruhe)
  • Prof. Dr. Ulrich Rehm (Bochum)
  • Prof. Dr. Herman Roodenburg (Amsterdam)
  • Prof. Dr. Lyndal Roper (Oxford)
  • Prof. Dr. Ulinka Rublack (Cambridge)
  • Prof. Dr. Georges Vigarello (EHESS Paris)
  • Dr. Janina Wellmann (Lüneburg)