New Europe College
Institute for Advanced Study

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 646489).

Luxury, fashion and social status in Early Modern South Eastern Europe ERC Consolidator Grant, 2015-2020

Principal investigator: Constanța Vintilă-Ghițulescu

Host Institution: New Europe College - Institute for Advanced Study, Bucharest

It is hard to give a broadly acceptable definition of the concept of luxury, which as a field of study has also been largely neglected by historians and sociologists. From a moral or philosophical point of view, luxury is seen as a form of decadence, although from the economic perspective it is seen as a force that drives development of the consumerist economy. Every society knows it in some form, regardless of the degree of economic development, reserving luxury to elite groups, who show their power and pomp through the display of luxury goods. The history of luxury is therefore, from this perspective, a history of power, reflecting the syncretism of cultural and political thought. Luxury and fashion as components of material culture can also be analyzed through the lens of cultural history, since they play an important role in the creation of visual culture. This project proposes to analyze the Christian elites of Ottoman dominated Europe in the Early Modern period from these perspectives, and to look at how they defined their social status and identity at the intersection of East and West. In such an analysis, the Westernization of South-Eastern Europe proceeds not just through the spread of Enlightenment ideas and the influence of the French Revolution, but also through changes in visual culture brought about by Western influence on notions of luxury and fashion. This approach allows a closer appreciation of the synchronicities and time lags between traditional culture, developments in political thought and social change in the context of the modernization or “Europeanization” of this part of Europe.

Project website:

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 802700).

Art Historiographies in Central and Eastern Europe. An Inquiry from the Perspective of Entangled Histories. Starting Grant, 2018-2023

Principal investigator: Ada Hajdu

Senior researchers: Shona Kallestrup, Magdalena Kuninska

Research assistant: Mihnea Mihail

Host Institution: New Europe College - Institute for Advanced Study, Bucharest

Our project proposes a fragmentary account of the art histories produced in present-day Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia between 1850 and 1950, from an entangled histories perspective. We will look at the relationships between the art histories produced in these countries and the art histories produced in Western Europe. But, more importantly, we will investigate how the art histories written in the countries mentioned above resonate with each other, either proposing conflicting interpretations of the past, or ignoring uncomfortable competing discourses. We will investigate the art histories written between 1850 and 1950 because we are interested in how art history contributed to nation building discourses. Therefore, we will focus on those art histories that concur to nationalising the past. Our project is articulated around three crucial concepts – periodisation, style and influence – set in the context of relevant contemporary historiographies produced in Western Europe, and analysing the entanglements with competing historiographies in each of the countries considered. We will focus on two main issues: 1. How did Central and Eastern European art historians adopt, adapt and respond to theoretical and methodological issues developed elsewhere, and 2. What are the periodisations of art produced on the territory of Central and Eastern European countries; what are the theoretical and methodological strategies for conceptualising local styles; and how was the concept of influence used in establishing hierarchical relationships. Because Central and Eastern European art historians did not simply replicate or passively adopt theories and methodologies elaborated elsewhere, nor did they work independently of larger developments in the discipline, we will constantly relate their writings to the writings of other historians, from a non-hierarchical perspective. Researching the conceptualisation of a theoretical framework that would accommodate the artistic production of the past will show the difficulties in dealing with a complex reality without simplifying and essentializing it along ideological lines. The research will also show that the three concepts that we focus on are not neutral or strictly descriptive, and that their use in art history needs to be reconsidered.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No 638436). Starting April 1, 2017 the new Host Institution of this grant is the University of Bucharest.

Record-keeping, fiscal reform, and the rise of institutional accountability

in late-medieval Savoy: a source-oriented approach

ERC Starting Grant, 2015-2020

Principal investigator: Ionuț Epurescu-Pascovici

Host Institution: New Europe College - Institute for Advanced Study, Bucharest

This research project focuses on an unjustly neglected corpus of sources, the fiscal accounts (computi) of the castellanies, or basic administrative units, of late-medieval Savoy. It deploys a holistic model of analysis that can fully capitalise on the unusual wealth of detail of the Savoyard source material in order to illuminate key topics in late-medieval institutional and socioeconomic history, from the development of state institutions through administrative and fiscal reform – with particular attention to the transition from personal to institutional accountability – to the question of socioeconomic decline and recovery from the late-thirteenth to the late-fourteenth century. More broadly, research into these topics aims to contribute to our understanding of the late-medieval origins of European modernity.

The advances of pragmatic literacy, record-keeping, and auditing practices will be analysed with the aid of anthropological and social scientific theories of practice. By comparing the Savoyard computi with their sources of inspiration, from the Anglo-Norman pipe rolls to the Catalan fiscal records, the project aims to highlight the creative adaptation of imported administrative models, and thus to contribute to our knowledge of institutional transfers in European history. The project will develop an inclusive frame of analysis in which the computi will be read against the evidence from enfeoffment charters, castellany surveys (extente), and the records of direct taxation (subsidia). The serial data will be analysed through a database; the findings of quantitative analysis will be verified by case studies of the individuals and families (many from the middle social strata) that surface in the fiscal records.

The project will focus on a sample of castellanies from the heartland of the Savoyard principality, analysed by the Principal Investigator; two postdoctoral researchers will study the records of a few other castellanies from outside the bailiwick of Savoy as test cases for the Principal Investigator’s analysis.