Encounters

For the French-speakers here with an interest in International or Global History: go and read this superb interview with Romain Bertrand, the author of L’histoire à parts égales, a study of Dutch-Javanese-Malese interactions in 16th-17th century Indonesia.

The interview is a fascinating account of the Historian at his desk, sorting his tools and explaining his craft. Bertrand’s reflections on intercultural encounters are also very interesting. He emphasizes the necessity to take each sides of the encounter on its own terms, not as the actors of a determined interplay between dominant and dominated, peripheral and central. He also insists on looking at both sides with their own archives and sources. To scale Bertrand’s point down to my own researches, it seems obvious to me now that studying Franco-Nordic relations could not happen without going into Nordic archives. Starting with my work, the temptation was strong, however, to go the easy way and give a view of things based solely on Parisian archives. Not good… Despite the distance between our subjects, Bertrand ends up with the same conclusions: if you want to study an encounter, you have to look on both sides “à parts égales” (on equal terms).

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