The BAAS Peter Parish Award allowed me to undertake archival research in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia on the connections between the Habsburg Monarchy and the American Revolution, writes Jonathan Singerton. Without this valuable time I would not have been able to complete the final chapters of my PhD which focus on the economic, migration and constitutional links in early US-Habsburg relations.
As someone based in the UK researching the connections between the Habsburg Monarchy and the American Revolution, finding the resources to conduct necessary primary research on both sides of the Atlantic can be challenging. However, the BAAS Peter Parish Award allowed me to undertake a month of archival research in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia in April 2016. Without this valuable time I would not have been able to complete the final chapters of my PhD which focus on the economic, migration and constitutional links between these seemingly two unconnected regions.
My first visit was to the Library of Congress where I was able to spend a week going through several important and relevant European collections. Foremost among them was the family papers of the Mercy-D’Argenteau family, of which Count Florimond Mercy-D’Argenteau was the Habsburg Ambassador in Paris and had the most interactions with the American representatives in Europe. His family papers contained personal letters that have not been published or consulted before now. I also had adequate time to trawl through the Photostat collection at the LoC compiled by the Carnegie Foundation in the 1920s, which collated material from across Europe which relates to the American Revolution. These documents not only gave me a broad overview but helped guide my research in Europe since then.
The most valuable part of my sponsored trip were several weeks spent in Philadelphia. There, I visited two major archives; the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the American Philosophical Society archives. At the HSP I went through sources relating to the first Habsburg representative in Philadelphia, Baron Frederick Eugene de Beelen-Bertholff, which have been untouched by historians. These records were extremely rich in their description of Beelen’s role, interactions, and of his family’s life in the young republic. This complimented the research I’ve already carried out in Vienna, Austria, where a large number of Beelen’s reports were sent back to the Habsburg court. At the APS, I could comb through the Franklin correspondence more thoroughly which allowed me to construct a network of over one-hundred individuals who resided in the Habsburg Monarchy and contacted Benjamin Franklin during the time of the Revolution. These interactions and more are an illuminating light into the vast early American influence not only in the Atlantic World but also in Central Europe.
It is with great thanks that I acknowledge the generosity of the BAAS for allowing me to complete this necessary research and to continue my work into early US-Habsburg relations during the Age of Revolutions. As a result, I intend to be able to submit my doctoral thesis by the end of 2017 at the University of Edinburgh.
Jonathan Singerton is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Edinburgh.