M.K. Williams, Dr
Dr. Williams' research is characterized by multi-disciplinary approaches to historical diplomacy and political communications (diplomatic, legal, comparative political, entangled/transnational, book-historical, archivistic, media & material culture).
Following a BA in International Relations and Central & Eastern European Studies (Grinnell College, 2000) and MA in Central & East European History from Columbia University in 2002,
Dr. Williams received her Ph.D. in Early Modern European History from Columbia University in 2009 for her dissertation "Dangerous Diplomacy and Dependable Kin: Transformations in Central European Statecraft, 1526-1540". The dissertation challenged traditional bilateral diplomatic history by analyzing 16th-century diplomats' legal and political strategies (such as safe-conducts) for enhancing mobility and security in transit. Her dissertation research in Vienna, Budapest, Venice, Rome, Bologna, Berlin, and Brussels was generously funded by Whiting Foundation (2007-08), Mellon Interdisciplinary (2007-08), Fulbright-Hays (2006-07), Ernst Mach (2006), German Marshall (2005) and Columbia University fellowships. She subsequently held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Italian Academy for Advanced Study in New York and was nominated an American Council of Learned Societies-Mellon Early Career Fellow at the Heyman Center for the Humanities in New York prior to taking up her current position at the University of Groningen.
From 2012-2017 Dr. Williams undertook (part-time, with extensions for maternity leave) the early-career research project "Paper Princes", funded by the Dutch NWO-Vernieuwingsimpuls VENI program, to examine paper's role in the shift from largely oral to largely written diplomatic practices in early modern Europe, ca.1460-1560. The project analyzed paper's life-cycle as material artifact and political communications medium from acquisition to circulation, use, and archiving. This project concluded with a large, 4-day conference featuring 41 speakers from 12+ countries (The Politics of Paper in the Early Modern World: http://politicsofpaper.wixsite.com/politicsofpaper in 2016 and with a major 2017 museum exhibition, "Paper Unfolding: Groningers and their Paper" (http://www.gridgroningen.nl/exposities/papier-ontvouwd-groningers-en-hun-papier/ ) which drew 6000+ visitors from around the world and featured more than 20 museum, public, corporate, and individual lenders. Dr. Williams co-edited the exhibition catalogue, which featured 17 articles including 8 by BA, MA, and PhD students who helped research and organize the exhibition as part of Dr. Williams' Paper Princes Student Assistantship Program. The exhibition was digitized in 2018-19 thanks to a Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds grant at https://collectiegroningen.nl.
Dr. Williams is currently working on editing the Politics of Paper conference proceedings and on writing a monograph on paper in early modern diplomacy. Her most recent research explores paper as political communications medium in global context.
A second line of interest connects diplomacy with the medical humanities and Healthy Aging, specifically examining the role played in early modern diplomatic practice by gout -- an old ailment now enjoying a renaissance in aging industrialized populations -- and other illnesses.
She combines her research with teaching (see Teaching page) and PhD supervision. She currently supervises PhD candidate Frank Birkenholz's project on paper in the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
Key recent publications include:
- "Paper Presents: Diplomatic Safe Conducts Across Sixteenth-Century Habsburg- Ottoman Borders", in Borders and Mobility Control in and between Empires and Nation-States, eds. J. Pešalj, L. Lucassen, A. Steidl, and J. Ehmer. Studies in Global Migration History / Studies in Global Social History (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2021).
-"Ad regem: Diplomatic Documents as Artifacts of Early Modern Foreign Policymaking" in Medieval Documents as Artefacts, 1100-1600, eds. E. Dijkhoff, M.K. Williams, et al. Schrift en Schriftdragers in de Nederlanden in de Middeleeuwen (Hilversum: Verloren, 2020), 189-206.
- "Paper in the Piazza: the Late Medieval and Early Modern Trade in Venetian Paper", in P. Cordez, ed., Typical Venice? Venetian Commodities, 13th-16th Centuries. Studies in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art History (Turnhout: Brepols, 2021).
- "Unter dem Zeichen des Adlers: Frankfurt as Hub of the Sixteenth-Century Central European Paper Trade", in The Paper Trade in Early Modern Europe, ed. D. Bellingradt & A. Reynolds (Leiden: Brill, 2021)
-"'Zu Notdurfft der Schreiberey': Die Einrichtung der frühneuzeitlichen Kanzlei", in Diskurse-Körper-Artefakte. Historische Praxeologie in der Frühneuzeitforschung, ed. D. Freist (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2015), 335-372.
- "Immobile Ambassadors: Gout and Early Modern Diplomacy", Sixteenth Century Journal 47.4 (2016), 940-70.
- "'Gout makes the embassy her own': negotiating disabling pain in the late medieval and early modern embassy", in B. Frohne and J. Kuuliala, eds., Corporealities of Suffering. Dis/ability and Pain in the Middle Ages. Premodern Health, Disease and Disability (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, in press).
For more publications see Dr. Williams' PURE page.
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