Jesse SpohnholzJan 4, 2021
The Convent of Wesel
The Event that Never was and the Invention of Tradition
Cambridge University Press 2017
We are here today with Jesse Spohnholz, Professor of History and Director of The Roots of Contemporary Issues World History Program at Washington State University in beautiful Pullman, Washington, to talk about his penultimate book, The Convent of Wesel: The Event That Never Was and the Invention of Tradition first published n 2017 by Cambridge University Press and out 2020 in paperback.
The Convent of Wesel was long believed to be a clandestine assembly of Protestant leaders in 1568 that helped establish foundations for Reformed churches in the Dutch Republic and northwest Germany. However, Jesse Spohnholz shows that that event did not happen, but was an idea created and perpetuated by historians and record keepers since the 1600s. Appropriately, this book offers not just a fascinating snapshot of Reformation history but a reflection on the nature of historical inquiry itself. The Convent of Wesel begins with a detailed microhistory that unravels the mystery and then traces knowledge about the document at the centre of the mystery over four and a half centuries, through historical writing, archiving and centenary commemorations. Spohnholz reveals how historians can inadvertently align themselves with protagonists in the debates they study and thus replicate errors that conceal the dynamic complexity of the past.
The conversation covers the book, of course, with a good discussion about how history is done.
Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.