I have just returned from our annual workshop on Translating Cultures at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel (HAB, Germany) which is always a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues while discussing the significance of translation for the dissemination of ideas in early modern Europe. The spread of papers was amazing – from translations of the Old Testament Book of Job via the reception of William Robertson in Italy to Montesquieu in Hungarian and new conventions of botany books that created a whole new language for the description of plants. (You can catch up with the live tweets under #tcHAB2019.)
The mix of languages present at the conference was reflected in our conversations as well. While most papers were presented in English, one was presented in French, and French was also often used in discussions around the table or during break times outside of the conference room, where Italian and German could also be heard. Among the participants were an Israeli, a Hungarian, a Russian and a French national who live and work in Germany, while the event was co-organised by a Danish national living in Scotland and a German who had spent almost one third of her life in the UK and Ireland.
We appreciate living in Europe and enjoy the ease of travel and exchange facilitated by the EU. As far as I am aware there was not a single person at the workshop that thought Brexit was a good idea, even though there were three British people around the table. In fact, the cloud of a looming Brexit was hanging over us as Boris Johnson’s negotiations for a revised deal were about to draw to a close. Many of us were wondering if in the future workshops like ours would still be happening in the same way as before, if travel might become more difficult, or if we would still be able to move as easily between the UK and the Continent for work. There is still a lot of insecurity about transnational research programmes involving the UK, eligibility for research funding, and all kinds of other collaborations across the Channel.
While all of us at the workshop were painfully aware of all the things we might be losing when the UK leaves the EU, I don’t think any of us would have been able to name a single thing we might be gaining.