Crossroads Research Centre


History of Interaction in the East Asian, Eurasian, Indian Ocean & Asia-Pacific Worlds

Our research focus lies on the investigation of interaction, communication and exchange relations in the macro-region of Eurasia, East Asia, the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Worlds across both land and sea routes, with a main focus on China. We concentrate, however, especially on China’s multifold maritime relations. Major emphasis in this context is placed on the history of diplomatic relations, the transfer of science and technologies, commodity and product exchange, trade, cultural aspects in their widest interpretation, religions, as well as migration and the organisation and functioning of networks.

For this purpose, we have established a worldwide team of researchers who analyse continental and maritime exchanges and transfers of knowledge, ideas, products and people, including forms of migration, paying particular attention to unofficial, secret and illegal exchanges and movements. To this end, we particularly investigate forms of interaction that have been important in both the past and the present, focussing especially on illegal and private networks (smuggling, piracy etc.).

Of major importance to our research is also a critical analysis of China’s and other polities’ socio-economic structures, including the interrelationship between politics, ideology & morality, as expressed in cultural traditions, texts, and religious practices (such as for example tomb culture; Confucianism etc.).

Research includes, above all, commercial exchange and networks, the exchange of technologies and science transfer (such as geographical knowledge as portrayed in maps; navigation routes, distillation technologies, use of mercury for silver mining, medicinal knowledge and products, including diseases, etc.); diplomatic exchanges; aspects of culture (such as practices of Chinese-foreign encounters; food & drinks, music, tombs and tomb objects, including murals; ship cargoes) and religions (such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam); and historical naval enterprises and maritime commerce.

A milestone of our research lies in the parallel comparative analysis of both archaeological and textual evidence and a cross-cultural inter-disciplinary approach. In terms of archaeology, my own main focus lies on the analysis of both tombs and shipwrecks. The use of a wide range of sources from archaeological findings to texts, documents, and pictorial material, to linguistic evidence, constitutes a hallmark of the approach.

Recent Publications

–  Angela Schottenhammer, “‘Peruvian Balsam’: An Example of Transoceanic Transfer of Medicinal Knowledge’, Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 16:69 (2020), 1-20; (open access);

–  Angela Schottenhammer, “East Asia’s Other New World, China and the Viceroyalty of Peru: A Neglected Aspect of Early Modern Maritime History”, The Medieval History Journal 23:1 (2020), 1-59;

–  Angela Schottenhammer (ed.), Early Global Interconnectivity Across the Indian Ocean World [Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies], 2 vols. (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan), vol. I, Commercial Structures and Exchanges; vol. II, Exchange of Ideas, Religions, and Technologies;


Appraising Risks: Patterns of Major Socio-Economic Risk and Risk Projection in the Indian Ocean World


Appraising Risks: Patterns of Major Socio-Economic Risk and Risk Projection in the Indian Ocean World

Prof. Dr. Angela Schottenhammer is part of a multi-disciplinary, international team of scholars under the directorship of Professor Gwyn Campbell of McGill University that has been awarded a $2.5 million partnership grant funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to investigate six periods of historical and contemporary environmental (e.g. climate change, volcanism, monsoons, cyclones, drought) and human (e.g. famine, disease, conflict, migration) crisis, in order to elucidate past-to-to-present patterns that will help inform current and future risk preparedness and socio-human responses to environmental crises and disasters.

The Indian Ocean world (IOW), a macro-region stretching from Africa to China, is a significant global socio-ecological system. Factors such as climate change, the monsoon system, El Niño Southern Oscillation, and volcanism, have profoundly affected its history. Moreover, it contains 17 of the 20 countries most at risk from global warming and associated rising sea levels, and increasing frequency and intensity of drought, famine, conflict over scarce natural resources, and human migration.

This research project applies a conceptual-analytical methodology designed to bridge the boundaries between social and natural sciences. Adopting Fernand Braudel’s view that conventional frameworks of historical analysis are inadequate as analytical tools because they largely ignore both environmental factors and natural cycles and related temporal spans, project members will interrogate, on macro and micro levels, the relationship between clusters of unfavourable environmental events and adverse historical tipping points.

Schottenhammer will lead one of eight teams in the project. Her team, which focuses on the eastern section of the Indian ocean world (IOW), includes Dr. Mathieu Torck and Wim De Winter, M.A. (both Ghent University, Belgium), Dr. Ma Guang (Shandong University, PRChina), Dr. Kimura Jun (Tokai University, Japan), Xu Zhexin (Salzburg University, Austria), Dr. Li Man (Vasco Da Gama European Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations, Belgium), Dr. Alexander Jost (European Centre for Chinese Studies, Peking University, PRChina; Salzburg University, Austria), Prof. Dr. Tansen Sen and Dr. Elke Papelitzky (both NYU Shanghai). Her team will recruit a number of PhD and postgraduate student (including habilitation) to write their thesis on issues related to the impacts in the eastern IOW of the six periods of environmental crisis and human reactions to them.

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