Launch of the MIDA Online Research Portal


The fol­low­ing report was first released in July 2019 as part of the ZMO Bul­letin No. 36.

In the fifth year of its exis­tence, the DFG-fund­ed, long-term project MIDA (Mod­ernes Indi­en in Deutschen Archiv­en 1706–1989) cel­e­brat­ed the launch of its online research por­tal (Recherchep­or­tal; https://www.projekt-mida.de/rechercheportal/). A pub­lic event was held on May 10 at the ZMO, Berlin. MIDA start­ed in Novem­ber 2014 and – pro­vid­ed it leads to suc­cess­ful appli­ca­tions – is planned for a max­i­mum of 12 years until 2026. It is being car­ried out at three aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tions: the Cen­tre for Mod­ern Indi­an Stud­ies (CeMIS) at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Göt­tin­gen, the Insti­tute of Asian and African Stud­ies (IAAW) at the Hum­boldt Uni­ver­si­ty in Berlin and the Zen­trum Mod­ern­er Ori­ent (ZMO).

MIDA´s main aim is to dis­cov­er and describe col­lec­tions of archival doc­u­ments in Ger­man insti­tu­tions that are relat­ed to the polit­i­cal, cul­tur­al, social or intel­lec­tu­al his­to­ry of mod­ern India and to the his­to­ry of Indo-Ger­man entan­gle­ments. The project starts from the assump­tion that the abun­dance, diver­si­ty and sci­en­tif­ic poten­tial of col­lec­tions on mod­ern India host­ed in Ger­man archives have been insuf­fi­cient­ly appre­ci­at­ed so far. For the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty of his­to­ri­ans of India, these resources can open up new research per­spec­tives that have remained obscured by an exces­sive fix­a­tion on British colo­nial archives. The large­ly unex­plored source mate­ri­als not only call for a recon­struc­tion of the his­to­ry of Ger­man-Indi­an entan­gle­ments since the 18th cen­tu­ry, they also encour­age the devel­op­ment of inno­v­a­tive research ques­tions in com­par­a­tive and glob­al his­to­ry, which might be of inter­est and inspi­ra­tion for issues of transna­tion­al his­to­ri­og­ra­phy at large.

The MIDA online research por­tal con­sists of three parts: a Data­base, an Archival Reflex­i­con and The­mat­ic Resources. The data­base con­tains sys­tem­at­ic infor­ma­tion about col­lec­tions relat­ed to mod­ern India in Ger­man archives. So far, infor­ma­tion on India-relat­ed hold­ings in 11 archives is avail­able, among them such big state insti­tu­tions as the Poli­tis­ches Archiv des Auswär­ti­gen Amts, the Bun­de­sarchiv, the Geheimes Staat­sarchiv Preussis­ch­er Kul­turbe­sitz, the Staat­sarchiv Ham­burg and the Nieder­säch­sis­ches Lan­desarchiv Han­nover. Besides these large col­lec­tions, infor­ma­tion is also pro­vid­ed on India-relat­ed sources in less­er-known archives in Ger­many, such as the com­mu­nal Stadtarchiv Halle or the Archiv der Jugend­be­we­gung, Burg Lud­wig­stein in Witzen­hausen. The data­base is an open-access and con­tin­u­ous­ly grow­ing plat­form. 

The sec­ond pil­lar of the research por­tal, the Archival Reflex­i­con is an ongo­ing col­lec­tion of essays on his­tor­i­cal or method­olog­i­cal themes and col­lec­tions. It “is thus a reflex­ive lex­i­con – of how to nav­i­gate through India-relat­ed hold­ings in Ger­man archives, acquire an overview of the same for spe­cif­ic top­ics, and of how to crit­i­cal­ly engage with larg­er the­o­ret­i­cal and method­olog­i­cal debates that emerge from the exer­cise of trac­ing, extract­ing, list­ing, order­ing and index­ing infor­ma­tion” (https://www.projekt-mida.de/rechercheportal/reflexicon/).

The third pil­lar of the MIDA research por­tal, the The­mat­ic Resources rubric, pro­vides research data gen­er­at­ed with­in MIDA, includ­ing a list of all suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed India-relat­ed PhDs at Ger­man uni­ver­si­ties between 1783 and 2013.

The MIDA team is extreme­ly thank­ful to the Deutsche Forschungs­ge­mein­schaft (DFG) for fund­ing this project, to our three insti­tu­tions, CEMIS, IAAW and ZMO for host­ing it, to the MIDA advi­so­ry board for its con­tin­u­ous sup­port and to the ser­vice Cen­ter eSciences in Tri­er for devel­op­ing and pro­vid­ing us with the nec­es­sary soft­ware. But first, we thank the archives and insti­tu­tions we have vis­it­ed so far for their inter­est in MIDA, their open­ness and their sup­port. We hope that the already exist­ing and upcom­ing results will be used inten­sive­ly by researchers and invite users to get in touch with us with feed­back, sug­ges­tions or con­tri­bu­tions.

by Heike Liebau (ZMO)

Source: ZMO Bul­letin No. 36.