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Concordia Professor Awarded Fulbright Scholarship

February 16, 2024 - 4 minute read

Concordia Associate Professor of history and political thought, Caleb Karges ’09, who teaches on modern Europe and military history, was accepted as a Fulbright scholar for the 2023-2024 academic year. He is presently conducting research at the Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada.

“I had always wanted to apply for a Fulbright,” Karges says. “[Concordia professor of psychology] Jenny Cosgrove encouraged me to do it, and I finally took her advice.”

When he learned he had received the honor in April 2023, “I was flabbergasted, just floored,” he says. “It was the hand of God. I am incredibly thankful, especially to the people here [at Université Laval] who saw my application and said, ‘We want that guy.’”

Karges has carved out a research niche in the military and diplomatic history of the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) with a focus on Great Britain and Austria. His secondary emphasis—which is the focus of his research while on the Fulbright scholarship—is on prisoners of war in the early 18th century. Karges and two other academic researchers are delving into this little-known period of military history and have already secured $160,000 in grants for their effort. They seek to understand how prisoners of war were treated, if treatment differed by country and how the prisoners handled their own captivity.

Karges is spending four months studying these topics as a full-time researcher at Université Laval and receives a stipend for living expenses, travel, and research. Karges spends his time combing through archival materials, especially printed and handwritten documents dealing with prisoners of war from the War of Spanish Succession. “The other day I found an exchange for a cartel between French and Austrian armies in 1702 saying, ‘If you capture a person of this rank, this is how much they are worth in buyback,’” he says, noting one of many interesting finds.

One article he is producing will illuminate the various obligations the captor, the captive, and the “employer” had to one another. For example, if a French soldier was captured by Austrians, what obligations did the Austrians have to the prisoner and to his employer, the king of France? What rights did the capturing nation have over the prisoner? What obligations did the French king have to him (did the prisoner still receive a salary, for instance?), and what were the prisoner’s obligations to the King? Such considerations affected practical matters, like when escape was considered acceptable and honorable.

“We are trying to shed more light on the administration of prisoners of war and the social aspects of it,” Karges says. “Compared to the Middle Ages there was a major improvement. In the Middle Ages, they would have just killed them.”

Source materials include handwritten correspondence between opposing commanders concerning certain prisoners. It also encompasses reports and petitions from French and Spanish prisoners over incidents resulting in official investigations and depositions. Other useful data derives from administrative correspondence from muster masters and quarter masters who took tallies of how many people were captured, and the ranks of each prisoner.

“It’s tens of thousands of documents,” says Karges, whose team is at the forefront of research of this type for that era. “There hasn’t been that much work done treating prisoners of war in this time period. We are filling the gap.”

He also is finding religious dimensions. For example, British POWs complained in contemporaneous writings that the French and the Spanish brought in priests to proselytize them to Catholicism.

“I love getting into the sources and having time to think about this stuff,”

Karges says. “There’s nothing quite as thrilling as going through the sources and finding a document that lays out everything you wanted to hear and which gives you the information you’ve been looking for.”

In his off-time, he and his family have been traveling to nearby Canadian national parks and destinations like Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The French-ness of Quebec has surprised Karges.

“Quebec City has such a European feel that you almost have to remind yourself that these are North Americans,” he says.

After Christmas, the family will make the drive back to Southern California, and Karges will teach a class in the spring at Concordia on prisoners of war.

“I love showing students the research I’m doing,” he says.

Three of the last five President’s Showcase winners at Concordia were mentored by Karges, and he wants to continue to teach undergraduates to do “big-league history,” including “the archival slog.”

The results of his time as a Fulbright scholar will include making professional connections and becoming an ambassador for the program.

“I can see how critical these four months are in terms of developing my career as a researcher and a teacher,” he says. “Hopefully, this will open up opportunities for our students to get into the Fulbright program, which has an exchange program for undergraduates.”

Karges is the second Concordia professor to receive a Fulbright scholarship, sharing the honor with recently- retired communications professor Cheryl Williams.


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