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Historisches Seminar

Foreigners of the Old Regime. Merchants, Judges and Consuls in Eighteenth-Centrury Naples

In modern-day nation states – in which equality before the law and popular sovereignty represent fundamental ideological principles – the distinction between citizens and foreigners constitutes a highly sensitive political border. It is a disputed limes which is associated to mechanisms and discourses of exclusion. But what did it mean to be a foreigner in earlier times? What was a foreigner in an Old Regime state, in which sovereignty was not conceived in national terms and the legal system – far from heralding “equality” – was inherently pluralistic? What rights were migrants entitled to and what kind of discriminations did they have to cope with?

By focussing on eighteenth-century Naples, a European metropolis which was a major hub of regional and international migrations, I have tried to find some answers to these questions. On the basis of a thorough inquiry in judicial, diplomatic, commercial and police records, I have attempted to show what it meant to be a foreigner in front of a customs officer, a policeman and – for and foremost – at the bar of those many competing courts of justice which struggled to impose their authority over the second-largest city of the Mediterranean space.

In a context which was informed by innumerable particular privileges, foreigners – especially foreign merchants – rarely asked for equal rights. On the opposite, they tended to claim their legal difference. And with the support of their consuls they often succeeded in influencing the functioning of Neapolitan institutions. The “foreigner” was not a clearly defined legal category. Rather it was a social classification which was constantly negotiated between local authorities, the representatives of foreign states and the migrants themselves.

Articles and book chapters in English, German and French


«Hermes, the Leviathan, and the grand narrative of New Institutional Economics. The quest for development in the eighteenth-century Kingdom of Naples», Journal of Modern European History, forthcoming, (with Alida Clemente). 

«Protektionsbeziehungen in pluralistischen Gesellschaften. Konsulate und Nationen in italienischen Hafenstädten des Ancien Régimes», in Protegierte und Protektoren. Asymmetrische politische Beziehungen zwischen Partnerschaft und Dominanz (16. bis frühes 20. Jahrhundert), edited by Tilman Haug, Nadir Weber and Christian Windler, Böhlau, Köln 2016, pp. 365-383, (with Guillaume Calafat).

«On the Use of Legal Resources and the Definition of Group Boundaries. A Prosopographic Analysis of the French Nation and the British Factory in Eighteenth-Century Naples», in Union in Separation. Diasporic Groups and Identities in the Eastern Mediterranean (1100-1800), edited by Georg Christ, Roberto Zaugg, Franz Julius Morche, Wolfgang Kaiser, Stefan Burkhardt and Alexander Beihammer, Viella, Roma 2015, pp. 699-713.

«Ein einzig Volk? Schweizer Migranten in Neapel (18.-20. Jahrhundert)», Schweizerisches Jahrbuch für Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte 29 (2015), special issue Die Schweiz anderswo. AuslandschweizerInnen – SchweizerInnen im Ausland, edited by Caroline Arni, Jon Mathieu, Brigitte Studer, Laurent Tissot et Walter Leimgruber, pp. 103-125, (with Daniela Luigia Caglioti and Marco Rovinello).

«Entre diplomatie et pratiques judiciaires. La condition des étrangers dans l’ancien régime napolitain», Revue d’histoire maritime 17 (2013), pp. 321-333. 

«Judging foreigners. Conflict strategies, consular interventions and institutional changes in eighteenth-century Naples», Journal of Modern Italian Studies 13/2 (2008), special issue Elite migrations in modern Italy: patterns of settlement, integration and identity negotiation, edited by Daniela Luigia Caglioti, pp. 171-195.