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Historisches Seminar

Damian Clavel

Damian Clavel

  • SNF Ambizione-Oberassistent


Damian is an economic and social historian of international finance, colonialism, and sovereignty in the nineteenth century. He investigates the global history of state-making and colonial enterprises through the perspectives of marginal and subaltern peoples navigating international financial institutions.

Trained as a historian (BA University of Geneva; MSc University of Edinburgh), Damian received his PhD in International History in 2018 from the Graduate Institute, Geneva. Previously, he was the Howard S. Marks postdoctoral fellow in Economic History at the University of Pennsylvania (2018-2019), and the Economic History Society Anniversary fellow at the University of Oxford and the Institute of Historical Research (2020-2021).

His first book, entitled “Créer un pays, le royaume de Poyais: Gregor MacGregor, emprunts d’État et fraude financière 1820-1824,”is a study of the foundations of sovereign credit relationships and state-making in the early nineteenth century. It does so by revisiting the case of the ‘fake’ country of Poyais, an alleged financial fraud based on the sale of bonds in the 1820s London Stock Exchange for a ‘non-existing’ Central American state. The granular study of scarcely considered European and Latin American archival documents reveals that the Poyaisian project did not necessarily constitute fraud. Instead, it resulted from a failure to finance an American Indigenous political project, which would have been legitimate and sovereign, in an Atlantic world undergoing substantial imperial and economic reconfigurations. The book tells a new narrative of the Poyais story and, consequently, provides new insights for the study of early nineteenth-century financial institutions from a global perspective. It does so by integrating the political and financial agency of American Indigenous actors into a wider history of sovereign borrowing to shed light on the formation of unequal political and economic relations emerging from the development of London’s international capital market and the formation of new American sovereignties.

Damian’s research has been supported by the Institute of Historical Research, the Howard S. Marks chair in Economic History at the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and the Swiss National Science Foundation. He is also managing editor for Capitalism: a Journal of History and Economics.


Curriculum Vitae

2021-2025 SNF Ambizione-Oberassistent, Historisches Seminar, Universität Zürich
Research Project: Deconstructing Fraudulent Indigenous Utopias: A History of Failed Miskitu and Mapuche Loans on European Money Markets in the Age of Revolutions

2020-2021 Economic History Society Anniversary Fellow
Institute for Historical Research, London, and Centre for Economic and Social History, Oxford, UK

2018-2019 Howard S. Marks Postdoctoral Fellow in Economic History
Department of History, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA

2016-2018 Doc.CH Fellow
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, CH

2012-2013 MSc Social and Cultural History
University of Edinburgh, UK

2007-2011 BA Economic and Social History
University of Geneva, CH

Scientific Publications


Clavel, Damian. Créer un pays, le royaume de Poyais: Gregor MacGregor, emprunts d’État et fraude financière 1820-1824. Neuchâtel: Livreo-Alphil, 2022.


Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals

Clavel, Damian. "The Rise and Fall of George Frederic Augustus II: The Central American, Caribbean, and Atlantic Life of a Miskitu King 1805-1824." Business History Review. 

Clavel, Damian. “Crucial Episodes in the History of Faith and Finance.” Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics 2, no. 1 (Winter 2021): 234–48.

Clavel, Damian. “What’s in a Fraud? The Many Worlds of Gregor MacGregor, 1817–1824.” Enterprise & Society, July 27, 2020, 1–40.