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Historisches Seminar

Damian Clavel

Damian Clavel

  • SNF Ambizione-Oberassistent


Damian is interested in combining micro-history and global history of capitalism. As an SNF Ambizione Fellow, he is launching his second project, “Deconstructing Fraudulent Indigenous Utopias: A History of Failed Miskitu and Mapuche Loans on European Money Markets in the Age of Revolutions.” It studies if and how American Indigenous polities accessed 19th-century British and French capital markets. In particular, the Miskitu and the Mapuche attempted to fund the realization of their own utopian desires of political and economic independence by attempting to issue bonds on the London, Paris, and Bordeaux Stock Exchanges. Often depicted as massive financial frauds, these episodes are here reintegrated within their respective historical Atlantic environments, defined by a rise of private European commercial and financial projects aimed at taking advantage of the resources of politically ill-defined American territories. Shedding light on the foundations of credit relationships between American proto-sovereigns and European capital market, Damian’s research reflects the importance of considering how local realities of peripheral and metropolitan agents affected transatlantic financial markets.


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,” studies the foundations of sovereign credit relationships and British informal imperialism in the 19th century. It does so by revisiting the case of the “fake” country of Poyais, an alleged financial fraud based on the sale of bonds into the 1820s London Stock Market for a non-existing Central American state. The study of scarcely considered European and Latin American archival documents reveals that the Poyaisian project incarnated not so much a fraud. Rather, it constituted a failure to finance the creation of a private commercial and a concrete sovereign project under British influence on a Central American continent undergoing significant colonial and Indigenous political reconfigurations.


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.

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