Communities beyond borders: internal boundaries and circulations in the 18th century

by Nicoletta Rolla

27 Aug 2021
Journal of the British Academy
Digital Object Identifier
Number of pages
22 (pp. 168-189)

Abstract: To understand the political, social and economic conditions which made possible a certain freedom of movement in early modern Europe, it is necessary to abandon the idea of a state sovereignty which expressed itself through the control of boundaries and its territory, which is a relatively recent notion in Western legal culture. Thus, in early modern Europe external borders were porous, and surveillance systems were organised in a plurality of jurisdictions and responded to multiple logics and interests. This article focuses on Turin, the capital of the States of Savoy, where boundaries were defined by the control of urban institutions responsible for the police of the city, as the Vicariate. To observe the process of defining these frontiers, I have chosen to use an emic perspective, attentive to the point of view of the actors. This contribution is interested in the strategies adopted by a group of people subject to high mobility—construction workers—when faced with internal borders. This approach allows us to consider the ‘relational’ substance of the border, its multiple and changing nature.

Keywords: multi-local communities, internal boundaries, trade brotherhoods, professional circulations, construction workers.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 4 (Global Border Making and Securitisation in the Early Modern World)

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