Leviathan’s Skin: Borders and the Ordering of Movement in the Old Reich

Tuesday 19th January 2016, Junior Parlour, Gonville & Caius College, 5-6pm

Luca Scholz (European University Institute)

We commonly assume that states govern human mobility at their borders. At the border, public officials regulate the ingress of aliens, clear goods for customs and fight the smugglers of goods and people. The border epitomises both the triumph and the limitations of territorial statehood. How functional an analytical concept, however, is it for understanding regimes of movement before the nineteenth century? Using the example of safe-conduct in the Holy Roman Empire, this paper argued that the function of boundaries in Old Regime society was less straightforward than sometimes presumed. In the Old Reich’s multi-scalar array of fuzzy, often overlapping political entities, the movement of goods and people presented a fundamental political, economic and ideological problem. Therefore, the Empire’s fractured landscape offers an ideal laboratory for exploring the geography of negotiated mobility. Focusing on interactions at ground level, the paper offered an agency-oriented perspective on the history of borders, thoroughfares and the politics of passage in early modernity.

Luca Scholz is a doctoral candidate in History at the European University Institute. He has studied at the University of Heidelberg and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and has subsequently been a visiting scholar at the University of Saint Andrews and at Columbia University.