Atlantic Italies. Economic Entanglements between the Americas, Africa and the Mediterranean (15th – 19th Centuries)

Atlantic Italies. Economic Entanglements between the Americas, Africa and the Mediterranean (15th – 19th Centuries)

Silvia Marzagalli, Université Côte d’Azur (Nice); Roberto Zaugg, Universität Zürich
Fand statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
01.09.2022 - 03.09.2022
Halea Ruffiner, Historisches Seminar, Universität Zürich

Atlantic Italies is a project dedicated to studying the economic and cultural connections of the Italian peninsula to the Atlantic trade from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Although early modern Italian states did not possess colonies in the Atlantic world, people, commodities, knowledge and capital circulated through informal networks that connected the Mediterranean to Sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas. The final meeting of the Atlantic Italies network brought together a variety of contributions on the economic entanglements of the Italian peninsula in Atlantic history, including studies ranging from scientific networks to material culture.

ANDREA GUERRERO MOSQUERA (Ciudad de México) opened the first session, chaired by Riccardo E. Rossi, on the activities of Capuchins in Angola and Congo. Through the lens of Jesuits writing in the 17th century, Guerrero Mosquera studied the arrival of Capuchins in Angola, which at the time was an essential source of slave labor for the Portuguese. THIAGO SAPEDE (Salvador) then analyzed the role of Italian Capuchins in the 18th and 19th century competition for economic and political power in Congo between Congolese elites and Portuguese actors. Sapede also discussed the plans of the Propaganda Fide to establish a mission in the region.

Chaired by Carlo Taviani, the second session focused on the significance of both the slave trade and its abolition to the Italian peninsula. GIULIA BONAZZA (Venezia) reflected on the circulation of African slaves in the Italian space in the second half of the 18th century. Bonazza not only illustrated the involvement of catholic missionaries and merchants in the slave trade but proposed a consideration of Black slaves and attitudes towards them in the late 18th century Italian context. The involvement of the Kingdom of Sardinia in the slave trade was discussed by ALESSANDRO TUCCILLO (Torino), who demonstrated that both Britain and France applied diplomatic pressure on the state to adhere to the Anglo-French treaties regarding the suppression of the Atlantic slave trade.

The second day began with a session on the economic entanglements of Florence and Venice in the Atlantic trade, chaired by Eva Brugger. FRANCESCO GUIDI BRUSCOLI (Firenze) focused on 15th and 16th century Florentine merchant-bankers’ involvement in the Atlantic world through trade as well as investment. As PIERRE NICCOLÒ SOFIA (Nice) showed, 18th century Venice’s commercial ties to the Atlantic world were based on the trade in manufactured products such as glass beads and colonial goods such as sugar. These connections provided the city with a market for its products while it maintained its role as a regional hub for the redistribution of Atlantic goods.

The fourth session, dedicated to the importance of scientific networks to political and economic clout in the Atlantic world, was chaired by Ingrid Greenfield. FABIANO BRACHT (Porto) argued that Italian communities and their networks, connecting merchants, bankers, cartographers, pilots and apothecaries, contributed to a “knowledge economy” that linked the Iberian Peninsula to Mediterranean markets in the 15th and 16th century. GISELE CRISTINA DA CONCEIÇÃO (Porto) studied Italian physician and natural philosopher Domenico Vandelli (1735-1816), whom the Portuguese state had invited to teach natural history at the University of Coimbra. Da Conceição demonstrated that in designing scientific expeditions to Portuguese overseas possessions, Vandelli contributed to the production of knowledge that enabled the agricultural and economic exploitation of colonial spaces.

For session 5, material culture was a common theme. In the early modern period, as shown by SAMIR BOUMEDIENE (Lyon), gift-giving practices led to the circulation of American artifacts and naturalia in the Italian peninsula. These gifts, Boumediene argued, were part of a complex economy and sometimes fulfilled economic and political functions related to the evangelization and colonization of America. RICCARDO E. ROSSI (Zürich) then presented his research on economic practices and social lives in the Alpine valleys of the Three Leagues from the 1630s to the 1790s. By studying retail and consumption of goods, he explored the involvement of Alpine actors in systems of intercontinental exchanges, while considering the effects social and geographical distance had on the production of “periphery”.

On the third day, Silvia Marzagalli acted as chair for a session that asked what the roles of actors with ties to the Atlantic trade were within the European centers. NICHOLAS BAKER (Sydney) presented a microhistorical study of the Botti family in early 16th century Florence. Although the Bottis took advantage of the economic potential of the Atlantic trade in Andalucía, Baker argued that the focus of their attention remained in Florence, where they invested their wealth into establishing themselves in the societal circles surrounding the Medici court. MAARTEN DRAPER (Groningen) studied merchants from or with ties to the Italian peninsula in Amsterdam in the second half of the 17th century. While the state monopoly restricted access to the Atlantic trade, Draper found that certain Calvinist merchants were able to mobilize their diplomatic status, political connections and commercial networks to be granted roles in the Dutch colonial system by the WIC.

Giulio Talini chaired session seven, which focused on how Genoese families successfully established and maintained connections to the Atlantic world. CARLO TAVIANI (Zürich) examined the Genoese Marihoni and Cattaneo families, who were business partners, from circa 1450 to 1530. The former had ties to Jewish traders in Sijilmassa, Morocco where caravans which had crossed the Sahara arrived bearing luxury goods, while the latter, having moved from the Maghreb to Seville and Cape Verde, participated in the slave trade in addition to trading luxury goods. STEVEN TEASDALE (Toronto) then showed that the Genoese Lomellini family applied earlier colonial practices of the Black Sea region to the implementation of colonial structures in the Canary Islands in the early 16th century, namely by developing and financing the sugar industry, establishing religious institutions as well as participating in the slave trade and political administration of the region.

Finally, session eight included two contributions that studied financial instruments to gauge the involvement of Genoa in the Atlantic economy. For the late 16th and 17th century, ANTONIO IODICE (Genova) examined over one thousand general average procedures, looking into which Atlantic products were arriving in Genoa as well as how the entrepôt was connected to other Mediterranean ports. For the 18th century, CATIA BRILLI (Varese) analyzed the competitive strategies employed by Genoese investors in the Atlantic economy, asking what financial instruments they used to benefit from the Spanish transatlantic trade, how they reinvested profits in European hubs and what barriers they faced.

Conference overview

Session 1
Andrea Guerrero Mosquera (Ciudad de México): “Spies” and Missionaries. The First Capuchins in Central Africa
Thiago Sapede (Salvador): The Political and Economic Role of Italian Capuchins in the Global Stakes of Power Involving Kongo and Portugal (18th-19th Centuries)
Chair: Riccardo E. Rossi

Session 2
Giulia Bonazza (Venezia): Slavery and the Black Presence in Italian Cities from the Atlantic Colonies in the Second Half of the 18th Century
Alessandro Tuccillo (Torino): Suspicious Ships. The Kingdom of Sardinia and the Campaign for the Suppression of the Atlantic Slave Trade
Chair: Carlo Taviani

Session 3
Francesco Guidi Bruscoli (Firenze): Breaking Boundaries. Florentine Merchants and the Atlantic (15th-16th Centuries)
Pierre Niccolò Sofia (Nice): Venice and its Connection with the Atlantic Trade in the 18th Century. A Matter of Glass Beads and Sugar
Chair: Eva Brugger

Session 4
Fabiano Bracht (Porto): Follow the Money. The Emergence of a Knowledge Economy from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean (15th-16th Centuries)
Gisele Cristina Da Conceição (Porto): Domenico Vandelli Between Knowledge and Power. Production and Circulation of Natural Philosophical Knowledge in the 18th Century
Chair: Ingrid Greenfield

Session 5
Samir Boumediene (Lyon): American Gifts. The Economies of New World Naturalia in Early Modern Italy
Riccardo E. Rossi (Zürich): (Inter-)connected “Hinterlands”? Trade, Retail and Consumption of Atlantic Goods in the Alpine Valleys of the Three Leagues (1630s-1790s)
Chair: Ingrid Greenfield

Session 6
Nicholas Baker (Sydney): Dipping a Toe in the Atlantic. The Botti of Florence

Maarten Draper (Groningen): Italian Merchants in Amsterdam and their Role in Dutch Colonial Trade (1650-1700)
Chair: Silvia Marzagalli

Session 7
Carlo Taviani (Zürich): Crossing the Sahara or the Ocean? The Genoese Marihoni and Cattaneo Families and their Business (ca. 1450-1530)
Steven Teasdale (Toronto): The Lomellini Family in the Canary Islands. Genoese Economic and Cultural Networks in the Early Sixteenth Century Atlantic
Chair: Giulio Talini

Session 8
Antonio Iodice (Genova): Atlantic Goods, Mediterranean Waters. Genoa’s Entrepôt through Maritime Averages Procedures (1590-1700)
Catia Brilli (Varese): The Scope and the Limits of the Genoese Persistence in the Atlantic Economy (18th Century)
Chair: Giulio Talini