How did free agents in Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire react to the creation of colonial monopolies in the Early Modern period? How did the monopolies react? What kind of empire was then created? This proposal looks at the role individuals played in the construction of informal empires that can be but considered global.
How did ‘free agents’ (entrepreneurs operating outside of the myriad of interests of the centralized, state-sponsored monopolies) react to the creation of colonial monopolies (royal monopolies and chartered companies) by the central states in the Early Modern period? This proposal will answer this question by looking at the role individuals played in the construction of ‘informal empires’, resulting from the enactment of a multitude of self-organized networks operating world-wide, whose main goal was safeguarding their personal social and economic advantages, regardless of (and in spite of) state intervention.
Free agents, their families and networks operated in the Atlantic or Asia, across geographical borders between empires, went beyond the restrictions imposed by religious differences, ethnic diversity or the political interests of central states. This informal empire was, we hypothesize, a borderless, self-organize, often cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, pluri-national and stateless world that can only be characterized as global.
This proposal is the result of the collaboration between the projects DynCoopNet (a TECT- The Evolution of Cooperation and Trading Program, EUROCORES Scheme, ESF), Challenging Monopolies, Building Global Empires in the Early Modern Period (VIDI Granting Scheme – NWO) and Fighting Monopolies, Defying Empires 1500-1750: a Comparative Overview of Free Agents and Informal Empires in Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire (Starting Grant Scheme, ERC).
In order to address this complex problem, we propose a 4-session panel (see individual entries for each session), in a total of 16 papers: Fighting the Monopolies, The Empire Strikes Back, Mechanisms of Global Empire Building: Cooperation Beyond the Borders of Empire and Comparative Reflections on Definitions of Empire.
Session 1: Fighting Monopolies, Building Global Empires: Power Building Beyond the Borders of Empire 15th through 18th centuries - Fighting the Monopolies (session 1 of a series of 4)
How did ‘free agents’ in Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire react to the creation of colonial monopolies by the central states in the Early Modern period? This proposal answers this question by looking at the role individuals played in the construction of informal empires that can be but considered global in nature.
The actions of free agents will be analyzed by considering the three processes by which free agents fought the colonial monopolies and, by doing so, defy the central states. We propose that agents could take an oppositional stance with the monopoly holder, by which they could use three mechanisms: illegality (contraband, smuggling, privateering); defiance (personal alliances with competitors of a given monopoly/central state); or litigation (suing the monopolies). Secondly, they could adopt a cooperative approach by owning shares in the monopolies, working as subcontractors for the monopoly holders or by using lobby clusters to advocate for their interests at different levels of government, including, of course, lobbying the monopolies themselves. Lastly, agents could assume an appropriative/representative role by working within the monopolies and, thereby, serving the central state in the administration, the army or the religious missions.
Session 2: Fighting Monopolies, Building Global Empires: Power Building Beyond the Borders of Empire 15th through 18th centuries - The Empire Strikes Back (session 2 of a series of 4)
How did states react to the challenge of free entrepreneurs? This proposal answers this question by looking at the role states and colonial monopolies played in fighting back the attempt to build informal empires.
We suggest that monopolies and states reacted through three different processes to free agency, namely, through punitive action, collaborative proposals or incorporative initiatives. Punitive actions included a range of institutional punishments, either by taking to court instances in which free agents broke the monopolies or disguising punishment for subversion of the monopolies by charging individual free agents of political/economic conspiracy or political/religious unorthodoxy. Often, it might have been more profitable for the monopolies and the state to convince free agents to collaborate directly, or indirectly, with the monopolies and/or the state through collective gathering of capital, the contracting of knowledge or by allowing the interests of free agency to be reflected upon the decision making processes of the monopolies through complex systems of lobbying. At times, the damage provoked by self-organized networks of free agents to the monopolies was so heavy that the state could do little more than incorporate and almost ‘nationalize’ the network by contracting its personnel into the ranks of the civil servants serving empire, institutionalizing the network itself as a monopoly by chartering its activities or by using many of the free agents of the networks as consultants or advisors to the monopolies or the central state.
Session 3: Fighting Monopolies, Building Global Empires: Power Building Beyond the Borders of Empire 15th through 18th centuries - Mechanisms of Global Empire Building: Cooperation Beyond the Borders of Empire (session 3 of a series of 4)
Informal empires, brought to fruition by the individual choices of free agents and their networks created, we hypothesized, a borderless, self-organized, often cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, pluri-national and stateless world that can only be characterized as global.
This session contributes to the discussion of this hypothesis by looking at the internal organization of free agency within self-organized networks. By sustaining that between the 15th. and the 18th. centuries the world economy was increasingly characterised by widespread collaboration which went beyond the boundaries of countries and continents, this panel seeks to look at the enactments of self-organized networks, in place in the Eastern and Western worlds, during the Early Modern Period. The panel seeks likewise to integrate the analysis of cross-border networks involving colonisers and colonised, overcoming historiographical approaches which traditionally disregard the active influence of the agents, societies and civilizations of contact, in Africa, Asia and America, ignoring local inputs to colonial dynamics.
The internal mechanisms that enable such a cooperation at a global level are under scrutiny too. Trust, reputation, kinship; self-regulation mechanisms; reward, coercion and punitive behaviours are expected to be analysed within a scope of case studies able to document cross border empire building and the merging of global networks of trade and business.
Session 4: Fighting Monopolies, Building Global Empires: Power Building Beyond the Borders of Empire 15th through 18th centuries - Empire Beyond the State: Comparative Reflections on Definitions of Empire (session 4 of a series of 4)
We have asked how ‘free agents’ in Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire react to the creation of colonial monopolies by the central states in the Early Modern period (session 1) and how central states and monopolies react to this defiance(session2) suggesting that individuals were at the core of this interaction through mechanisms of cooperation able to self-regulate the merging of cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, pluri-national and stateless networks (session 3). This session will conceptualize the world that was created by the mechanisms by which ‘free agents’ shaped “informal empires” and these by consequence interacted with central states. What type of a world resulted from the creation of global networks by consortiums of individuals, joined in self-organized networks of a great many political, ethnic, social and religious backgrounds? When one analyses empire building under these premises, it is difficult to encompass current views and conceptual definitions of empire that remain centered in a discourse of nation state building typical of the nineteenth century, but unheard of during the Early Modern period. These men (and they were mostly men!) came together and helped form an empire not, in larger part, for the nationalistic ends described after the Age of Revolutions but, rather, powered by their own self-interest. A new definition of empire is thus in order.
Paper submissions: the call for papers is opened until February 8, 2013. Proposals should include: paper title, short abstract (300 characters), abstract (250 words) and be registered at http://www.cham.fcsh.unl.pt/chamconference/CHAMInternacionalConference_cfp.html
In order to avoid misunderstandings, please forward a copy of your abstract with your name and affiliation to the conveyors’s email addresses firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com .
NB: only proposals officially registered in the conference’s website will be reviewed.
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