A Global History of 18th century Trieste:
What materials? What Methodology? What Scales?
In 2009, Jan Morris’ Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere illustrated of a certain renouncement
to analyze the history of the city in the historical context of its development. ‘An allegory of
limbo, in the secular sense of an indefinable hiatus,’ Trieste seems as if it were an object in an
offshore history between Central Europe, the Italian Peninsula, and the Balkans, without
belonging to any.
However, the literary picture of Trieste is not the one of historians, whom, over the last two
decades have been slightly emphasizing the complex economic, social and political history of
the city and its territorio. This was particularly characterized by the two first volumes of the
Storia economica e sociale di Trieste respectively published in 2001 and 2003. Economic
historians have contrasted from each other the local, regional and global dynamics supporting
the demographic and economic take-off of the city, and they particularly paid attention on
maritime litigation settlement, the development of insurance companies, and mercantile
practices in a cross-cultural context. At the social level, trading diaspora historians have
provided a better understanding of the process of immigration; they have highlighted the
flexible building of national communities and assessed the citizenship issue in an urban society
strongly shaped by international mobility and trans-regional exchanges. As for them, Habsburg
historians have tried to understand how the development of the free port of Trieste fitted in
with the Austrian state-building, reflected the transition of the political economies elaborated
in Vienna and how the city was concretely governed, paying a particular attention to the
governor Karl von Zinzendorf.
Today, the renewal of the history of Trieste in the 18th century is located at the cross-road
between the new economic history of early modern free-ports, the history of cross-cultural
Mediterranean circulations, and the socio-political history of empires. Over the last two
decades, historians have strongly renewed the history of the city and its free port. Because of
the large diversity of the materials that have been recently examined the history of Trieste
appears kaleidoscopic, and, at some point, we still miss the global picture.
This workshop aims to put into the light the diversity of the materials available, and the
necessity of criss-crossing the different Trieste deposits with the National Archives in Vienna
or in other depots of former Habsburg capitals, the different consular collections in London,
Paris or College Park, and private papers. Taking such valuable materials into account strongly
challenges the promethean narrative of a self-made city, and the cosmopolitan one of the
allegedly “city of nowhere”.
Focusing on the different and unexplored materials that can contribute to the history of Trieste
in the 18th century, we invite historians to confront these historiographical trends and to
present, develop and disseminate new approaches.
We particularly invite scholars to:
- engage with the methodological issue of the diversity of academic points views and national
backgrounds to build a coherent history of Trieste. How to write a trans-national/trans-imperial
history of rising city?
- question the classical chronology of the Trieste’s expansion. Was the creation of the free-port
the beginning of the story? How and how much the old municipality participated to this
- examine the city’s fabrique and with it to analyze the relation between the citizens of the old
municipality and the merchants of the free-port, the Habsburg subjects and the protected
foreigners, the wealthy community and what Johann Kollmann named the Lazzaroni of the
The workshop will be held in Paris on 28 June 2019.
Scholars wishing to participate should email an 1-page abstract along with a short academic
CV to David Do Paço (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Christine Lebeau
(email@example.com) no later than 22 February 2019.