FIGHT – Fighting Monopolies, Defying Empires 1500-1750: a Comparative Overview of Free Agents and Informal Empires in Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire

erc

Starting Grant (StG), SH6, ERC-2012-StG

Project acronym: FIGHT

Project: FIGHT – Fighting Monopolies, Defying Empires 1500-1750: a Comparative Overview of Free Agents and Informal Empires in Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire

Researcher (PI): Catia Alexandra Pereira Antunes

Host Institution (HI): Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands

Start date: 2013-01-01, End date: 2017-12-31

Summary: «How did free agents (entrepreneurs operating outside of the state-sponsored monopolies) in Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire react to the creation of colonial monopolies (royal monopolies and chartered companies) by centralized states between 1500 and 1750? This question will be answered by looking at the role individuals played in the construction of informal empires, defined as a multitude of self-organized networks operating world-wide, whose main goal was safeguarding personal advantages and maximizing profits, in spite of state intervention. Self-organized networks of free agents fought royal monopolies held by the Ottoman Sultans, the Iberian and French Kings and the Dutch, English, Swedish and Danish chartered companies. Free agents, their families and networks operated, in the Atlantic and/or Asia, across geographical borders between empires, went beyond the restrictions imposed by religious differences, ethnicity, defying the interests of the central states in Europe and Asia, questioning loyalties and redefining identities. This informal empire brought to fruition by the individual choices of free agents and their networks as a reaction to the State imposed monopolies was, I hypothesize, a borderless, self-organized, often cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, pluri-national and stateless world. My approach is innovative in that it employs a theoretical grid for the analysis of the instances in which Early Modern monopolies were challenged, mediated, co-opted or simply hijacked by free agents. My model delineates actions and re-actions such as illegal activities, cooperative strategies or extensive collaboration between networks and the central states. Based on the unique comparison between Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire, as well as in the analyses of the Atlantic and Asian expansions of European powers, my proposal will pioneer a new approach to the comparative history of empires during the Early Modern period.»

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