Occupational structure and labour mobility in historical perspective (1500-1850): Italy and the Mediterranean

Digital project coordinated by Andrea Caracausi and Benoît Maréchaux

Project overview

This research project explores the evolution of occupational structures and labour mobility from a long-term perspective. It addresses both the way people worked and were on the move in the past and specifically how their occupational choices, migrations and labour relations were affected by global dynamic forces such as warfare mobilization or structural economic changes. By focusing on Italy and the Mediterranean area from the late medieval period to the beginning of the nineteenth century, the project aims to shed new light on the continuity and changes in work, labour mobility, and geographical diffusion of economic activities. It will also contribute to the reconstruction of a bigger picture on a European scale as part of a larger project on occupational structures coordinated by the University of Cambridge (https://www.campop.geog.cam.ac.uk/). In collaboration with the Digital Laboratory for Mobility Research (MobiLab), the research will combine quantitative and qualitative analysis of empirical sources (such as census or lists of convicts and slaves) with the use of digital tools. In particular, GIS techniques will be used in order to map the mobility of people and their shifting occupations as well as to improve the understanding of mobility phenomena from an analytical point of view.

Occupational structure and labour mobility. A first aspect of the research project directed by Prof. Andrea Caracausi deals with the link between changing occupational structures and labour mobility in the Republic of Venice between the early sixteenth century and the beginning of the modern period (1500-1850). Discussing the consequences of political and economic changes that occurred in this period, this project aims ultimately to reconstruct the evolution of the occupational structure in the diverse territories of the Venetian Republic and to explain its determinants using an innovative statistical methodology. It also deals with social, economic and gender aspects using micro-historical approaches to reconstruct labour relations and labour mobility.

Mobility and forced labour. A second aspect of the research project coordinated by the postdoctoral fellow Benoît Maréchaux explores the phenomena of forced mobility of convicts and slaves transported to the galleys of Genoese galley contractors who worked for the Spanish Empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The research will reconstruct the transnational flows of prisoners, analyze the agency of forced mobility and measure mortality in order to discuss the impact of coerced labor and migrations in the past and the way prisoners worked, moved and died in the early modern Mediterranean. This research is part of the project “Forced mobility before the sovereign state. Convict flows, composite polities and the business of galley warfare in the Mediterranean (1528-1715)” carried out at the DiSSGeA within the framework of the Mobility and Humanities project.

Research team:

  • Prof. Andrea Caracausi (occupational structure and general coordinator)
  • Dr. Giulio Ongaro (occupational structure)
  • Dr. Benoît Maréchaux (forced mobility, convict labor and slaves)
  • Dr. Marco Orlandi (Gis and data visualization)

Interns (Update 22 November 2020):

  • Anna Maria Albertini
  • Giovanna Cozzi
  • Giovanni Favretto
  • Simone Tommasi
  • Giorgia Ragana
  • Dana Belen Zuna
  • Gianluca Dalboni