Mobilities, international business and global mining capitalism. The French mining engineers abroad (19-20th cent.)

Mobilities, international business and global mining capitalism. The French mining engineers abroad (19-20th cent.)

Digital project coordinated by Marco Bertilorenzi

Project overview

This research project investigates the mobilities of the French Ingénieurs civils des mines (ICM – Civil mining engineers) during the 19th and 20th century.
Usually, the scholarly studies about engineers mainly focus on the transfers of technologies and techniques that came along with the mobility of these skilled workers.  Although technology transfer is an important aspect, this research project would like to extend our understanding about the engineers’ mobility, integrating  the transfer of capital (foreign direct investments, explorations, multinational companies) and of commodities behind their mobilities. On the one hand, the study of the mobility of French ICM can be used to chart and account the spread of French capitals abroad, both in the French colonial empire and in other countries. Engineers only seldon move following their own personal goals, in many cases they were sent as agents of large firms that had clear strategies of foreign direct investments or resources exploitation/exploration.
On the other hand, the linkage, through ICMs, between France and other countries can shed light on the creation of complex commodity chains, exploitation of resources and a growing integration of the global mining economy. Actually, the impact of French investments abroad was not only an outcome of the colonial policy, but it entailed the creation of private strategies of business groups in a wide range of countries outside the French colonial empire, like in Russia, Latin America, and Arabian and Far East regions. The research project adopts both qualitative and quantitative perspectives. It is based on a large database of ICM, who were formed in the French Ecole des mines de Saint-Etienne between 1880 and 1970, and tracks the mobilities of engineers through several benchmarks were it is recorded the firm for which ICMs worked, the hierarchical position they had and the place of their activity.
The prosoposophical study of this group can reveal the nexus between personal choices of economic actors in their mobilities and the macro-economic position of the flow of French investments abroad. The project also involves the adoption of new technologies and tool, like ArcGis and StoryMaps , thanks to the involvement of Mobilab.

Research team:

  • Prof. Marco Bertilorenzi
  • Dr. Jean-Philippe Passaqui (Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne)
  • Prof. Nadine Dubruc (Ecole des mines de Saint-Etienne)
  • Dr. Marco Orlandi


The publication of a workable database including the carrier of about 4000 French civil mining engineers
Joint publications and workshop on this topic, in collaboration with the international partners
Attract interns to assign some work on the construction of the database

Narrations on the “Place of Return” (maʿād). Religious and philosophical eschatologies in comparison in Baghdad and surroundings (10th-11th cent.)

Narrations on the “Place of Return” (maʿād). Religious and philosophical eschatologies in comparison in Baghdad and surroundings (10th-11th cent.)

Postdoctoral project supervised by Cecilia Martini

Sara Abram

God’s oneness and the imminence of the “Day of Reckoning” are the most dominant subjects of the first revelations that Muḥammad, the prophet of Islām, announces to the tribes of Mecca (7th cent.). The ultimate destiny of humanity as described by the Quran and the Sunna poses today, as well as in ancient times, questions that are by no means negligible. The project aims to frame how the vivid representations of the Universal Judgement, the pleasures of Paradise, and the torments of Hell have been assimilated and interpreted by the different intellectual currents of Islamic thought (traditionalist, theological-speculative and mystical-esoteric) to better place the perspective I intend to shed light on: the philosophical one. The interpretations of the so-called falāsifa, compared to the literal readings of the Quran and to the many Islamic “narrations” on the topic, turn out to be among the highest expressions of intellectual autonomy that the history of Islamic thought has ever known. The preliminary study of falāsifa’s conception of the soul and the hereafter – together with the identification of the ancient and late antique Greek sources that they used – will led to a better contextualization of the two case studies that I intend to analyze: the hitherto unedited Book on the Knowledge of the Hereafter by the mathematician and philosopher Abū Ḥāmid al-Isfizārī (10th-11th cent.) and the Treatise on the Philosophical Description of the Hereafter by the Persian physician and philosopher Abū l-Faraǧ ʿAlī ibn Hindū (d. 1029/1032).

Control and conceptions of foreigners' mobility in the Lombardy-Venetia between 18th and 19th century

Control and conceptions of foreigners' mobility in the Lombardy-Venetia between 18th and 19th century

Postdoctoral project supervised by Enrico Francia

Stefano Poggi

Between the end of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century, a new conception of foreignness took root in Europe. Whereas before each individual coming from a different community was considered as a foreigner, with the rise of the administrative state foreignness became strictly related to belonging to a certain national community – and ultimately to citizenship.

This project aims to investigate this change by considering how Lombard-Venetian authorities regulated the foreigners’ mobility from the end of the Republic of Venice to the 1848 uprising. In order to do so, it will consider not only the conceptions and the legislation of the central élites but also local bureaucrats’ control practices of foreigner’s mobility.

The welfare of migrants: institutions, families and belongings in Italy (sixteenth to nineteenth centuries). (WELMIG project)

The welfare of migrants: institutions, families and belongings in Italy (sixteenth to nineteenth centuries).
(WELMIG project)

Postdoctoral project supervised by Andrea Caracausi

Beatrice Zucca Micheletto

WELMIG investigates the relationship between mobility and the welfare system in early modern and modern pre-unitarian Italy, spanning from the middle of the sixteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century. WELMIG focuses on a range of welfare institutions (charity institutions, hospitals, workhouses, welfare agencies) and exploits their historical archives across the Italian peninsula. It will collect information on the socio-economic profile of individuals and families who received assistance and/or were committed in the ordinary activities of the welfare institutions. It will adopt an intersectional approach, paying attention to gender, age, class, religion and ethnicity of recipients and of the people who revolved around these institutions. At the same time it will analyze how the hosting societies of the past organised and managed the access to local resources for newcomers and migrants, the implementation of norms and laws and the coherence (or not) between norms and practices.

WELMIG links the history of the welfare institutions to the mobility turn in social science and dialogues with a range of historiographical approaches – gender history, social history, labour history, family history. It will promote debate and exchange of ideas on the topic for academic and non-academic public with the support of the MobiLab, and with the collaboration of the University of Cambridge (Campop) and the international network WeMove (CA19112).

An Italian among Chinese Elite: Ludovico Nicola di Giura (1868-1947)

An Italian among Chinese Elite: Ludovico Nicola di Giura (1868-1947)

PhD project supervised by Prof.ssa Laura Cerasi, co-supervised by Prof.ssa Laura De Giorgi (Sept 2021 - Sept 2025)


Project in collaboration with the Department of Humanities (DSU) and the Department of Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies (DSLCC) of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, and Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC).

Jinxiao Wang

Despite his profession as a military doctor for the Italian Navy, Ludovico Nicola di Giura (1868-1947) was known to the world as sinologist, translator, writer and traveller. This four-year research takes a global microhistory perspective to compile a biography for the figure based on his published works, manuscripts, private collection and first-hand archival sources from Italy and China. Featured with L. N. di Giura’s geographical mobility, social integration, and contribution to Sino-Italian cultural exchange, this research advances on three dimensions: 1) L. N. di Giura’s life-in-mobile, namely Medical education and travelling with the Italian Navy (1868-1900), Life in China (1900-1931) and Prefect and Mayor of Chiaromonte (1931-1947); 2) his integration into the contemporary Chinese upper class, including the various forces that guided the fate of the country and the local intellectuals; 3) his re-discovery of Chinese civilization despite being an initially ambitious “Civilizing missionary”, as well as his efforts on introducing Chinese culture and community to the Italian public with his commentaries, translation and literary creation. The study will not only bring to light a figure buried in history, but will offer a microscopic view into the history about Italy and China at the turn of the 20th century, which indeed represents a starting point for the discovery of absolute novelties in this context.

HuMaps: Framing Migration Narratives and Visualities through the Lens of the Cartographic Humanities

HuMaps: Framing Migration Narratives and Visualities through the Lens of the Cartographic Humanities

Postdoctoral project supervised by Tania Rossetto (Aug 2021-Jul 2023)

Project in collaboration with the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences and the Centre for the Movement of People, Aberystwyth University (Prof Peter Merriman, Dr Andrea Hammel), and the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) and the Geomedia laboratory at Concordia University (Prof Sébastien Caquard)

Laura Lo Presti

HuMaps explores the link between the emerging “cartographic humanities” and mobility and migration studies from a geo-visual and narratological perspective. The two-year research project has the dual objective of analytically deconstructing the imaginaries of migratory maps as well as reconstructing alternative, creative and sensitive imaginations of human mobility. These two research lines thus envisage an analysis of the cartographic narratives of the global migrant crisis to assess how maps, map-like objects and cartographic imaginaries have reproduced human migration over time – and migrated through several networks, artistic media and hybrid materials – to alternately foster feelings of hospitality and hostility towards newcomers. More importantly, HuMaps will reflect on novel applications of digital (and non-digital) mapping methodologies in the context of migration storytelling. These methodologies will be developed in collaboration with the MobiLab, as well as with the support of international scholars and partner institutions in Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

From Venice and Rome to Mainz: Italian Books from Humanism to Counter-Reformation in the Library of Baron Johann Christian von Boineburg

From Venice and Rome to Mainz: Italian Books from Humanism to Counter-Reformation in the Library of Baron Johann Christian von Boineburg

Postdoctoral project supervised by Paola Molino


(June 2021 - May 2022), within the PRIN project 'Books in Motion'

Gábor Gángó

The “Maecenas Germaniae,” the Baron Johann Christian von Boineburg (1622-1672) was a book collector, patron of the arts, Lord Marshal at the court of the Mainz Elector Johann Philipp von Schönborn, and not least friend and supporter of the young Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Boineburg’s private library as an encyclopaedic, with an abundant number of hand-written cross-references interconnected “database” and his extended scholarly correspondence provides the source basis for the mapping of the international network of politically, denominationally, and scholarly engaged intellectuals after the Peace of Westphalia.

Gábor Gángó’s project aims at the reconstruction of Boineburg’s role in the knowledge transfer between Germany and Italy. This research would encompass details of the acquisition, circulation, and reviewing of Italian books within his network as well as the determination of the place which science and theology that were produced in Italy occupied in Boineburg’s ever-broadening system of knowledge.

Besides, the project will focus on the issue of confessionality in Boineburg, which crystallised in a special way in his conversion. Boineburg, who received a Lutheran education in Jena and Helmstedt, was converted at the Imperial Diet of Regensburg in 1653. In the literature, his better career prospects at the court of the Mainz Elector are given as possible reasons. Here Gábor Gángó wants to overcome the previous state of research and also reveal the intellectual motives for the conversion. To this end, he will also examine the collective thought processes in Boineburg’s correspondence with other scholars. This collective communication and thought process has a lot to do with Italy and cannot be understood without the Italian context. As it will be shown on the collected source materials, impulses of the Counter-Reformation in the 17th century in general and also particularly in Boineburg’s case came from Rome.

As a result, one would be in a better position to understand, through the case study of an important German Catholic convert, the mid-17th-century reconciliation attempts between the authority of the Catholic Church and the aspirations of modern science and philosophy for the possession of true knowledge.

Roma’scapes: Geographies of Mobility in Urban Wildness

Roma’scapes: Geographies of Mobility in Urban Wildness

PhD Project supervised by Chiara Rabbiosi (2020-2024)

Urban wildness is a little explored topic because of its very nature. One reason for this neglect is to be found in urban wildness both as a dynamic concept as well as an ever-changing entity. How to study a mobile and innately undefined object? Rather than considering it merely as a forgotten space or a natural resource, this project aims to interact with urban wildness as a subject. To foster a relational approach, the project explores urban wildness going through it and involving all senses in the production of knowledge.

A preliminary part of the research will focus on the evaluation of methods and instruments of enquiry, their capabilities and limits of observing and recording this mobile subject: from fieldwork diary to photography, from audio-visual methods to performance.

Going deeper, the project will attempt to build a relationship with urban wildness inhabitants, such as plants, animals and people. It is in fact their entanglement that makes urban wildness a living, dynamic, mobile subject. Collaborative labs will be opened on the field to enquiry and enhance a collective representation of urban wildness ‘from inside it’. Finally, the project will pay special attention in the making of synesthetic artefacts, out of the multiple wildness representations archived, to disseminate this new knowledge.

The research will be developed by specific case studies, in different European cities, following the footprint of the stereotypical “nomads” that are believed to be the main inhabitants of urban wildness: the Roma. Are Roma the only living in urban wildness? Who is living on the move in contemporary cities? Is mobility a choice?

The interaction with urban wildness, in different contexts, will open new possibilities of conceiving and representing the geographies of mobility in the contemporary city, raising the issue that to live on the move mainly means a restriction on the very possibilities of movement in contemporary Europe.

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

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

Digital project coordinated by Andrea Caracausi

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 ( 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.  In particular, it uses a verb-oriented approach in order to reconsider occupations as well as concepts as work, care and domestic labour in a gendered perspective. Thanks to Gis methods, it focuses on the movement of urban and rural people as represented by judicial sources, correspondences and diaries.

Woman’s work in rural Italy (1500-1800). This project aims to provide a better understanding of the historical dynamics surrounding gender and work between the sixteenth and the eighteenth century in rural Italy. By incorporating diverse research methodologies and exploring various geographical contexts across the peninsula, we strive to shed light on the multifaceted nature of female participation in the pre-industrial labour force.


Past projects

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. Marco Orlandi (Gis and data visualization)


Past members:

  • Dr. Benoît Maréchaux (forced mobility, convict labor and slaves)

Interns (Update 27 January 2022):

  • Anna Maria Albertini
  • Giacomo Addis
  • Claudio Cacciatori
  • Giovanna Cozzi
  • Enrico Comini
  • Gianluca Dalboni
  • Marco De Nardi
  • Samuele Fagherazzi
  • Alma Fanigliulo
  • Giovanni Favretto
  • Alex Franz
  • Simone Tommasi
  • Alberto Peloso
  • Giorgia Ragana
  • Dana Belen Zuna
  • Gianluca Dalboni
  • Francesca Scipilliti

Mobility and movements of the escaping Sullan proscribed

Mobility and movements of the escaping Sullan proscribed

PhD project supervised by Luca Fezzi e Federico Santangelo (2020-2024)

Andrea Frizzera

At the beginning of an age in which Rome developed an ever-growing awareness of its Mediterranean extension, we can observe the exploitation of new possibilities of movement that the new political configuration of the Mediterranean could offer. Not only does this spatial turn involve commerce, cultural exchanges and migration, to name a few, but political refugees as well. This project aims to conduct an investigation into the latter. So, my first step will be to start from existing prosopographic studies, ancient sources (such as literary, epigraphic, numismatic) and more recent ones on Sullan proscribed will do that not only to share their journeys and explore the ways in which they found rescue in different places in the Mediterranean Sea, but to shed light too on their choices of movement, and on their fresh identities in their newly-adopted homes. A study on the mobility of the fugitive proscribed could not just give us an insight into what extent the elites were aware of Rome’s full Mediterranean influence, but also, by comparing all accounts, provide information on how the different political and social situations exercised influence on decision-making both by the Sullan faction and the proscribed themselves. The mobility of the proscribed resulted very much affected by all these factors and it had peculiar features compared to other displacement typologies. I am also hopeful that such an area of research could contribute, from a different perspective, to enrich the debate on the significance of the Sullan proscriptions and the consequences they caused in the Roman world. Finally, I would hesitate to exclude the possibility that, by adopting such an approach, the research’s focus could expand to 43 BC proscriptions or other cases of political refugees or exiles in the first century BC.