Early Modern Mobility Conference

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The Early Modern Mobility Research Group announces a conference to wrap up our two-year grant from the Stanford University UPS Endowment.

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This event brings together scholars who ask questions such as:

  • What is early modern about mobility? About infrastructure?
  • What is the relationship between mobility and infrastructure?
  • How does the early modern era offer a unique perspective upon important dimensions of human mobility?
  • How did early modern societies understand freedom of movement?
  • What terminology should we use for discussing infrastructure in the premodern age?

During the early modern period, individuals and communities experienced dramatic changes in communication and transportation, establishing practices, institutions, and infrastructure that opened up new political and economic possibilities, and changed the way people understood the world. Merchants, diplomats, scholars, intelligencers, and missionaries – really anyone whose livelihood relied on the road and postal networks – developed a sophisticated understanding of how to use these systems to communicate ideas, convey information, and deliver and receive goods. In this two-day conference, Early Modern Mobilities: Knowledge, Community, Communication, and Infrastructure, 1500-1800, we bring together current research at the intersection of mobility, communication, and infrastructure. We will showcase recent work at the crux of 1) creation of communications, travel and exchange infrastructure 2) navigation and experience of voluntary and coercive mobility and 3) exploring early modern thought about mobility, infrastructure, and its politics. Paper workshopping and a digital breakout session will bring traditional, collaborative and digital approaches into dialogue, aiding in reconstructing the scope of large-scale patterns and systems of mobility.

This event consists of three days of panels. Presenters will each speak for around 15 minutes before a roundtable moderated discussion.

Friday, May 14th: 8:30-12:00 PDT

Opening comments and introductions

8:30-8:45 PDT // 11:30-11:45 EDT // 16:30-16:45 BST // 17:30-17:45 CEST

Digital Humanities Lightning Talks

8:45-9:45 PDT // 11:45-12:45 EDT // 16:45-17:45 BST // 17:45-18:45 CEST

Chair: Katie McDonough, The Alan Turing Institute

  • Leo Barleta, Stanford University
  • Federica Favino, La Sapienza University of Rome
  • Jo Guldi, Southern Methodist University
  • Rachel Midura, Virginia Tech
  • Luca Scholz, University of Manchester
  • Thomas Wallnig, University of Vienna


9:45-10:15 PDT // 12:45-1:15 EDT // 17:45-18:15 BST // 18:45-19:15 CEST

Panel 1: Making Mobility Infrastructure

10:15-11:45 PDT // 1:15-2:45 EDT // 18:15-20:45 BST // 19:15-21:45 CEST

Chair: Anne Conchon, Université de Paris Sorbonne I

  • Rosa Salzberg, Warwick University, “Infrastructures of Mobility in Early Modern Venice”
  • Katie McDonough, The Alan Turing Institute, “Beyond Repair: Forced Labor and the Rise of Centralized Highway Maintenance in Eighteenth-Century France”
  • Jo Guldi, Southern Methodist University, “Text mining Parliament’s c19 debates about infrastructure”

Saturday, May 15th: 8:00*-12:00 PDT

*Please note the earlier start time

Panel 2: Navigating and Professionalizing Mobility

8:00-9:30 PDT // 11:00-12:30 EDT // 16:00-17:30 BST // 17:00-18:30 CEST

Chair: Diego Pirillo, UC Berkeley

  • Rachel Midura, Virginia Tech, “Professionalizing the Post”
  • Leo Barleta, Stanford University, TBA
  • Tiago Luís Gil, Universidade de Brasília, “Mobility, social status, and geography in south-central Portuguese America”


9:30-10:00 PDT // 12:30-13:00 EDT // 17:30-18:00 BST // 18:30-19:00 CEST

Panel 3: War, Slavery, and Missionary Networks

10:00-11:30 PDT // 13:00-14:30 EDT // 18:00-19:30 BST // 19:00-20:30 CEST

Chair: Dan Riches, University of Alabama

  • Paula Findlen, Stanford University, Iva Lelková, Czech Academy of Sciences & Suzanne Sutherland, Middle Tennessee State University, “Jesuits on the Move: Athanasius Kircher and Jesuit Missionary Networks”
  • David Richardson, Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull, “Sustainability and financial infrastructure: the case of eighteenth-century British transatlantic slaving of Africans”
  • Mélanie Lamotte, Tulane University, “Making Race: Policy, Sex and, Social Order in the French Atlantic and Indian Oceans, c. 1608-1756”

Sunday, May 16th: 8:30-12:00 PDT

Panel 4: The Politics of Mobility

8:30-10:00 PDT // 11:30-13:00 EDT // 16:30-18:00 BST // 17:30-19:00 CEST

Chair: Lucio Biasiori, University of Padua

  • Luca Scholz, University of Manchester, “Framing Mobility in the Holy Roman Empire”
  • Massimo Meccarelli, Università di Macerata, “Ius peregrinandi and the New Word: on the occurrence of legal order in the possible space”
  • Beatriz E. Salamanca, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Cali, “Merciless Shores? ‘Fellow-feeling’ and Legal Conundrums in Francisco de Vitoria’s De Indies”

Concluding Remarks

10:00-10:30 PDT // 13:00-13:30 ET // 18:00-18:30 BST // 19:00-19:30 CEST

Speaker: Howard Hotson, University of Oxford

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