Transforming the Atlantic World from the Mediterranean: Genoese Entrepreneurship and the Asiento Slave Trade, 1650-1700 (joint session with Iberian History Seminar)

This joint session with the Iberian History Seminar will be in the Rector's Drawing Room at Exeter College

To investigate Genoese traders as agents of global change might seem an odd choice, and even a daring endeavour if the chronology under consideration is the second half of the 17th century. Powerful historiographical traditions have insisted on the lack of entrepreneurial dynamism of Italian cities and their elites during that period. To put in the words of influential historian David Landes, “Italy never really seized the opportunities offered by the Great Opening: one does not find Italian ships in the Indian ocean or crossing the Atlantic. Italy was centered in, caught in, the great Inland Sea. Caught also by old structures” (1998). Luckily, archives are full of surprises that provide researchers the raw materials with which to unveil forgotten pieces of the past, and which afford them the opportunity to create new historiographical worlds.

This talk unravels the methodological operations and research strategies behind Genoese Entrepreneurship and the Asiento Slave Trade, 1650-1700(Routledge, 2021), a book that offers a connected history of Italian capitalism across trans-continental geographies and different empires with a focus on how Genoese businessmen transformed the business of African slavery in the Atlantic world. More concretely, we will open a window into the interests and routines of a myriad Genoese aristocrats, petty merchants and clerks stretching from the Mediterranean to Pacific South America, traversing and joining the Spanish, Dutch, and English empires. Who were these actors and what were they backgrounds? How were they able to simultaneously maneuver in multi-imperial contexts and in which ways were they able to forward their global ambitions? In discussing all these experiences, we will ultimately reflect on how it is possible to redefine our understanding of the global Mediterranean and the relation of Italian and global history.

Alejandro García-Montón is Assistant Professor in the Economic History Department at the University of Granada (Spain) since 2022. He studied History at the Universidad Complutense of Madrid before obtaining a PhD in History & Civilization at the European University Institute (Florence) in 2014. Prior to moving to Granada, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide (Seville). His research focuses on the history of early modern Genoese capitalism, the trans-imperial African slave trade in the Atlantic world, and the mercantile cultures in the Spanish empire. He is the author of a monograph and several articles on the abovementioned questions. He is also a review editor for the Journal of Early American History (Brill).