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The Migration Regime of Spanish America (1720-1810)

In the history of migration, the colonial Spanish-American case is particularly interesting. The Spanish law forbade all non-Spaniards to settle in the Spanish territories of America; however, many foreigners lived there and were largely tolerated. Nevertheless, the situation of foreigners in Spanish-America was precarious. At any time, a supposed foreigner could be denunciated by his neighbor, and expulsion champagnes against foreigners ordered by the government were common.

Beginning with the reform policy of Charles III in 1767, the attitude towards the presence of foreign settlers in Spain and America changed. The population theory of the Enlightenment regarded foreign settlers as useful, so that concrete settlement projects with foreign settlers were carried out. However, this positive attitude towards foreigners was called into question in the second half of the 18th century. Increasingly, foreigners were seen as a risk in terms of security, in particular the French migrants who were suspected to be revolutionaries and the British and Portuguese who, in times of war against Great Britain and Portugal, were regarded as enemies. As a way of supervising the now feared foreigners and creating a new method to expel them if deemed necessary, the government reformed their existing measures and introduced new ones as well as more efficient institutions of surveillance.

This project aims at investigating the migration regime in Spanish-America during the 18th and the early 19th century. Migration regimes are spheres of activity based on principles and laws, in which individual, collective and institutional actors try to manage migration in their favor. The project focuses on conflicts caused by the presence of foreigners in Spanish-America. The analysis of these conflicts allows reconstructing the regularity by which migration processes were negotiated within the Spanish-American migration regime. With a focus on Cuba, Mexico, Río de la Plata, Upper Peru (Bolivia) and Chile the project refers to Spanish-America as a whole and not only to specific administrative entities.

Nature of the project:

DFG-funded project



Participating researchers:
Dr. Martin Biersack (LMU)