Infrastructures of Mobility in Transalpine Europe (1450-1750)

The transalpine zone has long been a major European crossroads, connecting the north and west of the continent with the Mediterranean and Adriatic through the Alpine passes and associated traffic arteries. In the early modern period, people moving through this region for a vast variety of motives – among them artisans, artists, merchants, pilgrims, pedlars, couriers and diplomats – promoted the exchange of goods, ideas and culture. At the same time, the acceleration of migration and mobility, as well as the spread of epidemic disease, religious and political divisions, made the period fundamentally important for the evolution of policies and infrastructures to channel and regulate mobility.

This workshop brings together an interdisciplinary group of researchers working on mobility between northern Italy and the Alpine zone to explore questions such as: how did mobility and migration shape the history of both major urban centres as well as rural communities along key transit corridors? How did transport, hospitality and communication systems facilitate mobility? How did high levels of mobility accentuate the perception of difference, and the desire for separation, borders and controls? How did this area of high mobility and cross-cultural contacts promote new kinds of artistic, artisanal or food cultures?




Rachel Midura (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), “Condutrix & Administratrix”: Tassis Postmistresship across the German and Swiss Passes

Habsburg rulers depended upon the Tassis family, later the princes (Grafen) of Thurn und Taxis to build and oversee transalpine postal systems. At the beginning of the seventeenth-century, offices in Milan, Augsburg, Trent were overseen by powerful Tassis postmistress-widows. In this presentation, I will discuss the infrastructure of the German and Swiss roads, the importance of these offices for licit and illicit intelligencing, and an overall movement from reliance on the German to Swiss passes in the decades surrounding the Thirty Years’ War. Postmistresship in the Alps demonstrates key gendered advantages for overseeing an early modern transnational administration for transit and communication.

Luca Zenobi (University of Cambridge), Anything to Declare? Moving Goods Between the Alps and the Po Valley in the Fifteenth Century 

Controlling the circulation of goods has long been a focus of polities large and small. It is an issue of taxes, smuggling and food supplies, but it is also one of movement. This paper explores the mechanics through which traffic flows were channelled in fifteenth-century Lombardy — at the crossroads between the Alps and the rest of Italy. It does so by combining the ordinances regulating the movement of all sorts of products in the region with the trade licences issued to people taking part in those traffics. Using network analysis and digital visualisations, the paper reconstructs the itineraries of people and produce in fifteenth-century Lombardy, while also examining their intersections with the wider infrastructure, including custom barriers and transit corridors, and with the physical geography of the region.

Joanne Anderson (University of Aberdeen), Artistic Workshop Practice in the Alps: Typologies and Diffusion 

The late medieval/early modern Alps played host to a sizeable number of artistic workshops who traversed the mountain passes and valleys as part of their commercial, and typically seasonal, enterprise. This included the provision of paintings, sculpture and woodwork, but also more fundamentally, the construction of the increasing number of sacred and secular buildings. This paper addresses some typologies of workshop practice in relation to the environment in which they were operant, focusing on the central-eastern Alpine territories: from local journeys from regional centres to far reaching travel necessitated by over-saturated or emerging markets. It aims to open up broader questions about speeds of diffusion and with that the temporality of art in the mountains.

16.45-18.00 | Roundtable

Beat Kumin (University of Warwick)

Zoe Farrell (University of Cambridge)

Hannes Obermair (Eurac Bolzano)

Alessandro Di Bari (Università degli Studi di Udine)


Organizing Committee:

Rosa Salzberg (University of Warwick)

Sandra Toffolo (FBK-Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico)


Registration to this event is mandatory.

Registration closed on 29/09/2021.

Registration available until 29/09/2021, 12 a.m. (CEST)


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