Geschichte der Frühen Neuzeit




Alessandro Buono (Pisa): Identity as possession. On identification and demonstration of personal status in an ancient regime society

Vortrag im Rahmen des Oberseminars Frühe Neuzeit


astronom.handHow personal identity was claimed in an ancien régime court? Drawing on a wide range of sources, concerning the procedures for claiming the inheritances and identifying legitimate heirs both in Italian premodern-states and in the Spanish Monarchy (both in Europe and in the New World), my intervention aims at analyzing how people could demonstrate their identity and kinship relationships and how institutions identified them.
In the last instance, I will try to show that personal status, like any other right in the ancien régime society, was treated as a "thing" to be possessed, through actions that demonstrated the continuous "will to belong" to a certain place and chain of succession. Like any other thing, then, to be seized identity needed people to constantly perform "acts of possession", to be constantly revendicated to be owned.
Using in particular the extreme cases of migrants – that moved within the Spanish World and died tens of thousands of leagues away from home – and focusing on their heirs trying to demonstrate their ties with them, I will show how people provided a wide range of evidence (from baptismal and marriage records to oral witnesses, from material objects to personal correspondence) to proof that, while separated, they never intended to cut down the tread that bounded them.
The sources I will use are primarily those of the Juzgado de bienes de difuntos (Tribunal of deceased's goods), a global jurisdiction of the Spanish king in the Kingdoms of the Indies, and similar procedures existing in other premodern Italian states aimed at managing the so-called abeyant and vacant inheritances (hereditas iacens and bona vacantia).

  • Zeit: 17-19 Uhr c.t.
  • Ort: Historicum, Raum K 302