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Papers and Trails : Migration Control and Agency during the Atlantic Age of Revolutions (1770s- 1820s)

The revolutionary upheavals that rocked the Atlantic world in the half-century between the American Revolution in the 1770s and the revolutions in Spanish America in the 1810s and 1820s unleashed political refugee movements of an unprecedented scale. As a consequence, the "age of revolutions" saw a proliferation of official or semi-official paperwork relating to the whereabouts, trajectories and status of individuals moving between the Atlantic's arenas of revolutionary politics. Discussing different types of documents from several regional contexts, the paper argues that this massive growth in documentary evidence was driven by two apparently opposing factors: the attempts by authorities to contain and control migratory movements and the need of individual migrants and refugees to navigate through a world in turmoil.

Jan C. Jansen is research fellow at the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC. Prior to joining the GHI, he was a lecturer and fellow at the University of Konstanz and held research positions in London (SOAS) and Tunis (IRMC). His main research interests concern the comparative history of colonial empires and decolonization with a particular focus on the Mediterranean and Atlantic worlds since the eighteenth century. His books include Erobern und Erinnern: Symbolpolitik, öffentlicher Raum und französischer Kolonialismus in Algerien, 1830-1950 (2013), Decolonization: A Short History (co-authored with Jürgen Osterhammel, 2017), and Refugee Crises, 1945-2000: Political and Societal Responses in International Comparison (co-edited with Simone Lässig, 2019). He is currently engaged in a research project on the Saint-Domingue diaspora.



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