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Regina Grafe

Professor of Early Modern HistoryRegina_Grafe_100x120

Head of Department


Fields of research

  • Early modern history of the Hispanic World
  • Global economic and social history
  • The history of state and empire-building
  • Colonial governance
  • Comparative history of private and public commercial institutions and legal norms

Current research projects

  • Institutional Diversity and European Expansion, 1450-1850. What explains the astonishing unfolding of European commercial hegemony in the first age of globalisation into the 19th  century? Historians have argued that Europe’s edge in global trade depended on a modernisation process from corporatist pre-modern organization to competitive capitalist institutions, the so-called “Rise of the West” rooted in intellectual, military, political and demographic transformations that underpinned intra-European competition and extra-European expansion. At the heart of the narrative is the idea that competition between European polities helped the emergence over time of a succession of commercial institutions each of which improved on the previous. By contrast I investigate the hypothesis that that institutional and legal diversity rather than a diachronic succession of first best solutions were the crucial driving forces of European commercial expansion. I argue that institutional diversity, multifunctionality and complementarity allowed for the establishment of markets in vastly diverse cultural, legal, religious and socio-political environments


  • Spanish
  • English
  • German
  • Italian


For appointments please contact the Administrative Assistant: Fabrizio Borchi

  • Postal address: 
    Department of History and Civilization 
    Via Bolognese 156 
    50139 Florence - Italy

Office SAMN262 at Villa Salviati, Manica

Current seminars at the EUI

Selected recent publications

  • (2018) ‘Families, firms, and polities: Pre-Modern Institutions, Economic Growth, and the Great Divergence.’ In Global Economic History, edited by Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy, 82-101. London et al.: Bloomsbury Academic. (with Maarten Prak)
  • (2018) ‘Empires of Charity: Imperial Legitimacy and Profitable Charity in Colonial Spanish America.’  New Global Studies 12 (2):131-155.
  • (2015) ‘Social and Economic Trends’ in Scott, H., Oxford Handbook of Early Modern European History, 1350-1750 (Oxford University Press) Oxford, pp. 269-294.
  • (2015) ‘Was There a Market for Institutions in Early Modern European Trade?’, in G. Christ, S. Burkhardt and R. Zaugg (eds.), Union in Separation – Diasporic Groups in the Eastern Mediterranean (1100-1800), (Viella) Rome.
  • (2014) ‘On the spatial nature of institutions and the institutional nature of personal networks in the Spanish Atlantic’ in Culture & History Digital Journal 3, no. 1 (June). 
  • (2013) ‘Polycentric States: The Spanish Reigns and the "Failures" of Mercantilism’ in Stern, P .and Wennerlind, C. (eds.) Mercantilism Reimagined: Political Economy in Early Modern Britain and its Empire, (Oxford University Press) Oxford, pp.241-262.
  • (2013) ‘Bounded Leviathan: Fiscal Constraints and Financial Development in the Early Modern Hispanic World’, in D’Maris Coffman et al. (eds.) Questioning Credible Commitment. Perspectives on the Rose of Financial Capitalism, (Cambridge University Press) Cambridge (with A.Irigoin), pp.188-227.
  • (2012) Distant Tyranny. Markets, Power and Backwardness in Spain, 1650-1800. Princeton, (Princeton University Press) 291pp.
  • (2012) ‘A Stakeholder Empire: The political economy of Spanish imperial rule in America’ The Economic History Review Vol. 65 (2), pp. 609-651. (with M.A. Irigoin).
  • (2010) ‘The Rise and Fall of the Merchant Guilds: Re-thinking the Comparative Study of Commercial Institutions in Premodern Europe’ Journal of Interdisciplinary History. XL, no 4, pp.477-511. (with O.Gelderblom).
  • (2008) ‘Bargaining for Absolutism. A Spanish path to nation state and empire building’, Hispanic American Historical Review. (2) pp. 173-210. (with M.A.Irigoin).


Page last updated on 31 August 2020